Memories by the torrent; Floyd: The storm's visit to Maryland was sometimes life-threatening, sometimes funny, always wet and inconvenient.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Timmy Hicks barely made it out alive in Southern Maryland. Bandits stole sandbags from storefronts in Annapolis. Hundreds of rats were flushed from their flooded holes in South Baltimore. A small school of carp flopped around an Easton golf course.

And when a Coast Guard cutter limped into the Inner Harbor after dodging Hurricane Floyd at sea yesterday, members of the crew had a key question as the busiest month of the Atlantic storm season draws to a close and the baseball pennant races begin in earnest: "Did the Mets win?"

As Floyd whipped across Maryland yesterday, the hurricane left behind tales of life being lived a little less ordinary in the wind and rain, and hype of a hurricane that talked the talk but never did take the walk of its bigger and badder cousins -- Andrew, Hugo and Agnes.

Here are some of the yarns spun from the path of Hurricane Floyd: For Timmy Hicks, Floyd brought nothing but bad luck.

The former construction worker from Great Mills in St. Mary's County decided yesterday was as good a day as any to tune up his run-down Lincoln Continental. So he and his girlfriend, Jan Casey, hopped in the car and headed down Flatiron Road to see the mechanic.

"There was a patch of water, but it didn't look like it was deep water, and we almost made it," Hicks said.

Almost.

The Lincoln was swept into a ditch roiling with rain run off. The water rising and the electric windows not working, Hicks and Casey thought they were through.

But a volunteer firefighter, James Gardiner, spotted the couple, tossed them a line, and with the help of a passerby, pulled the pair to safety.

"They were within about 30 seconds of being under water," Gardiner said.

The couple's luck, like the weather, didn't get much better. They found out their first-floor apartment was under water.

Sandbag war in Annapolis

At the Annapolis City Dock, store owners were fighting a "sandbag war."

To battle the rising tide and possible storm surge, the city handed out 2,000 sandbags to store owners and residents, but they ran out at 8 a.m. yesterday. Store managers and clerks in the low-lying area spent much of Wednesday sealing their outside walls with plastic wrap and creating sandbag barricades.

But the shortage soon created trouble. Someone stole the sandbags stacked up outside Starbucks Coffee on Dock Street Wednesday night.

"We ought to have a cop with a shotgun guarding sandbags," Annapolis city spokesman Thomas W. Roskelly said.

Kristina Randall, assistant manager at Einstein Brothers Bagels, said sandbag thievery began Wednesday afternoon when store clerks saw people loading up their cars and trucks along Dock Street.

"This guy came in a truck and just took about 10 away, and the lady from Juice It Up yelled, 'Hey, those belong to someone,' but they took them anyway," she said.

Brooke Eader, manager of a novelty store called the Big Iguana, posted a guard over her sandbags yesterday. His name is Derek Deneke, and he's 6-feet-2.

"I don't think they're going to mess with him," Eader said.

When it rains, it floats

With the day off, Daniel Mitchell drove around Baltimore, searching for scenes of spectacular storm damage. He admired an uprooted tree along Waterview Avenue, spied a washed-out bridge on Maisel Street near Morrell Park, and marveled at Used Car Heaven -- a lot near Interstate 95 -- where half of the inventory was submerged.

But the rats were a sight he's sure to remember. Hundreds of them, flushed from their holes near Harbor Hospital in South Baltimore, were scurrying around the rising Middle Branch River.

"It's amazing what you can see," Mitchell said.

There was an equally amazing sight at the Easton Club Golf Course on the Eastern Shore. By midday, ponds on the property started to overflow.

"We had carp coming down Clubhouse Drive," Easton Police Chief George M. Harvey said.

But for the fish, Hurricane Floyd meant freedom. The flood sent them cascading into the Tred Avon River.

Yes, the Mets won

Two Coast Guard cutters from the Carolinas -- the Elm and the Madrona -- spent yesterday docked at Broadway Pier in Fells Point after escaping Floyd's winds and waves. Ensign Sean Mitchell of the Madrona said the 180-foot buoy tender had left its base at Charleston, S.C., to avoid damage from the coming hurricane.

They tried to make port at Portsmouth, Va., but a change in Floyd's path made that too risky. So they headed up the Chesapeake, reaching Baltimore's port at 9: 30 p.m. Wednesday.

With the baseball pennant races heating up, the executive officer of the ship, a native New Yorker, had a question for a visitor as he stepped from the Coast Guard cutter:

"Did the Mets win?"

They did, 10-5 over the Colorado Rockies, gaining ground on the first-place Atlanta Braves.

Food for a hurricane

The worst of Hurricane Floyd hadn't hit when the lunch break came at Carroll County's Emergency Operations Center. Dave Nelson slipped into the kitchen to prepare a treat for the four-person crew.

As rain swept down from the stone-gray sky, a rich and homey aroma filled the small room where dispatchers normally field 911 calls. The special on the menu? Spaghetti with deer sauce.

Using his own recipe and ground venison, Nelson prepared a sauce that evoked thoughts of hunting stories told around campfires.

Plates filled and forks poised, the hungry dispatchers dug in. And then the phones started to ring.

No rest for the weary

The power was knocked out about 9: 40 a.m. in northeastern Maryland at Chesapeake House on Interstate 95, where dozens of travelers were pulling in because visibility had dropped to about 200 yards.

The entire rest area was lighted by candles. The floors were awash in water. Worse still, there was no coffee.

Catherine Creswell, 71, worked the Starbucks counter, serving iced tea by flashlight.

"They're coming in looking for coffee and a rest -- some of them are pretty worn out -- and we got nothing to give them because the power's been out," she said.

Leaving Billy John behind

Dozens of Smith Island residents began heading for the mainland yesterday, piling aboard mail boats, U.S. Coast Guard and Natural Resources Police vessels that ferried them to higher ground.

By late afternoon, nearly a third of the island's population of 350 had been hauled to Crisfield, where low-lying streets were overflowing after a day of pounding rain.

At neighboring Tangier Island, Va., the Coast Guard dispatched a 55-foot cutter to evacuate islanders. Gripping handbags and luggage, some islanders said the news reports of Hurricane Floyd were enough to send them packing.

For 6-year-old Mikayla Evans, making the 12-mile journey across a churning Tangier Sound could form an indelible birthday memory. Clutching her mother's arm as the sturdy boat plowed through 3- to 4-foot waves, the girl was headed to her grandparents' house in Mardela Springs for a celebration.

Her mother, Dana Evans, who is pregnant with her second child, said she had few second thoughts about leaving her husband, Billy John, behind to ride out the storm. "He's a die-hard islander," she said.

Common-sense advice

The state Department of Natural Resources issued a bulletin to boaters with the following insightful advice: "DO NOT STAY ON YOUR BOAT."

Seeking a thrill

The bridge spanning the Patapsco River between Baltimore and Howard counties was busy yesterday as thrill-seekers wrapped in slickers braved the rain to lean out over the turgid water and watch it rush beneath them.

"It's the highest I've seen it," said Greg Poirier, of Ellicott City, standing under a multicolored umbrella and looking out over the roaring river filled with debris. "It's pretty cool."

Ellicott City fared far better than it did 27 years ago, when Hurricane Agnes turned up the coast, became a tropical storm and stalled, leaving sections of Main Street completely under water.

"Where's Noah?"

On Kent Narrows, the low-lying eastern edge of Kent Island, there was nothing left for marina workers, watermen and yachters to do but visit the only place that hadn't closed its doors: Angler's Restaurant.

One after another, customers in dripping-wet rain gear and soggy deck shoes sidled up to the bar to chow down on bowls of crab bisque and knock back Bloody Marys topped with Old Bay.

Inside the wood-paneled lounge with low-ceilings and with oars on the wall, they watched Floyd updates on the Weather Channel as whitecaps slapped the shore just 30 feet away and undulating swells rocked yachts and crab boats alike.

"Where's Noah?" yelled one patron, eliciting roars of laughter and calls for another round.

But as Floyd came closer, even Angler's decided to call it quits. To the groans of patrons, a waitress slung a sign on the door about 1 p.m.

"Closed to Floyd," it said.

Sharing the Potomac

On more than one occasion, Malcolm Brown has had to share his second-floor office with the Potomac River. Not this time, he said confidently yesterday morning, leaning back in his swivel chair.

Brown is the owner of the Gen. Jubal Early, the tiny ferryboat that crosses between White's Ferry in Montgomery County and Loudon County, Va. With 28 years of experience, Brown wasn't panicking as he watched rain pockmark the Potomac just a few feet from his office.

The side of the building is painted with high-water marks of floods past. The highest mark -- halfway up the second-floor window -- was earned by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, the year Brown bought the business.

"The water just kept coming," he said.

Floyd was no Agnes -- it wasn't even a Dennis, he said. Dennis idled the Jubal Early last week, the first time this year the ferry didn't run. But Brown said he doesn't fault the emergency planners for their warnings.

"Better a fire drill than a fire," he said.

A stream runs through it

In Havre de Grace, it was a small stream -- not the vast Susquehanna River -- that shut down roads, virtually isolating the town of almost 14,000.

Lilly Run Stream, which runs through the center of the waterfront town, had flooded by midmorning. "The wind is actually pushing the tide out, so we've had no problems from the Susquehanna River or the Chesapeake Bay," Havre de Grace City Manager Mary Ann Lisanti said.

Ambulances unable to get to Harford Memorial Hospital in the center of downtown Havre de Grace were rerouted to Fallston General Hospital in Bel Air and to Union Hospital in Cecil County.

Floodwaters made the fields near Havre de Grace Senior High School look like small lakes. But the weather didn't dampen playtime for 9-year-old Michael Cox and his 12-year-old friends Justin Lloyd and Brendan Walker.

The trio played outside with water guns, figuring they couldn't get much wetter.

"If we were just out of school and it wasn't raining, it would be cooler," said Lloyd, a seventh-grader at Havre de Grace Middle School. "But this is fun."

An overblown hurricane

Local television stations that had geared up for catastrophic coverage of the hurricane seemed unwilling at times to concede to the relatively tame nature of the storm.

During one live dispatch from Ocean City, a reporter stood on the boardwalk, a "Floyd's Fury" logo plastered across the TV screen.

But the dramatic stand-up shot was quickly deflated when a boy in a T-shirt and jeans glided behind the reporter.

He was riding a skateboard.

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