Amid Storms, Hurricane, Maryland Prepares for Flooding

By Jacob Bell and Naomi Eide

ANNAPOLIS (October 2, 2015)—Following days of rain, with more expected from a nor’easter, and a possible hurricane along the Eastern Seaboard, parts of Maryland are in a state of emergency and preparing for flooding.

Friday afternoon, Gov. Larry Hogan cancelled Thursday’s state of emergency declaration in eight counties, including Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick, Carroll, Montgomery, Howard, and Prince George’s.

“With the storm moving away from our coasts, we are directing state resources to the counties and areas with the highest potential to need assistance,” said Hogan in a statement. “However, the majority of the state still remains under a state of emergency and rain and wind gusts could cause power outages and flooding in low-lying areas.”

The National Weather Service expects Joaquin to head east and stay far enough offshore, avoiding additional impacts in Maryland such as wind and rain, said Matt Elliott, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Baltimore/Washington Forecast office, Friday afternoon.

Though the trajectory of Hurricane Joaquin is still uncertain, “we know we’re going to have some impact no matter what,” said Chas Eby, spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

The heaviest rain was expected to move into the Baltimore, Washington and Annapolis corridor Friday afternoon, with 1.5 to 3 inches of rain expected through Saturday morning, according to Elliott.

With the increased rain, there is potential for localized flooding and wind gusts up to 35 mph. The heavier rain is expected to taper off Saturday morning, with spottier rain on Saturday and Sunday, Elliott said.

If a driver finds themselves in a flash flood, the first thing to do is to call 911 and follow the dispatcher’s instructions, said Mark Brady, chief spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire Department. Drivers should not open their car doors, but instead roll down their windows and get to the highest point they can, in most cases the roof of their cars.

Brady added drivers should turn on their headlights, slow down, increase the distance between other cars and avoid driving over water-covered roadways.

From Tuesday to Thursday, Baltimore-Washington International Airport recorded 3.27 inches of rain, including 2.58 inches of rain falling Tuesday, which set a record for rainfall on Sept. 29.

The National Hurricane Center upgraded Joaquin to a Category 4 hurricane Thursday and as of Friday the storm had turned away from the East Coast.

“At this time, we are strongly encouraging Marylanders to use common sense in the days ahead,” Hogan said Thursday.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Friday morning encouraged residents to take basic precautions as Hurricane Joaquin makes its way up the coast.

Rawlings-Blake said residents should stock up on supplies such as water, flashlights and batteries and also clear out drains and other potential flooding hazards.

“As we normally do, we hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” Rawlings-Blake said during the conference in Fells Point, where the city is giving out sandbags to Baltimore residents throughout Friday and Saturday.

Also in that area, organizers of the Fell’s Point Fun Fest, an annual neighborhood street festival with an average attendance of 100,000-150,000, have postponed the event for the first time in its 49-year history. The tentative reschedule dates are Oct. 23-25, according to Joy Giordano, the executive director of Fell’s Point Main Street, which oversees the event.

Utility providers BGE and Pepco both encouraged customers to notify them of any power outages and downed trees on power lines.

Myra Oppel, spokeswoman for Pepco, said “the forecasts are looking in our favor right now,” but they are still preparing for outages from the nor’easter and are closely monitoring the hurricane.

The combination of saturated tree roots, waterlogged tree canopies and potential for wind can topple trees onto power lines and knockout power. Both BGE and Pepco encouraged customers to remain safe and stay away from any wires hanging loose or on the ground and assume that all wires are energized.

“We think the worst of the nor’easter is ahead of us,” so crews will be on standby to respond, said Aaron Koos, spokesperson BGE.

Toward the Washington metropolitan area, the weather stands to affect weekend sporting events. The Big Ten Conference announced Thursday that the Oct. 3 game in College Park between the University of Maryland and University of Michigan will move up its start time from 8 p.m. to noon.

In Annapolis, emergency management officials are keeping an eye on the weather. While flooding is fairly common for lower-lying streets near the harbor, the city has thousands of sandbags on standby should the weather worsen, according to Rhonda Wardlaw, the city’s public information officer.

“We have these exercises all the time, (but) this is really a one-two punch,” Wardlaw said.

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