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Drivers urged to be cautious as Hurricane Irene cleanup continues

August 28, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Sierra Miiler, 2, left, and her sister Kylee Miller, 4, play with their dog, Eddie, Sunday afternoon at River Bottom Park in Williamsport.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

After most of the Tri-State area escaped major damage from Hurricane Irene this weekend, the Maryland State Highway Administration was cautioning drivers to be alert Monday as crews still will be cleaning up.

By the time Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm Sunday morning and headed up the East Coast, she’d left at least 3,350 Potomac Edison customers in the Tri-State area without power Saturday night or Sunday.

Emergency dispatchers in the Tri-State area reported little to no damage.

“I think we dodged a bullet there, a little bit,” said Zane Rowe, a section supervisor for the Washington County Highway Department.

Although storm damage was light in the local area, Amtrak officials encountered numerous problems as they inspected their tracks and MARC authorities said the Penn Line might not be in service Monday, according to the Maryland Transit Administration website, www.mta.maryland.gov.

A decision about the Penn Line was to be made by 10 p.m. Sunday, the website said.

Power was out at several train stations Sunday night, according to the MTA website.

MARC passengers riding predawn or late-evening trains were being encouraged to bring flashlights to stations in case lighting was not restored to parking lots or stations, the website said.

Power was restored to about 1,500 customers in the Sharpsburg, Keedysville and Rohrersville areas Saturday night after they lost power from about 9:30 to 10:30 p.m., Potomac Edison spokesman Todd Meyers said.

By Sunday night, only one person was without power in Franklin County, Pa., according to Potomac Edison’s online outage reports. There were still about 375 customers in Frederick County, Md., without power Sunday night and some of them could be without power into Monday, Potomac Edison spokesman Mark Nitowski said.

Meyers said one lineman told him, “It looked like somebody blew up Mount Airy (Md.) with the number of trees down.”

Lingering power outages and some flooded roads in the state led state highway officials to caution drivers heading out this morning that some traffic signals might not be working, and that they shouldn’t cross a road with high or standing water. Drivers also should not try to skirt around emergency officials blocking roads, the SHA said.

Those issues will be more of concern to drivers commuting east to Frederick County and on toward Montgomery County or Baltimore, as a supervisor for Washington County Emergency Services said there was less damage reported Saturday night than there is for normal storms in the area.

Neither the Potomac River nor Conococheague Creek came close to flood stage, according to the National Weather Service’s website at www.weather.gov.

Mill Street, near the old Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown, was temporarily closed as a precaution because the old hospital’s smokestacks were swaying in the wind, but the road was reopened Sunday morning, a 911 supervisor said.

“We were very lucky here in Maryland, so far. Washington County, we did well,” said Sgt. S. Cain with the Hagerstown barrack of the Maryland State Police.

Local weather observer Greg Keefer’s website reported the strongest wind gust in Hagerstown was 37 mph around 2:20 a.m. Sunday. A total of 1.29 inches of rain fell in the Hagerstown area, and the rain stopped early Sunday afternoon.

The light rain the area had Sunday morning was from Irene’s trailing tail as the eye of the storm hit theManhattan area, National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Schoor said.

The hurricane’s path was determined by two large high-pressure systems, a huge one encompassing most of the western half of the U.S. and another east of the hurricane over the Atlantic Ocean, Schoor said.

“They both sandwiched it between. (Irene) had to slingshot in between them,” Schoor said.

Frederick County 911 reported several trees down Sunday morning that closed several roads in the Libertytown and New Market areas.

Potomac Edison had 63 tree trimmers and 80 linemen, including 30 from Ohio Edison, working to restore power in eastern Frederick County and Montgomery County, Meyers said. About 80 damage assessors were expected in the area Sunday, Meyers said.

Morgan County (W.Va.) Emergency Services reported FiberNet’s phone and Internet service were out Sunday morning until about 11 a.m. The outage affected War Memorial Hospital and the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, a dispatcher said.

— Staff writer Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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