Questions about Bay Bridge travel after derecho

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON – It’s a frightening thought: Driving across the Bay Bridge and getting tossed back and forth by strong winds.

Some say Friday night’s derecho pushed them around on the bridge, and the bridge should have been closed to traffic sooner. A tractor-trailer ended up overturning on the eastbound span.

But a Maryland Transportation Authority official says the extreme and spontaneous nature of the storm didn’t provide time for a full assessment of whether the bridge should be shut down.

“In this case, we really went from 30 miles an hour to 80 miles an hour in a matter of minutes — which is not a typical pattern or a typical storm,” MdTA Executive Secretary Harold Bartlett tells WTOP.

The authority’s policy is that when wind speeds reach about 40 miles per hour, a wind warning is posted on the bridge. When winds are sustained at higher speeds, the bridge is shut down.

“We have weather equipment on the bridge that monitors wind speeds, and we base our decision on that more than the forecast,” Bartlett says. “The reason why we do that is sometimes the forecasts don’t come to fruition — and we certainly wouldn’t want to have a shutdown of the bridge when it wasn’t warranted.”

Some drivers tell The Baltimore Sun the conditions on the bridge were not safe.

“I opened my sunroof so that if I went over the side, I’d have a way to get out,” Alessandro Vitale, a Baltimore restaurateur on his way to Ocean City, told the Sun.

No one was hurt seriously on the bridge.

Bartlett says the MdTA will be conducting an after-action report of the incident.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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