Southern Maryland was ready for Hurricane Floyd, and it showed on Thursday as the storm moved through and near the area.
A day earlier, the region had been directly in the storm's projected path and residents and emergency officials prepared for the worst. That planning and Floyd's easterly turn as it moved up the East Coast enabled the area to come through the high winds and nearly 10 inches of rain in some localities with much less damage than had been predicted.
Localized flooding and power outages caused by many downed trees accounted for most of the damage revealed under Friday's blue skies and sunshine. In St. Mary's County, the Pine Hill sewage treatment plant was overwhelmed by storm runoff, but untreated waste water was not discharged, according to Metropolitan Commission officials.
On Thursday, Washington Post reporters and photographers were deployed throughout Southern Maryland to follow the progress of the hurricane as it approached the area and passed from the Virginia Tidewater over Southern Maryland and then swept across the Eastern Shore before heading toward New England. Following are some of the scenes they encountered.
Town Sandbags the Storm
The wind outpaced North Beach's 30 mph speed limit by nearly 20 mph Thursday, andrelentless rain threatened the sandbagged entrances of homes and shops.
But residents of the tiny Chesapeake Bay town slickered up, hunkered down and concluded it could have been worse. At one point, all three entrances to North Beach were closed, but fewer than 20 families ended up leaving their waterfront homes, said Town Councilman Chris Homan. The others stayed to sweep water off porches, help neighbors build sandbags or push trucks out of flooded areas.
"It's really hard to leave your stuff when you know you haven't done all you can to save it," said Stephen Lowery, 47. "I still need to go back and roll up the rug."
Rescue workers escorted residents to a Red Cross shelter at Windy Hill Middle School. But Floyd didn't keep all residents holed up. A volunteer from the Maryland defense force was stationed on North Beach's newly refurbished boardwalk to shoo away folks who came to gawk at the choppy gray waves.
"I called in sick," confessed thrill seeker Mark Lewis, 47, of Owings. He and his neighbor, Douglas Kopp, 60, tromped through flooded streets and braved the gusts from the boardwalk.
"It's a small adventure," Lewis said. "It's not like going to the Himalayas or anything, but it's an adventure."
-- Hannah Allam
Schools Open for Shelter
School officials worried that the region's proximity to the Chesapeake Bay would cause flooding throughout the area canceled classes Thursday.
"We're very concerned about the high winds and kids on buses," said Ken Horsemon, deputy superintendent of Calvert County schools.
Two Calvert schools where the principals had been trained by the Red Cross to run emergency centers were designated as shelters: Windy Hill and Southern middle schools. Charles and St. Mary's counties also used schools as emergency centers--Thomas Stone High and Piccowaxen Middle in Charles, and Springe Ridge Elementary and Great Mills and Chopticon high schools in St. Mary's.
On Thursday, 80 people had checked into the Southern Middle School shelter, which operated on auxiliary power most of the day. Youngsters playing basketball in the gym tried to avoid hitting any of the evacuees who were sleeping on the Red Cross cots.
Many vacationers staying at the Naval Recreation Center were stranded at the shelter. Cora Blake was visiting Solomons from Spotsylvania, Va. "It was a good vacation until today," she said.
Many of the evacuees came from St. Leonard, Solomons and Chesapeake Ranch Estates. By 3 p.m., the rain had turned into a drizzle but the gusts of wind were still strong. Several evacuees and volunteers stood at the front entrance of the school as a flagpole across the street finally succumbed to the winds. "We've been watching that pole all day," said Pam Johnson, a volunteer from Calvert's Department of Social Services.
The shelter at Great Mills High in St. Mary's had 33 people as of the late afternoon. Many came from nearby mobile home parks that had been flooded. Others had houses on stretches of Great Mills Road that were under water. Rescue workers evacuated many residents there by boat.
Abraham Gilliam, 21, waded through the water with his 2-year-old daughter in his arms before a firetruck rescued them. "It was overwhelming. It was unbelievable," he said.
David Faxson lost power at his two-story apartment building before his first-floor apartment started flooding. "The water was up to my window," he said. He and his neighbors piled onto a boat to get out of the building, he said.
-- Nancy Trejos
Come . . . High Water
Residents of low-lying areas moved boats to garages or higher ground, bought bottled water and tins of jellied cooking fuel--and waited for the water to rise.
"It's going to flood," predicted Janet Hess, 64, of Cobb Island, home to about 1,000 people on the Potomac River in southern Charles County. "Everybody that's lived here all their lives knows this. . . . You can't get on or off the island. And most of us don't care."
Hess, a manager at Shymansky's Marina, said that when the road leading to the Cobb Island bridge floods, the volunteer fire department often brings out brawny pickups to ferry people through the water, "or we run oyster trucks."
Her co-worker, Shirley Simpson, 51, of Cobb Island, said she was prepared to ride out the storm.
"I'm ready," Simpson said. "I've got a generator. I've stocked up on food. I've stocked up on lamp oil."
She recalled Hurricane Fran, saying the 1996 storm left six feet of running water on the mainland approach to the Cobb Island bridge.
But Floyd's advance proved worse than reality. On Thursday evening, as high tide approached and the storm was spinning away, the bridge was still open.
-- Todd Shields