- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 7, 2011

CATONSVILLE, Md. — Firefighters were among those who had to be rescued Wednesday as storms flooded roads, trapping cars in rushing water and filling basements in a region still cleaning up from Hurricane Irene less than two weeks ago.

A swift water rescue boat carrying two firefighters capsized in the Patapsco River near Catonsville while they responded to rescue calls near the Howard County line, Baltimore County spokeswoman Elise Armacost said.

Four firefighters had to bail out of another boat that got stuck, but all six were eventually accounted for.

After the boat flipped in the current, fire specialist Donald Pruitt was able to cling to a tree, but firefighter Jason Porrovicchio said he ended up about 300 yards downstream. There, he held tight to a branch in the water rushing fast enough to knock down trees until it broke and he managed to swim out.

“It was scary,” Mr. Porrovicchio said. “It was my first time as a victim.”

Mr. Porrovicchio made his way upstream to help rescue Mr. Pruitt, who had been holding on to a tree for half an hour. Other rescuers were then able to pull him to safety.

When they got out, Mr. Porrovicchio says the men hugged and then they were checked out by medics. Mr. Pruitt was taken to an area hospital with a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, a 500-ton crane fell at the National Cathedral in Washington during a thunderstorm, damaging two buildings and several vehicles. No injuries were reported.

And Maryland emergency management officials urged state residents to be cautious while traveling because highway crews and others may be on the roads dealing with downed trees, power lines and road closures.

In Ellicott City, shops, restaurants and apartments along Main Street were hit hard and more rain was expected, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said.

“Up and down Main Street, virtually every building’s got water in it. I was talking to a shop owner who said all of her merchandise was under water,” Mr. Ulman said.

In Baltimore County, fire and rescue crews responded to numerous swift water rescues of stranded cars, but no injuries were reported, Ms. Armacost said.

Some basements flooded in the Cherry Hill neighborhood, but water was receding by late afternoon and no evacuations were expected, said Baltimore Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright. Water from the Jones Falls was also receding from roads in the Mount Washington neighborhood.

“Hopefully things continue to improve,” Mr. Cartwright said.

Nancee Lyons, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works, said the agency will be handing out five sandbags until it runs out to each Washington household for people who show proof they live in the district.

It will run through midnight Wednesday at RFK Stadium Lot 7.

Flash flood watches and warnings covered all of central and southern Maryland and northern Delaware on Wednesday. The National Weather Service said 3 to 5 inches of rain had fallen over the Baltimore-Washington area, causing streams to overflow and closing numerous roads. Road flooding was also reported in northern Delaware.

Rain was expected over the next several days.

“I don’t think it will be quite as widespread as we saw this afternoon but there’s still going to be locally heavy rains,” said weather service meteorologist Brian Lasorsa.

Minor flooding was expected along the Potomac River from Point off Rocks in Frederick County to Little Falls near the border between Maryland and the District of Columbia. The highest water is expected Thursday night through Friday afternoon as the crest moves downstream. The weather service also predicted minor to moderate flooding on Potomac River tributaries including Antietam Creek, Seneca Creek and the Monocacy River.

Maryland Natural Resources Police said boating and other recreational uses of the upper Potomac River and its creeks and streams should be avoided. The advisory runs through Friday, and police said it would be updated if necessary. Rain has made river levels hazardous in the main stem of the upper Potomac from Cumberland to Little Falls.

The Avalon area of Patapsco Valley State Park in Elkridge had significant flooding along both the Baltimore County and Howard County sides of the river near U.S. Route 1.

• David Dishneau and Alex Dominguez in Baltimore and Brett Zongker in Washington contributed to this report