Officials warn area to brace for heavy rains

August 13, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

TRI-STATE - Police and weather officials are warning people to be cautious the next few days as roads will be slick and river levels will be rising, even after two major storms move through the area.

The Tri-State area could get up to 8 inches of rain through Saturday, National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Rogowski said Thursday night.

The area was under a flood watch Thursday night into today.

If the area gets a lot of rain, drivers should slow down and watch for standing water on the road that could cause their vehicles to hydroplane, Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Rob Embly said.


If drivers aren't sure how deep water on the road is, they should avoid that area rather than drive through it, Embly said.

Tropical Storm Bonnie was downgraded to a tropical depression late Thursday afternoon, but the Tri-State area was starting to experience her effects on Thursday, Rogowski said.

Through today, from one to three inches of rain could fall in the region from Bonnie and a stationary front across the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, weather service officials said.

Bonnie's path was expected to cross southeast of Washington during daylight hours this morning and be near Philadelphia by 2 p.m., Rogowski said.

Hurricane Charley was expected to pack a stronger punch in the Tri-State area even though it would weaken drastically once it hit land, Rogowski said.

Charley was south of Cuba at around 8:30 p.m. Thursday and already was causing rip tides for Florida and creating bands of thunderstorms, he said.

The category two hurricane had sustained winds of up to 105 mph on Thursday.

Hurricanes are categorized according to the strength of their winds using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale: A category one storm has the lowest wind speeds and a category five hurricane has the strongest wind speeds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Web site.

A category two hurricane has sustained winds of 96 to 110 mph, Rogowski said.

"We're not anticipating anything like that up here cause it's going to cross a lot of land to get up here from the Gulf of Mexico," Rogowski said.

Hurricane Charley is expected to be over Washington, D.C., on Saturday night, bringing three to five inches of rain and winds from 20 to 30 mph to the Tri-State area, Rogowski said. Wind gusts could increase, he said.

The forecast and tracks of the storms, the latter of which was provided by the Tropical Prediction Center in Miami, could change as the storms shift and change speed, Rogowski said.

There is a possibility of isolated thunderstorms as the major storms move through, weather service officials said.

Rising water

While the weather should clear to provide a nice Sunday afternoon, Rogowski cautioned people to stay off the Potomac River because water levels will continue to rise after the rain stops. The rising water is less obvious in rivers than in streams and creeks, but the smaller tributaries will drain water into the rivers.

Some events planned for the City of Hagerstown's Thursday Night Out on the Town were dropped because of impending inclement weather, city Public Information Officer Karen Giffin said in a written release.

Giffin said that due to the forecast, free popcorn, free lemonade and a showing of "Funny Face" by Washington County Free Library were canceled. Other events, involving local businesses and restaurants, were to be held, she said.

Storms of this size can cause widespread, extended power outages, according to an Allegheny Power news release.

Allegheny Power said its repair and support personnel "are ready to respond to outages, stocking inventories of storm supplies, arranging with vendors for additional materials and supplies and participating in conference calls with other electric utility companies in the region to coordinate assistance."

The power company recommended residents prepare for the storm by assembling a storm emergency kit with:

  • Spare batteries for flashlights, clocks and radios.

  • Fresh water supply, especially those who rely on well water.

  • Canned and nonrefrigerated foods.

Electrical customers who depend on home medical equipment might need to make arrangements for alternative shelter, the news release states.

The company also suggests people get prescriptions for medicines filled before the storms hit.

Allegheny Power customers can call 1-800-255-3443 to report outages or electrical emergencies, such as downed wires.

Staff writer Pepper Ballard contributed to this story.

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