News Column

Tuesday Closures Spread as Sandy Moves In

Oct. 30, 2012

Alex Jackson, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

As Hurricane Sandy made landfall Monday evening in New Jersey and continued to wreak havoc on the Northeast, officials wasted no time shuttering operations for Tuesday.

Gov. Martin O'Malley canceled early voting and said state government would be closed for the second straight day Tuesday. Anne Arundel County government and the city of Annapolis both said they will be closed Tuesday as well, and canceled trash collection.

Federal offices in the Washington, D.C., area also are closed Tuesday.

All Maryland public schools, including those in Anne Arundel County, are closed Tuesday. Anne Arundel Community College, the Naval Academy and the Annapolis campus of St. John's College also are closed.

At a 9:30 p.m. press conference, O'Malley again warned state residents to stay vigilant and stay indoors, as the worst of the storm was yet to come.

"For tonight, the watchword is 'stay inside.' Stay put and let's weather these next 12 hours together," O'Malley said.

As of 10:20 p.m., more than 198,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers had lost power, including nearly 49,000 in Anne Arundel County.

Twenty four critical care facilities across the state, including five nursing homes, were operating on generator power, O'Malley said. An accident involving four tractor trailers had shut down the westbound lanes of Interestate 68 near Finzel in western Maryland amidst blizzard conditions. Meanwhile, Ocean City continued to get pounded by Sandy after experiencing a storm surge officials called the worst since Hurricane Gloria in 1985.

More locally, rain and high winds continued through the night and were expected to continue into Wednesday. A National Weather Service spokesman at 9:30 said the worst of the storm remained for Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay.

The NWS issued a coastal flood warning for the Chesapeake Bay and storm surges of 2 to 4 feet were expected from Tuesday afternoon through Tuesday night, spokesman Ken Widelskia said.

Earlier Monday, the State Highway Administration lowered all speed limits on interstate and US routes to 45 miles per hour. The Bay Bridge closed just before 3 p.m. and the Key Bridge also closed Monday afternoon.

As Sandy intensified Monday afternoon, county officials kept a close watch on the situation from the Emergency Operations Center in Glen Burnie.

Few major problems were reported. Two additional roads were closed due to fallen trees, Rustling Oaks Drive in Millersville and Melanie Lane in Edgewater. That's in addition to Governor Bridge Road near the Prince George's County line and Defense Highway at St. Stephens Church Road, two flood-prone areas.

But Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold said the night's events would be telling.

Leopold said there are 517 miles of shore in the county, so tidal surges were expected. There was no major reported incidence of flooding through Monday afternoon, but Leopold said it was still early.

"We do expect additional flooding," Leopold said.

In Baltimore City, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced mandatory travel restrictions for city roadways, ordering non-emergency personnel off the roads by 6 p.m.

In Annapolis, a voluntary evacuation order stayed in effect for residents in low-lying areas. City officials have been providing five sandbags to residents as a complementary provision. About 20 tons of sand was made available. Businesses had a maximum of 10 sandbags.

Some merchants, like Sperry Top Siders, put sandbags out front, taped windows and closed. Others, like Storm Bros. Ice Cream Factory left their door open in wait and chatted with those braving the weather.

Sveinn Storm, who owns Storm Bros., said he expected the worst Tuesday night through Wednesday.

"The rains they're predicting ... We're going to need to plug up the front door," Storm said.

Computer modeling has predicted a 4.3-foot surge Tuesday morning at about 8 a.m. Annapolis Harbormaster Flip Walters said if the forecasts are correct, at that level, the parking lot and dinghy dock will basically be submerged, and Compromise Street at Newman Street could be impassable.

Due to the cancellation of early voting for a second straight day statewide, early voting will be extended through Friday.

The city's office of emergency preparedness, based at the police station on Taylor Avenue, opened its call center Sunday at noon. The center is a phone line for non-emergency inquiries. The phone number is 410-260-2211. County residents with storm-related concerns can call 410-222-0600.

A shelter remained open for those in Anne Arundel County at Annapolis High School at 2700 Riva Road. Annapolis Transit is providing rides and asking those in need of a ride to call the emergency preparedness phone number. As of 4:30 p.m., 40 people and seven pets were at the shelter, which Leopold said can handle 500 people.

Ferndale United Methodist Church on Ferndale Road had also opened its doors. Leopold said at last check, three people had gone there for shelter.

O'Malley has urged Marylanders to visit mema.maryland.gov and follow @MDMEMA on Twitter for instant updates.

Anne Arundel County will broadcast live updates on Community Television. You can view the program on Channel 98 for Comcast and Channel 38 for Verizon.



Source: (c)2012 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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