Storm’s winds, rain rattle Frederick County -- Gazette.Net



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Jimmy Mann was surprised when he saw the large tree that had fallen down at the height of Hurricane Sandy on Monday night.

Its roots were sticking up in the air with utility lines entangled in its branches, Mann observed as he walked into his front yard to check out the approximately 25-foot pine tree that lay across East B Street in Brunswick just one house down from his.

Mann said he’d heard several crashes throughout the night, but couldn’t tell what they were after the power went out sometime after 9 p.m.

Malcolm Poist, who lives across the street from Mann, said he didn’t hear the tree come down, either, and only discovered it when he went outside Tuesday morning.

After the power went out, Poist said he went to bed and tried to read with a flashlight before finally going to sleep.

Seamus Mooney, county director of emergency operations, said Brunswick was one of the worst-hit areas of the county. He said the county hadn’t experienced a lot of flooding, but downed trees and other debris made a big impact.

“Brunswick took a pretty good hit,” he said, noting that much of the city was without power. “They had transmission lines that went down plus regular power lines. We have a county shelter in conjunction with the Red Cross and the fire company that we're using for people down that way.”

Sandy left about 2,400 homes in Brunswick without power, Mayor Karin Tome said Tuesday afternoon.

About 10,000 customers in Frederick County were still without power Wednesday morning in the wake of the superstorm.

Todd Meyers, spokesman for Potomac Edison, said the high winds in Frederick County were responsible for the majority of the outages.

The Frederick Municipal Airport recorded sustained winds of 21 mph and gusts of 44 mph shortly before 8 p.m., but did not record further data during the storm, according to its page on the National Weather Service’s website.

“We had about 35,000 customers out of about 98,000 in the overnight hours,” Meyers said Tuesday.

He said the company has been able to take care of most of the larger outages, but didn’t have a timeline for restoration of the rest of homes without power.

“We’ve been able to take care of the larger outages, [but] there’s going to be a lot of smaller, stubborn ones,” Meyers said.

There were hundreds of workers attempting to restore power, working in 16-hour shifts, and another 125 crews with multiple members would be arriving soon to help, he said.

“It’s going to be a days type of thing — that doesn’t mean everybody is out for days, but there may be pockets,” Meyers said.

The storm also caused an overflow at Frederick County’s Ballenger-McKinney Wastewater Treatment Plant that sent less than 70,000 gallons of partially treated sewage into the Monocacy River, according to Frederick County Board of County Commissioner’s President Blaine (R) Young.

He said the plant was unable to deal with excess water due to storm runoff, and that it was expected to have a negligible impact.

Mike Dmuchowski, a spokesman and fire marshal with the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services, said two men were rescued from the Monocacy River near Devilbiss Road after the inflatable raft they were in capsized. He said the rescuers used a rescue ring and a boat to rescue the men, and they were taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital. He did not know the severity of their injuries.

Flooded basements

In addition to the lack of power, Brunswick also had a large number of reports from residents with water in their basements, Tome said Tuesday.

The Potomac was expected to crest late Wednesday or early Thursday, City Administrator Rick Weldon said Wednesday morning. But he said that while the water might reach the C&O Canal towpath, it wasn’t expected to reach the city.

Tome was sitting in Brunswick’s City Hall, where a generator rumbled loudly outside, taking calls from residents and trying to deal with the fallout from Sandy’s wind and rain.

The town had a whiteboard keeping track of trees down, split between those that had power lines tangled in their branches and those that didn’t.

Along East Potomac Street, Lewis Allison’s concern wasn’t trees, but water.

A generator on the back of a pickup truck nearby was running two sump pumps, from which two green garden hoses streamed water into the street from what Allison said was more than a foot of water in his basement.

He and a friend had started bailing out water by hand around 7:45 a.m., until another friend showed up with the generator, he said.

The height of the storm seemed to hit Brunswick around 11 p.m., when the wind was blowing so hard it seemed as if the house was moving, Allison said.

Heeding the warning

Most Frederick residents heeded the warning of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to stay off the roads Monday and Tuesday while the storm passed.

Downtown Frederick was nearly deserted Monday, with the normally bustling streets mostly empty except for emergency vehicles.

The lack of vehicles made it easier for the city’s crews to clear debris from the streets, according to Marc Stachowski, the deputy director of the Frederick Department of Public Works. He said crews had been able to clear the majority of the city’s roads by about 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’ve got the brunt of our damage in terms of debris cleared,” Stachowski said. “It seem to be centered around Amber Meadows and around Hood College, some of those big old trees. We got the downtown pretty much clear of debris.”

He said the city had four crews working in the Heather Ridge and Amber Meadows neighborhoods, the latter of which had more than 50 trees felled by the storm.

Despite the damage, Stachowski said the city was relatively spared during the storm, and the cleanup was going smoothly.

“It was ugly no doubt about it — there were a lot of trees down,” he said.

After creeping north from Cuba off the Atlantic Coast Sunday and most of Monday, Sandy made a hard left and crashed into the New Jersey shore and the Delmarva Peninsula at about 6 p.m., according to National Weather Service.

Although the storm was downgraded to a “post-tropical cyclone” after making landfall, the county still experienced high winds and storm damage.

Hunkered down

There were a spate of closings throughout Frederick County on Monday and Tuesday, including Frederick County Public Schools, colleges, city and county government offices, libraries and county courts.

Brunswick and Lewistown Elementary Schools were also closed Wednesday, while all other county public schools opened two hours late.

More than a hundred roads throughout all parts of the county were closed as of 2 p.m. Monday. The county updated the list of road closures throughout the day and night at www.frederickcountymd.gov/roadsclosed.

Three shelters in the city also were opened for those needing assistance, including the Frederick Community Action Agency, the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs and the Frederick Rescue Mission. The Community Action Agency shelter was open until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, while the others were only open Monday.

All of Maryland experienced heavy rain and winds Monday and Tuesday. Frederick County began seeing heavier rain around 11 a.m. Monday, Mooney said.

Trina Heiser, a weather service technician in Sterling, Va., said the storm would dump up to 8 inches of rain on Frederick by Tuesday morning.

A flood watch and high wind watch was issued through Tuesday evening. The National Weather Service did not have final rainfall totals for Frederick County by The Gazette’s press time.

Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, urged motorists to stay off the roads Monday, which seemed to be heeded by most drivers. All interstates and U.S. routes had a speed limit of 45 mph until noon Tuesday, a SHA news release said.

Meanwhile, Middletown escaped with little damage from the storm, with one stop sign blown over on Green Street and a few pieces of exercise equipment at Wild’s Branch Park swept away by floodwaters, Town Administrator Drew Bowen said Tuesday.

Two tanks at one of the town’s wastewater treatment plants were underwater, but that happens anytime there’s a flood, and the water in the tanks had already been treated, he said.

Public Works crews spent Monday checking storm drains to make sure they stayed free of leaves to allow water to drain properly.

Overall, with little loss of power and no trees down on town streets, Middletown emerged in good shape from what could have been a devastating storm, Bowen said.

“I mean, we really dodged a bullet like you wouldn’t believe,” he said.

tlaino@gazette.net