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Heavy rains lead to water rescues, road detours

Tuesday's torrential rain — the most to fall in one day in more than 80 years — shut down portions of major roadways, stranded dozens of motorists, including some who had to be rescued, and caused dangerous flash floods throughout the region.

More than 6 inches of rain fell steadily throughout the day, leading the Orioles to postpone their game against the Yankees, gallons of sewage to spill into the Jones Falls and fliers returning to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to find vehicles stuck in flooded long-term parking lots.

Manyel Strickland was among the unlucky ones who got his car stuck along a flooded roadway.

"Look at that," Strickland, 34, said, as he pointed toward his Nissan Altima left partially submerged in water near the corner of Chester and Pine streets in Dundalk. He had tried to pass through the intersection around 11 a.m., and his car was one of at least three that remained stranded there late in the day.

No one is "getting through there," the Turners Station resident said. "It gets this bad every time it rains hard."

Carl Barnes, a meteorologist with National Weather Service, said flash floods were expected to continue through Wednesday morning.

"Even though the rain stops, people still need to use caution," Barnes said.

The last time the Baltimore area recorded more rain on a single day was Aug. 23, 1933, when 7.62 inches fell, he said. That storm and Tuesday's rain rank as the first and second rainiest days on record here, since 1870. Those designations are especially remarkable, Barnes said, considering the number of hurricanes that strike the region with heavy rainfalls.

"We were located right under the bull's-eye," Barnes said of Tuesday's weather pattern.

The rainfall was even heavier in some areas. The most — about 10 inches — fell in northern Anne Arundel County. The fire department there performed at least 26 water rescues Tuesday.

Louise Amrhein, 77, looked out the window of her Glen Burnie home Tuesday and watched her wooden picnic table and a swing set floating along the street. Amrhein, who lives on Marcy Court, said her son went outside and found the water reached up to his waist.

"You have to see it to believe it," she said.

The Baltimore Fire Department assisted in 17 water rescues, freeing people from vehicles stranded in the city, said spokesman Ian Brennan. In one case, three people were rescued after climbing on top of a disabled vehicle at North Point Boulevard and Kane Street in Southeast Baltimore.

"In the case of people driving into water, that's an entirely avoidable problem that forces us to deploy resources," Brennan said. "Every time we say, 'Turn around, don't drown,' we hope people take that to heart."

Brennan said there were a lot of calls for water rescue in a short amount of time between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. One person was taken to the hospital.

"It can be dangerous and high-paced at a moment's notice," he said.

Tuesday's rescues involved boats and the department's rescue assignment, consisting of at least one medic unit, a truck, a couple of engines and members of the Special Operations Command. The officials on hand determine the depth of the water and the rates at which it's moving and rising.

The department also fielded calls to help with about 40 flooded houses, he said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a partial activation of the city's Emergency Operations Center to bring together officials from the fire, police, transportation and public works departments to coordinate water rescues and deal with emergencies caused by the region's heavy rainfall and flooding, said Connor Scott, a spokesman for the Baltimore Office of Emergency Management.

Heavy rains shut down several roads, including the outer loop of Interstate 695 at Quarantine Road, which was submerged, creating a nine-mile backup. The Baltimore-Washington Parkway was shut down both ways between Interstate 895 and the Westport exits, while high waters led to traffic being temporarily detoured away from I-895 at the Harbor Tunnel.

Commuters were delayed along the MARC and light rail lines. Flash flood-related speed restrictions caused slowdowns on the MARC's Camden and Brunswick lines, and a catenary wire snapped between the Linthicum and North Linthicum light rail stations, although officials hadn't yet determined whether that was caused by the bad weather.

A soggy field at Camden Yards meant the Orioles will have to make up their game against the New York Yankees on Sept. 12.

The rain also swelled riverbanks in the region. One section of the Patapsco near the line for Baltimore and Howard counties saw water rushing at 749 cubic feet per second Tuesday evening, faster than any time in the last 30 years. The record was set at 607 cubic feet per second in 1984, according to Candy Thomson, a spokeswoman with the Natural Resources Police.

In Glen Burnie, Sawmill Creek — a frequent cause of nuisance flooding — completely overran its banks, with swirling, chocolate milk-colored water flooding nearby parking lots and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard. The flooding left two local hangouts, Mikie's restaurant and the All-American Sports Bar, partly underwater.

The heavy rain also is believed to have caused two sewer overflows in Baltimore, Department of Public Works officials said. Shortly after 2:15 p.m., crews responded to a call at 1901 Falls Road and found an estimated 50 gallons a minute were being released into the Jones Falls. The overflow continued into Tuesday night.

Sewage also was overflowing from an area near the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant in South Baltimore near an area where the sewage is filtered before it enters the plant. Around 4 p.m., crews removed the screens that filter the incoming sewage to allow it to enter the facility as quickly as possible. That overflow also was continuing, which is believed to exceed 10,000 gallons.

Meanwhile at the airport, flatbed tow trucks began the task of removing parked cars that had been stuck in high water. At 7 p.m., several cars and trucks parked in low-lying areas in a long-term parking lot were still sitting in several inches of water from Tuesday's storms.

Water flooded two long-term parking lots, according to airport spokeswoman Whitney Kidd. A photo posted to social media showed water up to the headlights of the vehicles in one lot.

Karen DeCamp was relieved to find that she could drive her old Honda Accord off a long-term parking lot at BWI. She flew into the airport Tuesday afternoon with her family after spending about a week on vacation Grand Rapids, Mich.

DeCamp, who lives in North Baltimore's Radnor-Winston neighborhood, said the biggest frustration of the day was a lack of communication from workers at the airport. She said she received conflicting information about whether she could pick up her car or had to find another way home.

"This is a major communication foulup," said DeCamp, who ended up taking a cab to the city for $60 and driving back out to the airport around 8 p.m. to pick up her car.

Local National Weather Service forecasters had predicted the possibility of "localized flash flooding," but only an inch of rain across much of the area and perhaps a few inches in isolated spots. But the plume of moisture being pushed by a warm front from the southwest instead brought persistent heavy rains.

Though temperatures weren't particularly high, peaking only in the mid-70s, the air was thick with moisture, with dew points in the upper 60s and lower 70s.

"It's very rare that we get over 10 inches in Anne Arundel County and over 6 inches at BWI," said Heather Sheffield, a meteorologist at the weather service's Baltimore/Washington office in Sterling, Va. "We just had this surge of moisture."

Baltimore Sun reporters Michael Bodley, Pamela Wood and Justin Fenton and the Capital Gazette contributed to this article.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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Storm's impact

•Tuesday's heavy rainfall snarled traffic, temporarily closing the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and a stretch of Interstate 695 at Quarantine Road, where standing water created a 9-mile traffic jam.

•The Baltimore Fire Department assisted in 17 water rescues.

•The Orioles game against the Yankees was postponed until Sept. 12.

•More than 6 inches of rain fell at BWI, marking the second-highest rainfall behind Aug. 23, 1933 when 7.62 inches fell.

•Wednesday's forecast is sunny with temperatures in the mid-80s.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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