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Unexpectedly intense, lingering downpour causes flooding in Baltimore; some spots see up to 5 inches of rain

Sights and sounds after a storm created flooding conditions for roads and businesses in Baltimore City.

Baltimore residents had to deal with pockets of flooding in the city and a vacant home caught fire after being struck by lightning as the region saw a significant thunderstorm hit the area late Tuesday afternoon and early evening.

The city experienced nearly two inches of rainfall in less than two hours, according to the National Weather Service.

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The Office of Emergency Management said they were not aware of any injuries or deaths from the storms. Director David McMillan said he was only aware of one water rescue that occurred.

Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued from the weather service for Baltimore City and Baltimore County shortly after 6 p.m, adding that locations that could experience flooding include Baltimore, Dundalk, Rosedale and Eastpoint.

By 6:30 p.m., a significant downpour had caused flooding in parts of the city, such as Little Italy, Harbor East and Fells Point, and a bolt of lightning struck a vacant building near the Greenmount Cemetery. Some of those areas experienced up to five inches of rain that caused the flooding, McMillan said.

Akilah Griffin, who lives on the 400 block of S. Eden St., said her block has been flooded since the storm happened, with cars left stranded in deeper waters.

Bob Pomponio, who owns a rental property on the 2400 block of Eden St., said his basement was flooded with about 6 feet of water. He said the city needs to address flooding problems in the area that residents have known about ever since Hurricane Isabel flooded the area in 2003.

“The infrastructure is so antiquated,” Pomponio said, adding that he believes the city has not done enough to address drainage and runoff systems while the area has been further developed in recent years.

As of 3:50 a.m. Wednesday, about 8,103 Baltimore City residents who had lost power had had it restored, according to Baltimore Gas and Electric. The utility said 620 residents were still without power.

Kyle Pallozzi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said forecasters were not “expecting it to be a large day in terms of severe weather or flooding.”

“Really, it’s the type of thing in the summer where you can’t tell exactly where a thunderstorm is going to be before it pops up and actually happens,” he said. “It’s just the most intense storm of the day happened directly over downtown Baltimore and then didn’t move either.”

He added that a lack of wind throughout the depth of the atmosphere might have contributed to the storm lingering rather than moving through the city, saying that regions in south and east Baltimore were hit particularly hard.

There is also “definitely a chance for severe thunderstorms and [a] low-end threat for flash flooding” Wednesday, Pallozzi said, adding that while it’s going to be hard to pinpoint exactly where in the Baltimore region storms will hit, “it could be a pretty active day tomorrow.”

The Baltimore City Fire Department wrote on Facebook that a vacant building on the 1000 block of Greenmount Ave. caught fire after being struck by lightning.

Baltimore fire crews extinguish a fire caused by a lightning strike on Tuesday.
Baltimore fire crews extinguish a fire caused by a lightning strike on Tuesday.

The department wrote that it was a three-alarm fire and while it was extending into some of the surrounding buildings, no injuries had been reported.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. wrote on Twitter that the county fire department sent “eight engines, the swift water rescue team, and a battalion chief to the city” to help fight the fire and tackle problems stemming from the flooding." The county later sent a ninth engine, a spokesman said.

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A portion of Auchentoroly Terrace was blocked off by a downed tree Tuesday evening. Strong winds caused branches and garbage cans to litter several sidewalks and streets in the city.

The Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management tweeted that there have been reports of manholes popping up because of heavy rains and water run-off. It warned against walking across any flooded street because open manholes might not be visible underwater. It also advised not to attempt to walk or drive through moving water.

Showers and thunderstorms are likely Wednesday, mainly after 2 p.m., the weather service said. Clouds will increase in the afternoon with a high near 90 degrees and a south wind of 5 to 8 mph. The chance of precipitation is 60% with new rainfall amounts of between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

On Wednesday night, showers and thunderstorms are likely before 2 a.m., then a slight chance of showers, the service said. Skies Wednesday night will be mostly cloudy with a low of around 70 degrees and a southwest wind of 3 to 6 mph. Again, the chance of precipitation is 60% with new rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch.

On Thursday, there’s a slight chance of showers before 10 a.m., then a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. It’s otherwise expected to be mostly sunny with a high near 89 and west wind of 3 to 8 mph.

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