Intense storms drench Tri-State area, knock out power

September 18, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION |
  • The driver of a Camaro that collided with a pickup truck at Broadfording Road and Salem Avenue in Hagerstown Tuesday scratches his head as the pickup is loaded onto a rollback truck while his car remains in a ditch.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG — An intense line of thunderstorms moved through eastern Washington County and into Frederick County on Tuesday morning, and at one point about 1,200 people were without power in and around Smithsburg, according to weather and power utility officials.

Six power poles were knocked down and Potomac Edison crews worked throughout the day to replace the poles and string new power lines, Potomac Edison spokesman Dave Kline said Tuesday night.

Potomac Edison reported that 886 people in the 21783 ZIP code in eastern Washington County were without power as of 8:06 p.m. By 9:09 p.m., the number of customers without power in the area had been reduced to 268, according to Potomac Edison’s website.

Much of the damage to Potomac Edison equipment was in the area of Crystal Falls Drive, Ringgold and the Water Street area in Smithsburg, Kline said.

Kline said the intense storms generally followed Md. 77 into Frederick County near Camp David. Weather officials said the storms lasted until about 1 p.m.

“Something went through that area. I don’t know what it was,” Kline said.

The severe storms that went through the area are known as a QLCS, said Ken Widelski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

A QLCS can cause tornadoes, and the weather service issued several alerts Tuesday, including a tornado watch and a flash flood warning for Washington County.

Winds in the QLCS that passed through the Smithsburg area averaged 40 mph to 50 mph, Widelski said.

“There were gusts over 60 mph,” he said.

Tuesday’s storms dumped 2.06 inches of rain in Hagerstown, weather observer Greg Keefer reported on his website at Tuesday night.

In Chambersburg, Pa., weather watcher Jerry Ashway reported 3.36 inches.

The stormwater system in the Borough of Waynesboro, which has flooded yards and homes in the past, seemed to withstand the precipitation. Borough Engineer Kevin Grubbs said he did not receive reports of problems with the system.

Crews monitored the situation throughout the day, Grubbs said.

“They’ve been out cleaning inlets,” he said.

Chambersburg (Pa.) Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closed Commerce Street at one point during the storm due to flooding.

Despite the heavy rains, a Franklin County 911 dispatcher said there were few problems reported, other than branches blocking roadways.

NWS meteorologist Kevin Witt said the southeastern part of Washington County, primarily near the Potomac River, was under the greatest threat of being flooded.

Witt warned people to stay away from high, fast-moving water that might be on roadways. “It’s better off to take another route,” he said.

Several traffic accidents were reported around Washington County on Tuesday morning as rain drenched the area, making roads slippery.

One person was taken to the hospital after an accident involving a Jeep and a tractor-trailer at the intersection of Hopewell Road and Halfway Boulevard, said Sgt. Daniel Henley of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Both vehicles were turning left from Hopewell Road onto Halfway Boulevard eastbound in parallel lanes, said police, who responded at about 8:30 a.m. The tractor-trailer, which was in the outer lane, turned too sharply, forcing the Jeep into the median, according to Henley.

The driver of the Jeep was taken to Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown, Henley said.

One person was taken by ambulance from the scene of a crash involving a pickup truck on Pennsylvania Avenue at Beechwood Road near North Hagerstown High School at about 8:30 a.m.

A few minutes later, a car overturned on its side after going off the roadway into a ditch and hitting a pole at the intersection of Mapleville Road and Benevola Church Road, Maryland State Police said. Nobody was injured.

Deputy Scott Buskirk of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said an accident occurred at 4:46 p.m. as a male driving a Chevrolet Camaro was about to make a left turn onto Broadfording Road from Salem Avenue. Witnesses said the Camaro driver turned in front of a truck and the vehicles collided, Buskirk said.

The wreck resulted only in property damage, although it snarled traffic in the intersection, police said.

At 6:46 p.m., an accident involving a tractor-trailer and a sport utility vehicle pulling a trailer on Interstate 81 at the Halfway Boulevard exit forced police to shut down both northbound lanes until debris could be removed, a Washington County 911 supervisor said.

One person suffered a minor leg injury in the crash, the supervisor said.

Staff writers Caleb Calhoun, Dan Dearth and Jennifer Fitch contributed to this story.

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