NEW FOR THURSDAY: Resort Area Quick To Bounce Back From Strong Winter Storm

OCEAN CITY — Despite high winds, pouring rain and heavy surf that pounded the region throughout much of Wednesday, the resort area was largely spared widespread damage and was relatively back to normal by Thursday morning.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">

While the storm lived up to its hype in terms of temporary impacts in and around the resort area, it was largely business as usual by Thursday morning with little evidence of the pounding rain and high winds that lashed Ocean City and much of Worcester County throughout Wednesday.

The predicted changeover from a classic Nor’easter to a snow storm did briefly occur late Wednesday evening, but the storm failed to live up to the hype on that side of the equation. By Thursday morning, the storm had passed and although heavy surf still pounded the beaches, the sun was shining as Ocean City crews began to assess the damage caused during the prior 24 hours or so. At the Inlet, bulldozers pushed mounds of sand that accumulated on the parking lot back onto the beach and other crews were seen around Ocean City repairing power lines and clearing debris.

“As bad as it got on Wednesday, and as windy as it was for much of the day, we really escaped with not a whole lot of damage or cleanup to do,” said Ocean City Public Works Director Hal Adkins on Thursday. “We had some significant sand events to clean up at the Inlet parking lot and some other minor sand events here and there, but we came out relatively unscathed.”

Adkins said the town’s property, including the Boardwalk, came through the storm with little damage or impact although many of the streets were littered with debris, downed tree branches, broken signs, siding and the like.

“A lot of what we saw was more personal property damage,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of building with vinyl siding blown off, some downed signs including the sign at Pirate’s Plunder, which was probably the most visible reminder, and damage to the ceilings in parking garages. Right now, we’re digging out sand that accumulated around the breaks in the sea wall on the Boardwalk so we can get those reopened and people can get back out on the beach.”

At the height of the storm on Wednesday, much of the downtown area was under a couple of feet of water, prompting Ocean City officials to highly recommend limited or no vehicle travel in flooded areas. However, the flooded downtown area was never fully closed to vehicular traffic throughout the storm, according to recently installed Emergency Services and Ocean City Police Department public information officer Lindsay O’Neal.

“We never did officially close the downtown area although we were highly recommending vehicles to stay out of there, especially during high tide and at the peak of the storm,” she said. “Throughout the day, we were recommending only high profile vehicles attempt to travel in some areas.”

O’Neal said the town’s Emergency Services closely monitored the storm and although the situation turned dicey at certain points of the day on Wednesday, there was never any inclination to trigger voluntary or mandatory evacuations in certain areas.

“We were keeping a close eye on things, but there was never a time nor was there ever any talk about evacuating,” she said. “The storm turned out to be a lot less severe than what was forecasted, and the town suffered only minor to moderate damage.”

With the high winds and heavy rains came downed power lines and associated outages. Late Wednesday afternoon, much of West Ocean City lost power when a utility pole near the commercial harbor snapped near its base. Power was restored in some areas in West Ocean City rather quickly, but other neighborhoods went without power late into Wednesday night. By Thursday morning, a second pole had been driven into the ground and the snapped pole had been secured to it, temporarily ending that crisis.

The aforementioned Pirate’s Plunder sign in the area of 26th Street was perhaps one of the more memorable images from Wednesday’s storm. Late Wednesday afternoon, the sign had fallen and was suspended on power lines in the area. By Thursday morning, the sign had been safely lowered onto a grassy vacant lot in the area and was apparently waiting to be removed or replaced.

Also on Wednesday afternoon, a large tree on the side of Route 50 near Berlin was split nearly in half by wind or lightning and knocked over a street light. .

Also, in Berlin on Wednesday night, a large tree on Tingle Road was struck by lightning and fell onto a truck. The fallen tree caused a significant power outage in Berlin that lasted well into the early morning hours on Thursday. Outages were widespread throughout Wednesday night and into early Thursday with communities from Ocean City to West Ocean City and from Ocean Pines to Berlin without power. In Ocean Pines, the power was restored at some point during the night, but went out again from around 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday.