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Strong storms sweep Maryland, knock out power to thousands


A strong cold front, producing tornadoes, snow and thunderstorms with driving rain and wind gusts topping 60 mph, raced across Maryland last night, causing more than 100,000 power outages and knocking down scores of trees.

Temperatures in Baltimore plummeted from a nice 63 degrees to a crisper 47 degrees in only half an hour as the cold front passed over the city about 8 p.m. By 10:15 p.m., snow was accumulating on city streets, with 1 or 2 inches expected during the night.

A snow emergency was declared in Carroll County at 10 p.m., and police reported steady snowfall in Westminster.

The Charles County Sheriff's Department said a tornado touched down near LaPlata about 8 p.m., but no damage or injuries were reported. About 9 p.m., another possible tornado was sighted near Island Creek in Calvert County, but did not touch ground.

Several small fires broke out in Baltimore, mainly due to downed and arcing power lines, and several trees were reported down on houses and cars and blocking streets.

"We got a million calls," said a Baltimore County police dispatcher. "You pick a street, we got something. As long as it rains, we're in trouble."

Up to three inches of snow were predicted for Garrett and Allegany counties by this morning. Baltimore and its suburbs received about a half-inch of rain.

At least 80,000 people all over Maryland were without power at some point last night. As of 9:45 p.m., BGE reported 62,500 customers in the Baltimore metropolitan area without power.

Nancy Caplan, a BGE spokeswoman, said that up to 90,000 customers lost power in Central Maryland. Hardest-hit were Baltimore, Annapolis and Cockeysville.

High winds were blamed for knocking out power to 20,000 people in northern Worcester County, affecting Berlin and Ocean City. Police reported thousands of outages in Western Maryland, but exact numbers were unavailable.

As the front approached Central Maryland, the National Weather Service issued an unusual warning for people to get indoors, adding: "This has become a potentially life threatening situation."

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