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August 5, 2011

17 died in Md. thunderstorms 40 years ago


Flooding Aug. 1, 1971It was one of Maryland’s worst natural disasters, claiming 17 lives. But few remember after 40 years. Bruce Sullivan does. A senior forecaster at the National Center for Environmental Prediction, he said a line of severe thunderstorms formed along a stalled front over Baltimore and Harford counties on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 1, 1971. They dumped more than 12 inches of rain in six hours. Rivers and creeks flooded. Most of the dead drowned. Scores more needed rescue. 

One of the most wrenching stories to come out of the storms was the heroism of Charles H. Schafferman, 26, of Essex. He was a non-swimmer, and he was on crutches from an ankle injury. He nevertheless plunged into floodwaters to rescue at least eight people stranded in the 6500 block of Pulaski Highway. The Navy veteran and tractor-trailer driver was last seen going to the aide of two children trapped on top of a car that had stalled in six feet of water. His body was found at Pulaski Highway and North Point Road after the water receded. He was nominated posthumously for a police department civilian heroism award.

At least four more people died trying to rescue others. They were volunteer firefighters Douglas Mueller, 18; Charles Hopwood, 42, Warren E. Shaffer, 22 and Milton C.R. DeSombre, 49, all from the Cowenton and Bowley's Quarters volunteer companies. They were trying to pull  a car and its occupants to safety in rain-swollen Bean Creek off Route 7 when they were swept into the creek and drowned. The car's driver died, too, but the man's wife and another firefighter were rescued after clinging to a tree for two hours. 

(SUN PHOTO: Aug. 1, 1971)  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition



Many thanks for this item. It reminds people that we don't have to have a tornado or a major hurricane to cause a weather disaster. Ironically, less than a year later, another 19 in Maryland were killed when the remnants of Hurricane Agnes, a relatively mild Cat 1 storm that made landfall way down in the Gulf Coast, stalled over the mid-Atlantic region. Much of central Maryland was initially hit by flash floods, then a few days later, heavy rains from PA and NY caused flooding along the Susquehanna. Two of the worst weather disasters in modern Maryland history in successive summers.

Ed McDonough
Maryland Emergency Management Agency
Public Information Officer

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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