78,000 lose power as Floyd hits; South county, including Shady Side, takes brunt of storm; Some evacuate to shelters; Flooded basements, downed trees among top problems

THE BALTIMORE SUN

While falling short of its catastrophic billing, Hurricane Floyd's considerable winds brought down dozens of trees, caused widespread power outages and persuaded some fearful residents to evacuate their homes to wait out the storm yesterday in shelters or elsewhere.

About 8,000 Anne Arundel County residents woke up without power. By noon, 16,000 had no power. At 5 p.m., the total was 78,000, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said.

Anne Arundel County police received about 10 times more calls than usual during the storm. Even Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan worked the road.

"We are overwhelmed, and everyone is pushing as hard as they can," Shanahan said. "Everyone inside headquarters -- 'the house mouses' as they are called -- were out trying to help the patrol division. I am not aware of a time when so many trees went over."

Police also had to worry about traffic lights out throughout the county, causing a hazard at many intersections.

County officials said their top problem was responding to calls about flooded basements. Emergency crews were juggling about 350 requests to pump out water.

South county, where fallen trees littered roads, lawns were submerged and most major thoroughfares were closed, was hit hardest. The Shady Side peninsula on the West River, with 3,500 residents, was blocked from the north, and traffic was rerouted through Deale. At a playground near Shady Side, the water reached the seats on the swings.

Most businesses there were without power and closed. "If the lights are on, we're open," read the sign on Richard's Corner Grill.

Three dozen Shady Side residents fled to a shelter at Southern High School in Harwood, where children watched the movie "Pocahontas" in the school cafeteria and their nervous parents ate leftover fried chicken and cold spaghetti they had brought with them.

Executive visits

In a yellow rain slicker, County Executive Janet S. Owens visited the makeshift shelter run by the Red Cross, advising the surprised residents to "stay warm, eat and enjoy."

"Praise the lord," yelled one Shady Side woman who joined her neighbors in begging the county executive to get the drainage ditches along their main road repaired to stop the flooding in their homes and yards.

"My lawn is all water," said Pauline Crowner, 59, who was waiting out the storm with her husband. "Right now it is kind of fun, but I hope we do not have to stay too long."

At the shelter, Owens met up with Carol S. Parham, the superintendent of schools, who was checking on the leaking roofs at many county schools. After early storm warnings Wednesday, Parham and Owens designated Southern and Northeast high schools as storm shelters. They also planned to open Annapolis High School if necessary.

"We did not waste any time," Parham said. "People forget that this county has more than 50 communities with water access."

Owens said the storm reminded her of Hurricane Hazel, which blew away her parents' barn near Lothian in 1955. She hoped the basement of her Millersville home would remain dry and worried about the leaks discovered at the new Anne Arundel County Circuit Court building in Annapolis.

Annapolis spokesman Thomas W. Roskelly said the state capital had not been hit as hard as officials had expected because the hurricane veered to the east.

Watching the pouring rain from the doorway of the Big Iguana on Dock Street, manager Brooke Eader said yesterday afternoon that she was enjoying the storm.

"It's bad for business," said Eader, whose store was empty all morning. "But it's kind of neat. It's a horrible thing to say, but I kind of hoped we'd have, like, 10 feet of water and people would be, like, canoeing down the street."

City officials had handed out 2,000 sandbags to merchants and residents in the low-lying dock area near the Big Iguana when they ran out at 8 a.m. yesterday. Roskelly then urged Annapolitans to "make it a do-it-yourself project" and to fill empty bags with sand.

The city had no flooding except for puddles on several streets. But fallen branches that caused electrical outages forced city officials to block portions of at least two streets until BGE workers arrived, Roskelly said.

About 9: 30 a.m., heavy winds at the high point of the westbound Bay Bridge, 186 feet above the water, tipped a tractor-trailer onto its left wheels, causing the rig to topple against the suspension wires. Westbound traffic on U.S. 50 was stopped, and traffic quickly backed up two miles.

'Water by the barrel'

In south county, the Deale supermarket was one of the few stores that had power and remained well-stocked.

"They are buying bottled water by the barrel," said Richard L. Christopher, 50, manager of the Deale Food Rite. "Everyone is afraid their power is going to go again, and if the power goes, they lose water."

Marion Howes, 62, was buying chips, dip, hamburger and buns. Her family makes its living crabbing and lost about 400 crab pots in the storm. "The bay is still so rough," she said.

Power was out at Shannon's Restaurant in Shady Side. But 30 people waded through the stream that was the parking lot to knock on the restaurant door and ask for food.

"I got up at 5 a.m., made my coffee and then the electricity went off," said proprietor Shannon Vranas, 46. She handed out leftover cold coffee to townspeople who stopped by and fed her daughters, Fallon and Britny, chips for lunch. The girls declared the day "perfect, except for there is no television."

Workers at Backyard Boats Marina in Shady Side patrolled the marina every hour to check tie lines. "Years ago, storms were fun and exciting," said Tom Borarman, 43, assistant manager. "Now it is old hat."

'Nothing stops us'

Shady Side residents who did not hunker down at home or flee to the county shelters could be found in Renno's Market, where transactions at the five-aisle food market were conducted by candlelight. Mohan Grover, the town's self-proclaimed unofficial mayor, was adding purchases on paper and escorting customers down the aisles with a flashlight. The store sold out of D batteries.

Postmaster Tom Smith wandered in yesterday afternoon to buy beer and announced that all of the mail had been delivered.

"Like the saying, 'Through wind, sleet, rain and snow,' " Smith said. "Nothing stops us in Shady Side."

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