Tragedy struck the U.S. Naval Academy for the second time in a week when an accident blamed on Maryland's heavy rain and high winds left three midshipmen dead and a fourth seriously injured early yesterday.
Police said the four apparently were returning from the Army-Navy game in East Rutherford, N.J., when their vehicle hit a tree that had fallen across a road near Annapolis, less than a mile from the Naval Academy. Heavy rain may have inhibited visibility, police said.
The dead were identified as Midshipman 1st Class Lisa M. Winslow, 21, of Bowling Green, Ohio; Midshipman 3rd Class NTC Autumn Pevzner, 19, of Bentonville, Ark.; and Midshipman 3rd Class Robin S. Pegram, 20, of Tampa, Fla.
The driver of the Ford Bronco, Midshipman 1st Class Brian L. Clark, 24, of Tigard, Ore., was listed in serious condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
The deaths occurred just hours before midshipmen gathered for a memorial service for Lt. Alton L. Grizzard. The former star Navy quarterback was slain Wednesday with two other former midshipmen in a murder-suicide.
Police said the Bronco was traveling south on Route 450 near Brice Road about 6 a.m. when it struck the tree lying across the road, shearing off its roof. Ms. Winslow, who was riding in the right passenger seat, was ejected from the vehicle.
The three women were transported to Anne Arundel General Hospital where they were pronounced dead about 7 a.m.
The accident was the most serious of a number of weather-related accidents as wind and heavy rain uprooted trees, downed power lines and flooded streets and highways. More than 4 inches of rain was reported in some sections north and west of Baltimore City in 24 hours.
About 27,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric customers lost power during the course of the storm. Baltimore County was the worst hit, with 10,000 homes and business affected, followed by Carroll County with 6,700, Baltimore City with 6,000, Howard County with 2,500 and Anne Arundel with 1,330.
BG&E; spokesman Arthur J. Slusark said crews were working last night with hopes of restoring all service by early today. About 1,100 remained without power at 10 p.m.
Overflowing streams closed a number of roads in Central Maryland, including Route 75 outside Union Bridge and Hammonds Ferry Road at the Anne Arundel-Baltimore County line.
Several minor traffic accidents were reported in the city, and fire officials were kept busy responding to calls of flooded basements. A tree fell onto a house in the4800 block of Wilmslow Road, damaging the roof and second floor.
The ugly weather was blamed on an unusually low low-pressure system that passed through Maryland yesterday, producing a storm more intense in rainfall amounts and wind strength than forecasters had expected. The low pressure was caused by a clashing of warm, moist air in the south with cool, dry air in the north.
"It sucked up more Atlantic moisture than expected," said National Weather Service forecaster Amet Figueroa, who compared the system to the whirl of water flowing out of a bathtub.
Wind gusts were reported as high as 50 mph in Mount Airy and Westminster.
At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, gusts of 46 mph were gauged, prompting the temporary closing of one runway, Mr. Figueroa said.
Because the low-pressure system moved more slowly than expected, more rain fell than the inch or two that forecasters initially predicted.
Rainfall in the 24 hours ending at 5 p.m. yesterday ranged from 4.5 inches reported at Pikesville to 2.68 inches at the National Weather Service's official monitoring station at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Normal rainfall for all of December is 3.41 inches, Mr. Figueroa said.
As the low-pressure system moved out of the area and toward Nova Scotia yesterday afternoon, the rains and wind subsided. A high-pressure system from the southwest is expected to bring some sun and temperatures around 50 degrees today.
The rains soaked the area for the second weekend straight.
Last weekend, as many as 8 inches of rain fell in parts of the state.
The amount of precipitation already is close to the area's yearly average. Normal rainfall for the Baltimore area is 40.76 inches. So far this year, the area has had 40.73 inches of precipitation, as measured at BWI.
Mr. Figueroa said it is likely the area will finish the year a little soggier than normal.
"I'm sure we'll get more precipitation before the end of the month," he said.