Reporting Gigi Barnett
SANDY POINT, Md. (WJZ)– Last week’s storm left nothing untouched, including the Bay Bridge. Drivers who were on the bridge during the storm are calling for some sweeping changes to protect them in bad weather.
Gigi Barnett has more.
“It’s dark, you’re sitting in a car, you’re looking over the guardrail and there’s no place to go,” Alan Charles said.
Charles thought he was going to die Friday night. He was driving eastbound over the Bay Bridge around 11:15 p.m., headed to a weekend of relaxation.
Just as his vehicle approached the top of the bridge, everything changed.
“The winds went nuts. Rain, hail, lightning started hitting the bridge. It was like Ridley Scott couldn’t have filmed a disaster movie better than that,” he said.
A tractor-trailer in front of him crashed in the high winds. The trailer dangled from the side of the bridge and the driver was seriously injured.
Charles says he and other drivers never received a warning about the dangers ahead. Now they want better technology on the bridge.
“It sounds like all they have right now, what I’m told, is a little anemometer, which is an old-school 50-year-old thing that goes around and tells them the weather,” he said.
“At 30 miles per hour, we start putting up warnings. And at 40 miles an hour, we actually begin with restrictions on travel,” Harold Bartlett of the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) said.
The Bay Bridge does have an anemometer to record winds. But it has no other technology monitoring storms in the distance.
What’s more, the state doesn’t rely on weather forcasts to take action and protect drivers. They change too frequently.
The only plan of protection for drivers on the bridge during wicked weather are signs alerting them to the conditions. And during really dangerous storms, the MdTA can temporarily close the bridge.
“Shutting the bridge down prematurely also has its implications, and sometimes there’s life-safety implications associated with that,” Bartlett said.
The MdTA says it will begin an in-depth review of what happened during last week’s storm on Monday, and how to improve its warning systems on the Bay Bridge.
The MdTA says it’s looking into purchasing a real-time weather system. But that device will only track winds at the bridge, not those in the distance.