Southern counties batten the hatches and ride it on out; Boats rescue many; no injuries or big damage to buildings are reported


LEXINGTON PARK -- A wet but diminished Hurricane Floyd still managed to provide some drama in Southern Maryland yesterday as volunteer firefighters in St. Mary's County rescued at least 26 people threatened by rain-swollen rivers, creeks and ditches.

But no one in St. Mary's, Charles or Calvert countries was reported hurt, and no buildings were heavily damaged by winds, which gusted up to 63 mph at nearby Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

Most residents spent the day battling boredom rather than danger, especially after a morning of heavy rains and high tides gave way to a calmer afternoon in which the waters subsided. By day's end, many of the hundreds of flooded roads had reopened and only 11 people remained in emergency shelters, although several thousand residents were without electricity.

"We got beat up pretty good, but thank goodness it's over with and we survived," said Paul Wible, director of emergency management for St. Mary's County, which got 10.6 inches of rain between 6 a.m. Wednesday and 4 p.m. yesterday.

The heaviest downpour came as high tide arrived at dawn yesterday. The combination was enough to turn ditches into torrents, transforming the wooded landscape into a scene reminiscent of Louisiana bayou country, with trees standing shin-deep in coffee-colored water.


Rescuers from the Valley Lee Volunteer Fire Department and other departments launched three 17-foot skiffs to carry out late morning evacuations near the crossroads community of Great Mills.

Nine people were taken from a flooded apartment building at Great Mills Road and Route 5, the major highway from Leonardtown to the county's southern tip. Among them was Terry Washington, 44, with her daughter, 2-year-old granddaughter and two other family members.

They hurriedly gathered a change of clothes and left their second-floor apartment after firefighters arrived in boats and knocked at their door.

They then joined about 20 other residents at an American Red Cross shelter at Great Mills High School, where they ate peanut butter sandwiches while waiting out the storm.

"This is God's work," Washington said. "We've just got to deal with it."

About 15 residents of the Langley Trailer Park off Adkinsville Road in Great Mills were evacuated by boat at midday. Valley Lee firefighter Michael Scrivener, 19, said the trailer park sits on a high knoll but was cut off by floodwater that slipped the banks of nearby St. Mary's River.

About a half-dozen residents of St. George Island, a claw-shaped speck of land in the Potomac River, holed up for a while at the Piney Point Road fire station.

At the storm's peak, about noon, the narrow two-lane causeway leading to the island was awash, trees leaned crazily across power lines, and a white, wave-churned mist marked the boundary between marsh and leaden sky. The elegant two-story Edward T. Adams house, an inn built in 1890, was surrounded by whitecapped waves.

But most of the island's 200 residents -- a mix of watermen and retirees -- rode out the storm in their homes without incident.

Along the Calvert County shoreline and on all-but-deserted Solomons Island, the stormy weather didn't seem to catch anyone off-guard. Many residents had been encouraged to evacuate low-lying towns, and most boat slips at marinas were empty.

In North Beach, on the bay just south of the Anne Arundel County line, firefighters drove through town in ambulances and firetrucks to offer residents shelter at nearby Windy Hill Elementary School. They picked up about 40 people; but the skies began to lighten and not all stayed at the school.

"They started to get bored, and they're trying to get back into town," said Betty Bogges, a volunteer at the shelter.

At Broomes Island, wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph were reported, and local officials feared the waves would flood the causeway to the mainland.

Charles County officials decided not to evacuate Cobb Island but set up a shelter for residents who wanted to move to the mainland.

Shoreline residents

Elsewhere, many shoreline residents stayed home throughout the day, watching television while keeping an eye on the waves crashing outside.

"We were here during Hurricane Fran and it wasn't so bad, so we thought we'd ride this out," said Sandra Dugan, who with her husband, Dennis, watched a Billy Crystal movie at their Cove Point home overlooking the bay.

A power outage cut short the Dugans' viewing but didn't dampen their spirits.

"We've had a bunch of people call us and ask us if there's anything they can do to help, or if we wanted to come to their place," Dennis Dugan said. "But now I'll just read a book."

At the Naval Air Station, Capt. Patrick Hovatter said a few dozen Navy planes had been flown to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio on Wednesday.

The rest of the aircraft rode out the storm in hangars built to withstand 85-mph winds, and Hovatter said the base came through unscathed.

By dusk, skies were clearing above Solomons Island, and three adventurous windsurfers scooted across the Patuxent River.

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