Maryland experiences full variety of Sandy's wrath

By Jessica Gresko

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 30 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Ocean City resident Brandon Maynard bikes past benches strewn around the boardwalk Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Ocean City, Md. Sandy is combining with a wintry storm from the west and cold air from the Arctic. The superstorm could menace some 50 million people in the nation's most heavily populated corridor, from big East Coast cities to the Great Lakes.

The Daily Times, Laura Emmons) NO SALES, Associated Press

CRISFIELD, Md. — On Maryland's jagged coastline, hurricane-riled waves destroyed an iconic pier and floodwaters forced caskets from graves in a town famed for crabbing. In the mountainous western edges, 2 feet of snow snapped power lines, downed trees and left tractor-trailers jackknifed along an interstate.

The much-feared meet-up between Hurricane Sandy and a powerful wintry front had residents on opposite sides of the state dealing with very different types of cleanup on Tuesday. In terms of sheer destruction, other states fared worse on a day when the superstorm plagued a large swath of the eastern U.S. But in Maryland the dueling disasters strained emergency resources and illustrated extremes in weather that rarely coincide.

Steve Zubrick, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said it's unusual to see a tropical storm and a blizzard on the same map at the same time — much less in the same state.

"There's some meteorologists whose dream of the 'perfect storm' is a hurricane going into an Arctic high-pressure system and creating a huge snowstorm," said Zubrick of the service's Baltimore-Washington forecast office in Sterling, Va. "On the map (Monday), you had the hurricane symbol on the map and you could see the blizzard warnings out in the west. They were very close to each other, relatively speaking. Just to see that on one map is pretty impressive. I probably won't see that again."

Hundreds of people were displaced from their homes by floodwaters in the resort town of Ocean City and in Crisfield, a community known as "the crab capital of the world." In westernmost Garrett County, nearly three-quarters of the residents lost power because of the blizzard and a mountainous stretch of highway was closed for hours.

Mark Merritt, a former deputy chief of staff at FEMA, said Sandy's aftermath presented unique logistical difficulties, in part because the storm itself was so vast. Maryland is competing for resources, including out-of-state utility line crews, with states up and down the Eastern seaboard.

"It's going to be a huge challenge because of the variety," said Merritt, the president of Witt Associates, a public safety and crisis management consulting firm. "You've got coastal regions; you've got urban regions; you've got mountainous rural regions. You've got a little bit of everything in Maryland."

Gov. Martin O'Malley said the state's emergency preparedness drills have built in more complex scenarios, including the mix of weather brought by Sandy.

"Whenever we do our scenarios and our drills and our trainings — and we do a lot more of that than we ever have — there's typically built into the scenarios these sorts of curveballs and complicating factors, because that's the way real life is," O'Malley said Tuesday.

In Crisfield, residents said they hadn't seen flooding this bad since Hurricane Gloria in 1985. On Cove Street, water was covering lawns and splashing against the front steps of houses. One home decorated for Halloween had water soaking a small ghost and Frankenstein decorations. Across the street, a rowboat was tied up but floating in the yard.

At a cemetery, two caskets — one silver and the other bronze — had been forced out of their graves, their sides visible above the grass. The cement slabs that covered the graves were dislodged.

About an inch of water crept into the home of Harold "Doc" Sterling, who lost power, heat and telephone service. He decided to leave with the National Guard around 1 p.m. A Guardsman held Sterling's Bible as he climbed a ladder into a waiting truck with about 10 others.

In Ocean City, public works crews were on the streets Tuesday morning doing cleanup work. An iconic fishing pier in the city's downtown was destroyed.

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