March turns angry rain, snow smash roofs, trees Crash kills Westminster woman


March cast aside its lamblike ways yesterday and roared with heavy rain and snow, and high winds that blew away roofs and toppled trees across the state.

Maryland's westernmost counties were buried by up to a foot of heavy, wet snow, after a morning of freezing rain, and winds forced the closing of sections of Interstate 70 after half a dozen tractor-trailers were blown over in Washington and Frederick counties.

Ocean City survived the storm with its beach seemingly intact, and the worst problems there and in other parts of the Eastern Shore appeared to be flooding of low-lying roads, officials said.

In late afternoon, the wind shifted and the sun briefly made an appearance on the Lower Shore -- the only section of Maryland to be so brightened yesterday.

The storm was cited as a factor in at least one death, in a car crash on a rain-slick road in Westminster.

Electrical power was disrupted for more than 165,000 homes and businesses -- including 122,322 in the million-customer Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. system -- mostly because of trees or branches knocking down wires.

BG&E;'s spokeswoman, Peggy Molloy, said 9,000 customers remained without power at 4:30 a.m.

At least a third of that number were in the city, while the remainder was spread throughout the area serviced by the utility.

She said service was expected to restored by late afternoon or evening.

Sustained winds reached near 50 mph in many areas, with peak gusts of about 85 mph measured at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at 12:41 p.m., and high winds repeatedly interrupted crane operations at the port of Baltimore.

The intensity of the storm and flood warnings for low-lying areas, creeks and rivers west of the Baltimore area prompted the Maryland Emergency Management Agency to use the statewide Emergency Broadcast System for the first time since Hurricane Gloria in 1985 to alert the public.

More than 2 inches of rain was reported at Baltimore-Washington International Airport since the storm began there Wednesday night, the National Weather Service said.

Last night, winds shifted in a dramatic 180-degree turn, from east-northeast to west-southwest, bringing colder air over Central Maryland and changing the rain to sleet or wet snow in counties north and west of Baltimore.

State Police at Westminster said a half-inch of snow fell before stopping around midnight and that the county's snow emergency plan was lifted a short time later. Rain followed and washed the snow away, police said.

The fatality occurred on Route 140 in Westminster about 8:40 a.m., when a westbound Chevrolet driven by Mary Lynn Ingson, 24, spun out of control and collided with an eastbound Nissan, police said.

Ms. Ingson, of Westminster, was killed, and the other driver, Brenda K. Boese, 38, of Taneytown, was listed in guarded condition last night at Carroll County General Hospital.

Numerous roads were closed when rain-swollen streams and rivers overflowed, or trees fell across them.

In Howard County, a tree falling on power lines appeared to be the cause of a two-alarm house fire.

Patricia Brown, 23, who's expecting twins next month, said she was downstairs doing laundry when the lights started to flicker about 11:30 a.m. at her home on Kerger Road in Ellicott City. "I opened up the blinds to look out and I saw a pine tree fall" and hit the electrical wires, she said. "I heard crackling upstairs. I went upstairs and the television was smoking."

In the city, the Fire Department had dozens of calls for storm-related trouble, among the worst of them a house collapsing in the 1100 block of N. Bradford St. No injury was reported.

Winds blew off the roof at Lenox Laser Optical in Glen Arm, damaged the roof of a shopping center in Dundalk and ripped the shingles from the roof of an apartment building near Hillendale.

At her apartment there in the 6600 block of Collinsdale Road, Delcina Baynes, 25, said she was watching television about 1 p.m. when the wind began howling and the TV screen went dark.

"I looked out the window and it was like sparks. It was scary," she said.

She watched as large sections of roofing material tore loose from the two-story building and sailed across the street, tearing down power lines as they fell.

A tree falling on wires also shut down part of the Central Light Rail line, between the Cold Spring and Mount Washington stations.

Express buses shuttling passengers between northern stops and the Cold Spring station likely will remain in use through much of today, the Mass Transit Administration said.

On the lighter side, Anne Arundel County firefighters were sent to the Curtis Bay area for a report of several people in the water and found them -- windsurfing.

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