Three Reasons I Am Concerned About Schools Opening On Time Tomorrow

I could sense it all afternoon. The chatter on the radio and television stations was strong from our local officials and civil leaders: We are in control; it wasn’t as bad as we thought; we were prepared; we are returning to normal.

And “returning to normal” included school systems returning to a regular schedule on Wednesday. Sure, we’ve got a handful of schools still without power, but no problem. We got this. We’re in control.

Forget the state of emergency and forget the curfews and the restrictions just lifted hours ago.

We were prepared. We got this. No panic here, and we can prove it to you by opening up the schools.

The only problem with this decision is that power being restored to most of the schools in our counties should not have been the sole factor in determining the return to “normalcy” for thousands of our children. I know there were intense meetings. I know there was much deliberation about making this decision. What I’m wondering, though, is this: Did you consider these three things?

High schoolers will be returning to school in the dark

I just came back from running a few errands (around 9 p.m.), and I was astounded by the amount of debris that was still on the roads — the same roads that I had traveled not 4 hours ago. The streets are wet, and it is nearly impossible to see the jagged branches and tree limbs protruding from the curbs. They cover the sidewalks and make it nearly impossible for school walkers to get around them without having to walk in the streets. What if wires have come down overnight and are now lying in the wet roads, still hot? BGE’s Robert Gould has stated repeatedly that the threat of falling trees and power lines is still very real, and if any of these fall in the middle of the night, chances are slim that they will be reported to BGE and cleared before children have to walk to school.

Many traffic lights are still out

Few people are following the new law just enacted on October 1, where you are required to treat dark intersections (where the traffic lights are not working) like a four-way stop. Those who are obeying the law are being cursed at by the drivers behind them, and those who are blowing through intersections are endangering the lives of others who are trying to follow the law. In the day time, it is bad enough; at least we are able to have a better field of vision of who is and is not following the law to treat the intersection like a four-way stop. In the dark (which it will be for the high schoolers), they will be heading to school in very challenging and dangerous situations.

Many major roads are still blocked

The list of roads still blocked by downed wires and trees is too long to post here. Student drivers as well as bus drivers will have to take many detours to get to school on time. These are, for many, unfamiliar routes that will cause other safety issues.

There are other issues, too. Many families are faced with situations where one child has school, but another doesn’t. Many of these families are without power (especially those who live so close to the schools that are on the no-power list); they already have multiple issues with having no electricity. Now, they face new challenges in trying to accommodate one child’s needs to get to school on time.

And what about the magnet school families? If the school system is going to offer such dynamic programs as magnet schools (which we are a part of and support), then they need to take into consideration that families will be traveling from different parts of the county just to get their children to school on time.

The decision to return to schools less than 24 hours after a devastating hurricane pushed through our area is both irresponsible and insensitive. The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is still posting strong cautions on their website tonight about driving and residential conditions (see below for the complete list of warnings posted as of 10:39 p.m.). It is one thing to pound our chests and show the world how quickly we got Baltimore back on its feet; it is another thing entirely to put the lives of our children on line to prove how resilient we might be.

When this whole mess is over, I’d much rather be remembered for putting just as much thought and effort into keeping our citizens safe after the storm as we did in the five days that led up to its historic landfall.

 

MEMA Warnings:

HURRICANE UPDATES

CategoryUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Updates
DRIVING
Maryland emergency officials are urging citizens to use continued caution and to be alert to the potential for ongoing flooding and standing water that is still present on many roads throughout the state.
DRIVING
If you must drive today, please be careful. Remember that there is still debris on the road, and many traffic lights are out. The law states we must treat traffic lights that are out as a four-way stop and come to a complete stop.
DRIVING
Motorists are urged not to drive through standing water. Do not drive around warning signs blocking roads that are closed due to fallen trees, downed power lines, or high water.
DRIVING
Drivers are reminded to continue to reduce speed when driving through heavy rain. Hydroplaning remains a risk and will occur without warning. Reducing speed is the best prevention against hydroplaning.
DRIVING
Drivers headed toward western Maryland are reminded that parts of Garrett County have up to two feet of snow, and a number of roads in that area remain closed.
EVENTS
Tomorrow, we will be resuming early voting in Maryland. Friday will also be an early voting day, and hours are extended from 8 AM to 9 PM.
EVENTS
Tomorrow’s Board of Public Works meeting has been cancelled.
FLOODING
Maryland residents who live near any streams, rivers or bays should continue to be alert for residual flooding and overflow. Residents in low lying areas should also be on the lookout for rising water.
POWER
There are still about 308,000 Marylanders without power. Utility crews were out at dawn today working to restore power, but we are asking everyone to please be patient. Check on your neighbors, and take care of one another; For those without power, here are tips to stay safe.

POWER
It is imperative that you keep generators outside and ventilated to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not keep them in garages

 

Experiencing Sandy’s Imminent Landfall: 10/29/12 @1822

It’s just before 6 p.m., and the lights just won’t stop flickering. About 30 minutes ago, one of the generators in my neighborhood exploded, and our lights went with it — for just a second. They came back on, but I don’t have any confidence that they will stay on for too much longer. In fact, I doubt I will finish this post and publish it before we are in the dark.

We are surrounded by constant sirens — those we can hear above the sounds of the storm: the winds that filter through the trees with the roar of a freight train, the rains that pelt our windows in a sideways drive that makes me feel as if I am under some kind of rapid fire. We don’t know where they are going, as we can’t leave the house. They sound as if they are circling our neighborhood, though, a pulse of imminence reminding us that it isn’t a matter of if, but a matter of when, we lose power.

We’ve taken all of the precautions. Our food supply is good for at least 72 hours, and we even cooked all of our meals ahead of time so that we can eat them chilled if necessary. We have been bagging the ice from our icemaker in our refrigerator, so no worries about losing any perishable food (we have also depleted our frozen-food supply in the last few days so that we won’t have any wasted, thawed food to throw away).

But there’s something distinctly different between “getting ready” for the hit and actually experiencing it. With every rush of wind that pushes past us, we brace ourselves for a hit. There are trees that worry us more than others. In previous storms, they have dropped 15-foot branches in our yard, snapped from the trunk like a kid ripping a good marshmallow stick for the campfire.

These are the trees that make us hold our collective breath and wait for a crack, some sparks from the wires that will certainly follow instantaneously, and then the silence of the hum of electricity as our world goes black.

We pray that it doesn’t hit our house. We station ourselves strategically inside the house to miss the crash, should it fall our way. Our kids stay downstairs most of the time, clear of any impact. They don’t know this, of course. If we tell them of the precautions we take, they will be unnecessarily terrified. A Harry Potter film and their favorite blankies, and all is right with the world. It’s the little things that buy us a good 2 hours of happiness, bliss, and forget of the destruction that swirls all around us.

Another generator pops, the lights flicker, and my wife runs to the kitchen. She has been yearning to make a Sam Adams milkshake, and battery-powered blenders just don’t pack the punch you need to make these delicacies just exactly right.

I guess age does not discriminate when it comes to finding the things that buy us a little happiness and bliss.

The whir of the blender is in tune and in rhythm with the whirl of the winds outside. Synchronicity is a welcome friend right now, and I’ll take it, even in the dark.

 

Update #8: 10/29/12, @1312: Romancing The Storm

 “THIS WILL BE A DEADLY STORM. IT’S GOING TO BE A LONG 24-36 HOURS.”

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley

 The magnitude of this storm continues to overwhelm me. The images are staggering, but my heart breaks when I see what is happening to our Ocean City. The two pictures below, one released by the OC Tourism Bureau (top) and the other shared by my friend Derek Leek, are of the Ocean City Fishing Pier (or what is left of it). For a long time, it served as the icon of downtown Ocean City, and every time we’ve visited with our children, we always managed to make it to “The Pier.”

Very sad.

 

 My friend Kim Zimmerman shared the picture below, taken earlier this morning in Ocean City. I cannot even begin to imagine what this area looks like now.

There’s little left to say, except that we’re in for a dark 24 hours. I’ve included some updated information below regarding power outages and school closings, but at this point, we all need to take care of our families, friends, and loved ones (including pets) and stay safe.

From Update #7: 6:22 a.m. – We still have power, as does nearly every other family in Central Maryland. BGE is reporting less than 500 outages, but we all know that we are still in the “calm before the storm” phase of this monster weather event. It is unsettling to hear leaders in New York City calling this storm “the worst that has ever hit New York,” and now that Sandy has made that critical left turn toward the coast, nearly everybody’s worst-case scenario is imminent. At this time, the storm — still hundreds of miles from shore — is tracking to hit the Delaware Bay head on, and areas south and north of this point will experience unprecedented storm surge with sustained and crippling winds of 40 mph with gusts up to 70 mph. Sandy is still a category 1 hurricane with sustained winds now at 85 mph (10 mph higher than what was reported at 5 a.m.), and after it collides with the front that is stationed in Virginia, it will morph into a post-hurricane, monster Nor’Easter. The latest air pressure measurement is at a very low 946 mb (millibars), which is equal to a category 3/4 hurricane that, in this case, will affect 60 million people because it is so widespread. This means that record storm surges of 8-12 feet will not be concentrated just where the eye of the storm makes landfall; shorelines from Virginia to New England will experience the force of this historic storm.

Ocean City, MD continues to get slammed with high tides this morning; this evening will be worse with another high tide and a full-moon pulling that tide even further inland; It is unbelievable that the storm is still hundreds of miles off shore; yet, they are already experiencing damaging strong winds with hurricane-force gusts.

The Weather Channel provides a thorough, state-by-state analysis of what each area can expect in the next two days.

Here are just a few of the changes and preparations being made as Sandy heads toward us:

  • BGE is reporting that it may not be until late Wednesday, early Thursday when they can fully access the magnitude of outages and triage their approach to restoring power across the region.
  • Delaware has ordered residents throughout the state to stay off the roads (fines will be issued if you are driving on any Delaware road).
  • Route 50 Bridge into Ocean City is closed indefinitely.
  • Wind restrictions are in effect on the Bay Bridge and the Key Bridge. The governor has intimated that, at some point, the Bay Bridge will be closed for all traffic indefinitely.
  • Early Voting throughout Maryland has been canceled for today.
  • Local and state governments are closed.
  • No buses or trains are running in Central Maryland.
  • Some streets in Baltimore City have already been closed in anticipation of flooding later today/tonight.
  • All State Parks are closed.

WAMU 88.5 FM is reporting that the National Hurricane Center believes Sandy could be the worst storm to ever hit the east coast. You can read the full article here.

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the National Weather Service believes every creek, stream, and river in Baltimore City and Baltimore County will be “out of its banks.” You can read the full article here.

IF TRAFFIC LIGHTS ARE OUT AT AN INTERSECTION: It is now state law that, if a traffic light is out at an intersection, you MUST treat it like a four-way stop intersection. NO DIRECTION HAS THE RIGHT-OF-WAY. Stop, take your turn, and proceed with caution. Violators can/will be fined $90 and assessed two points. For complete information about this new law, which just went into effect October 1, 2012, go here.

We are now as prepared as we can be; there’s little more to do but hold on and hope for the best over the next 48 hours.

Current Conditions/What To Expect

(Information gathered from The Weather Channel, The National Weather Service, and The National Hurricane Center) It is rough out there now. The winds are definitely picking up, but they pulse in these scary bouts, driving the rain into our windows with such force. We are also watching the trees in our back yard do a very, scary dance. I never knew they were that flexible… 😦

The storm has now turned toward the coastline, heading directly toward Delaware/New Jersey shores. The winds continue to increase (90-mph sustained winds, now threatening to peak at 100 mph). Expected landfall is later this afternoon.

From that point, the forecast won’t change for the next 18 hours until mid-day Tuesday, when the winds begin to subside and the rain begins to lose a little of its intensity. The temperatures will be falling gradually into the mid- to low 40s.

The storm is also expected to stall over the Mason-Dixon line, west of northern Carroll County. That means more rain, more wind, and a longer period of time before BGE can begin to work on restoring power.

After that, who knows? It is not out of the realm of possibility that non-accumulating snows could creep east and wrap things up for us late Tuesday into Wednesday morning (Garrett County continues to be under a blizzard warning through Tuesday night).

The bottom line is this: Whatever Sandy throws at us, it is going to be historic. The power of this storm is greater than Katrina, Andrew, and every other storm to hit the United States.

I cannot state this enough: The potential for loss of life is too great to imagine, and we must all do everything possible to ensure the safety of our family members, our neighbors, and ourselves.

Here is the latest projected path of the storm, as of 11:00 p.m. today.

 

This will be my last update for awhile, as we will be savoring the time left with power as a family, engaged in a mega-Harry Potter Movie Marathon. If we lose power, Amy and I will be using Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with everyone.

Warnings In Effect

The following watches and warnings are currently in effect (National Weather Service):

  • Coastal Flood Warning (Inland Worchester, Maryland Beaches): Exp. 10/30 @12 a.m.
  • Flood Watch (Statewide): Exp. 10/30 @8 p.m.
  • Coastal Flood Advisory and Watch (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Harford, Kent, Prince Georges, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Southern Baltimore, St. Marys, Talbot, Wicomico): Exp. 10/30 @12 a.m.
  • High Wind Warning (Statewide): Exp. 10/30 @8 p.m.
  • BLIZZARD Warning (Garrett): Exp. 10/30 @8 p.m.

The truth is, though, there are just too many to list. You can get the latest warnings and alerts specifically for your area from the National Weather Service here.

Update on School Closings

The following school systems and universities are CLOSED on Tuesday (as of 12:30 p.m.):

Anne Arundel County
Baltimore County
Caroline County
Calvert County
Cecil County
Cecil Community College
Charles County
Chesapeake College
College of Notre Dame
Goucher College
Harford County
Harford Community College
Howard County
Kent County
Montgomery County
Salisbury University
Stevenson University
Towson University
Queen Anne’s County
St. Mary’s County
Talbot County
Southwestern District (PA)
Washington College

If your school system has not yet announced plans to close tomorrow, I assume they will soon. It seems unconscionable that any school could open when the state and so many counties are under States of Emergency.

Keep your phones charged and remember to stay in touch with loved ones at all times, especially during the height of the storm tomorrow.

You can get school closing updates from WBALTV.com, if you aren’t connected to any text-alert system for your your school or university.

Evacuations

The Bay Bridge will be closed indefinitely when wind speeds become too dangerous, per Gov. O’Malley.

Worcester County has ordered the evacuation of all beach-front residents.

The following locations are already evacuated:

Ocean City, MD has evacuated from 17th Street to the Inlet. You can read the full evacuation notice here.

Delaware beaches have been evacuated, but some of the evacuation routes are already closed because of breaches in the sand dunes. You can read the full update here.

Havre de Grace residents should have evacuated. You can read the full update here.

Power Outages

The threat of power outages will continue to increase as the storm moves into our area, primarily for three reasons:

  1. the winds will be unrelenting for at least 24 hours;
  2. the ground is already saturated; and
  3. trees will carry more weight with leaves still attached; in addition, the leaves act as wind-catchers and will cause more trees to become uprooted.

This is just one of the many reasons why the MVA is urging drivers to stay off Maryland roads during this storm. There is great unpredictability in where or when trees might come down, and whether they will be bringing power lines down with them. Downed wires do NOT need to be sparking to be live and deadly. Take no chances if you see downed wires in the road or in your yard.

As of 1:05 p.m., the number of BGE-reported outages is 9,413, with 7,913 restored since 10 a.m. 10/28:

  • Anne Arundel: 991
  • Baltimore: 3,015
  • Baltimore City: 1,444
  • Calvert: 1,935
  • Carroll: 926
  • Harford: 471
  • Howard: 628
  • Montgomery: 1
  • Prince George’s: 2

You can check for power outage updates here; BGE does a great job of keeping these numbers updated every 15 minutes or so.

From Update #5: Important Safety Reminders from Baltimore County Emergency Management Director Mark Hubbard

The following reminders, offered by Hubbard, were published in the Towson Patch:

  • Citizens who live in flood-prone areas along the coast or along inland creeks and streams should consider relocating. Coastal flooding is predicted, but the severity is not known and emergency responders may not be able to rescue those living in these areas.
  • Roads will flood. Officials are asking drivers to stay off the roads once the storm starts, but if you must drive, avoid driving through standing water.
  • When traffic signals go out, the intersection should be treated as a four-way stop.
  • Plans should be made immediately for family members who use power-dependent life-sustaining equipment.
  • Generators should be placed outside, at least 15 feet from the house.
  • Trees that fall on private property are the owner’s responsibility. Trees that fall on public property and roads are the county’s responsibility.
  • Baltimore does not provide dry ice or sand bags. See the post from Oct. 26 about information about where to obtain dry ice.

Baltimore County officials will provide updates from Twitter at @BACOemergency.

You can read my piece, “Preparations Without The Panic,” Published in the Towson Patch here.

Important Numbers, Websites, And Social Media Sites To Know:

WBAL 1090 AM and wbal.com
Baltimoresun.com The Baltimore Sun announced late Sunday that they were removing the premium digital block from their website through the duration of this storm. This means that everyone has free and full access to their site for important updates and for sharing information.

National Hurricane Center
BGE: Report Power Outages by calling 877-778-2222
Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)

METEOROLOGISTS/WEATHER FORECASTERS:
Justin Berk (@JustinWeather)
Foot’s Forecast

SCHOOL CLOSINGS:
WBALTV
WBFF FOX45
ABC2NEWS
WJZ CBS BALTIMORE

EMERGENCY CONTACTS
— State road conditions: 511
— Bay Bridge: 877-BAYSPAN
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY
— Emergency Operations Center to fully activate at noon Sunday
— Shelter: Annapolis High School (2700 Riva Road, Annapolis), opens 3 p.m. Sunday
ANNAPOLIS
— Annapolis Call Center: 410-260-2211 non-emergencies (to fully activate at noon Sunday)
— All four city garages will open at 3 p.m. free of charge to city residents during the storm: Hillman, Gotts, Knighton and Park Place.
BALTIMORE CITY: DIAL 311
— Emergency Operations Center to open at 7 a.m. Sunday

HARFORD COUNTY
— Harford County “Hot-Line:” 410-838-5800 (Opens Sunday at 7 a.m.) non-emergencies
— Emergency Shelter: Patterson Mill High School (85 Patterson Mill Road, Bel Air) to open at 7 p.m. Sunday as a last resort for residents who have nowhere else to go

EASTERN SHORE
— Queen Anne’s County — Residents encouraged to voluntarily evacuate.
— Ocean City — Emergency Management: 410-723-6646

 

Update #7: 10/29/12 @0700: Romancing The Storm

 “HISTORIC, DESTRUCTIVE, LIFE-THREATENING.”

Bernie Rayno, Meteorologist, AccuWeather.com

(photo: Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

6:22 a.m. – We still have power, as does nearly every other family in Central Maryland. BGE is reporting less than 500 outages, but we all know that we are still in the “calm before the storm” phase of this monster weather event. It is unsettling to hear leaders in New York City calling this storm “the worst that has ever hit New York,” and now that Sandy has made that critical left turn toward the coast, nearly everybody’s worst-case scenario is imminent. At this time, the storm — still hundreds of miles from shore — is tracking to hit the Delaware Bay head on, and areas south and north of this point will experience unprecedented storm surge with sustained and crippling winds of 40 mph with gusts up to 70 mph. Sandy is still a category 1 hurricane with sustained winds now at 85 mph (10 mph higher than what was reported at 5 a.m.), and after it collides with the front that is stationed in Virginia, it will morph into a post-hurricane, monster Nor’Easter. The latest air pressure measurement is at a very low 946 mb (millibars), which is equal to a category 3/4 hurricane that, in this case, will affect 60 million people because it is so widespread. This means that record storm surges of 8-12 feet will not be concentrated just where the eye of the storm makes landfall; shorelines from Virginia to New England will experience the force of this historic storm.

Ocean City, MD continues to get slammed with high tides this morning; this evening will be worse with another high tide and a full-moon pulling that tide even further inland; It is unbelievable that the storm is still hundreds of miles off shore; yet, they are already experiencing damaging strong winds with hurricane-force gusts.

The Weather Channel provides a thorough, state-by-state analysis of what each area can expect in the next two days.

Here are just a few of the changes and preparations being made as Sandy heads toward us:

  • BGE is reporting that it may not be until Thursday when they can fully access the magnitude of outages and triage their approach to restoring power across the region.
  • Delaware has ordered residents throughout the state to stay off the roads (fines will be issued if you are driving on any Delaware road).
  • Route 50 Bridge into Ocean City is closed indefinitely.
  • Wind restrictions are in effect on the Bay Bridge and the Key Bridge.
  • Early Voting throughout Maryland has been canceled for today.
  • Local and state governments are closed.
  • No buses or trains are running in Central Maryland.
  • Some streets in Baltimore City have already been closed in anticipation of flooding later today/tonight.
  • All State Parks are closed.

WAMU 88.5 FM is reporting that the National Hurricane Center believes Sandy could be the worst storm to ever hit the east coast. You can read the full article here.

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the National Weather Service believes every creek, stream, and river in Baltimore City and Baltimore County will be “out of its banks.” You can read the full article here.

IF TRAFFIC LIGHTS ARE OUT AT AN INTERSECTION: It is now state law that, if a traffic light is out at an intersection, you MUST treat it like a four-way stop intersection. NO DIRECTION HAS THE RIGHT-OF-WAY. Stop, take your turn, and proceed with caution. Violators can/will be fined $90 and assessed two points. For complete information about this new law, which just went into effect October 1, 2012, go here.

We are now as prepared as we can be; there’s little more to do but hold on and hope for the best over the next 48 hours.

Current Conditions/What To Expect

(Information gathered from The Weather Channel, The National Weather Service, and The National Hurricane Center) The rain is steady and, at times, pulsing in waves that pound against our house. The rain and winds (gusting at 20 mph, with some peaks at 35 mph) we’re getting now in the central Baltimore area will continue to increase as this storm gets closer to making landfall.

By 10 a.m., we will begin getting rain squalls with increased winds; then, by 4 p.m., the heavy rains really move into the area with sustained winds at 40+ mph; gusts will be at 60 mph and even higher in some places. The forecast won’t change for the next 18 hours until mid-day Tuesday, when the winds begin to subside and the rain begins to lose a little of its intensity. The temperatures will be falling gradually into the mid- to low 40s.

After that, who knows? It is not out of the realm of possibility that a heavy, non-accumulating snow could creep east and wrap things up for us late Tuesday into Wednesday morning (Garrett County continues to be under a blizzard warning through Tuesday night).

The bottom line is this: Whatever Sandy throws at us, it is going to be historic. The power of this storm is greater than Katrina, Andrew, and every other storm to hit the United States.

I cannot state this enough: The potential for loss of life is too great to imagine, and we must all do everything possible to ensure the safety of our family members, our neighbors, and ourselves.

Here is the latest projected path of the storm, as of 7:00 a.m. today. The storm is in the process of making that sharp turn west toward the Mid-Atlantic shores.

 

I will do my best to post updates throughout the day; however, if we lose power, Amy and I will be using Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with everyone.

Warnings In Effect

The following watches and warnings are currently in effect (National Weather Service):

  • Coastal Flood Warning (Inland Worchester, Maryland Beaches): Exp. 10/30 @12 a.m.
  • Flood Watch (Statewide): Exp. 10/30 @8 p.m.
  • Coastal Flood Advisory and Watch (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Harford, Kent, Prince Georges, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Southern Baltimore, St. Marys, Talbot, Wicomico): Exp. 10/30 @12 a.m.
  • High Wind Warning (Statewide): Exp. 10/30 @8 p.m.
  • BLIZZARD Warning (Garrett): Exp. 10/30 @8 p.m.

The truth is, though, there are just too many to list. You can get the latest warnings and alerts specifically for your area from the National Weather Service here.

Update on School Closings

Most every school system and university in Central Maryland (and east) is closed today, Monday.

The following school systems and universities are CLOSED on Tuesday (as of 7 a.m.):
Caroline County Schools
Cecil County Schools
Cecil Community College
Chesapeake College
Kent County Schools
Montgomery County Schools
Stevenson University
Queen Anne’s Schools
Washington College

As soon as I get more information about other school systems, I will update on Facebook, Twitter, and here in my next update.

This is not your typical “snow day” by any means. Keep your phones charged and remember to stay in touch with loved ones at all times, especially during the height of the storm tomorrow.

You can get school closing updates from WBALTV.com, if you aren’t connected to any text-alert system for your your school or university.

Evacuations

Worcester County has now ordered the evacuation of all beach-front residents.

The following locations are already evacuated:

Ocean City, MD has evacuated from 17th Street to the Inlet. You can read the full evacuation notice here.

Delaware beaches have been evacuated, but some of the evacuation routes are already closed because of breaches in the sand dunes. You can read the full update here.

Havre de Grace residents should have evacuated. You can read the full update here.

Power Outages

The threat of power outages will continue to increase as the storm moves into our area, primarily for three reasons:

  1. the winds will be unrelenting for at least 24 hours;
  2. the ground is already saturated; and
  3. trees will carry more weight with leaves still attached; in addition, the leaves act as wind-catchers and will cause more trees to become uprooted.

This is just one of the many reasons why the MVA is urging drivers to stay off Maryland roads during this storm. There is great unpredictability in where or when trees might come down, and whether they will be bringing power lines down with them. Downed wires do NOT need to be sparking to be live and deadly. Take no chances if you see downed wires in the road or in your yard.

The number of outages continues to be very low (below 100). Currently, at 7 a.m., BGE is reporting 307 outages, with 4,853 restored since 10 a.m. 10/28:

  • Anne Arundel: 6
  • Baltimore: 89
  • Baltimore City: 0
  • Calvert: 0
  • Carroll: 0
  • Harford: 118
  • Howard: 1
  • Montgomery: 0
  • Prince George’s: 93

You can check for power outage updates here; BGE does a great job of keeping these numbers updated every 15 minutes or so.

From Update #5: Important Safety Reminders from Baltimore County Emergency Management Director Mark Hubbard

The following reminders, offered by Hubbard, were published in the Towson Patch:

  • Citizens who live in flood-prone areas along the coast or along inland creeks and streams should consider relocating. Coastal flooding is predicted, but the severity is not known and emergency responders may not be able to rescue those living in these areas.
  • Roads will flood. Officials are asking drivers to stay off the roads once the storm starts, but if you must drive, avoid driving through standing water.
  • When traffic signals go out, the intersection should be treated as a four-way stop.
  • Plans should be made immediately for family members who use power-dependent life-sustaining equipment.
  • Generators should be placed outside, at least 15 feet from the house.
  • Trees that fall on private property are the owner’s responsibility. Trees that fall on public property and roads are the county’s responsibility.
  • Baltimore does not provide dry ice or sand bags. See the post from Oct. 26 about information about where to obtain dry ice.

Baltimore County officials will provide updates from Twitter at @BACOemergency.

You can read my piece, “Preparations Without The Panic,” Published in the Towson Patch here.

Important Numbers, Websites, And Social Media Sites To Know:

WBAL 1090 AM and wbal.com
Baltimoresun.com The Baltimore Sun announced late Sunday that they were removing the premium digital block from their website through the duration of this storm. This means that everyone has free and full access to their site for important updates and for sharing information.

National Hurricane Center
BGE: Report Power Outages by calling 877-778-2222
Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)

METEOROLOGISTS/WEATHER FORECASTERS:
Justin Berk (@JustinWeather)
Foot’s Forecast

SCHOOL CLOSINGS:
WBALTV
WBFF FOX45
ABC2NEWS
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EMERGENCY CONTACTS
— State road conditions: 511
— Bay Bridge: 877-BAYSPAN
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY
— Emergency Operations Center to fully activate at noon Sunday
— Shelter: Annapolis High School (2700 Riva Road, Annapolis), opens 3 p.m. Sunday
ANNAPOLIS
— Annapolis Call Center: 410-260-2211 non-emergencies (to fully activate at noon Sunday)
— All four city garages will open at 3 p.m. free of charge to city residents during the storm: Hillman, Gotts, Knighton and Park Place.
BALTIMORE CITY: DIAL 311
— Emergency Operations Center to open at 7 a.m. Sunday

HARFORD COUNTY
— Harford County “Hot-Line:” 410-838-5800 (Opens Sunday at 7 a.m.) non-emergencies
— Emergency Shelter: Patterson Mill High School (85 Patterson Mill Road, Bel Air) to open at 7 p.m. Sunday as a last resort for residents who have nowhere else to go

EASTERN SHORE
— Queen Anne’s County — Residents encouraged to voluntarily evacuate.
— Ocean City — Emergency Management: 410-723-6646

 

Update 10/27/12 @2107: Romancing The Storm

It amazes me how just a few miles in one direction can change so much about a storm of this magnitude.

In my last update, I stressed how significant it was that the storm had shifted south, and if the center of the storm traveled up along the Chesapeake Bay, the storm surge would be at least 10 feet, if not more.

Now, at 8:30 p.m., the most recent update from the National Hurricane Center (below) places landfall for the storm just north of the mouth of the Bay. It now seems like the storm will track as far south as Kent, Cecil, and Harford Counties (direct hit). That doesn’t mean that the wind damage and rainfall will be any less significant and devastating; it just means that the storm surge along the Bay and its tributaries will be more like 2-3 feet, which is a huge relief to counties along the eastern and western shores.

So What’s Can We Expect For The Next 24 Hours?

Expect light showers (possible) after midnight tonight, with rain picking up Sunday morning (after 8 a.m.). Winds will really pick up early this morning (18-25 mph) and will stay consistent throughout the day; Sunday evening, they will increase to 25-30 mph. This is all a precursor to when the storm hits us on Monday.

One of the biggest causes of flooding will be storm drains that are clogged with wet leaves. If we do our best to keep the storm drains clean — SAFELY, then we decrease the chances of heavy flooding. If you have a storm drain near your house, cleaning it periodically can make a big difference. Remember, though: never take an unnecessary risk in this storm. It will be very dangerous and highly unpredictable with downed power lines, trees, and even airborne debris.

Update on School Closings

As of 9:07 p.m., the following schools and universities have announced closings:

  • Salisbury University (Monday)
  • Tri-State Christian Academy
  • University of Delaware (Monday and Tuesday)
  • Washington College (Monday and Tuesday)
  • William & Mary (Monday)

You can get school closing updates from WBALTV.com, if you aren’t connected to any text-alert system for your your school or university. I will post an updated list in my next report tomorrow morning.

Power Outages

As of 8:50 p.m., BGE is reporting the following outages (32 total):

  • Anne Arundel: 1
  • Baltimore: 18
  • Baltimore City: 2
  • Calvert: 2
  • Harford: 3
  • Howard: 4
  • Prince George’s: 2

You can check for power outage updates here; BGE does a great job of keeping these numbers updated every 15 minutes or so

Update from Howard County Government

Being Prepared for Hurricane Sandy Hurricane Sandy will be impacting Howard County between Sunday afternoon and Wednesday. The worst of the storm will be affecting the area on Monday and Tuesday. If you have not yet made preparations, you need to do so ASAP. The weather will be deteriorating through the day tomorrow (Sunday), making preparations increasingly difficult to make.

This storm is colossal in size, with tropical storm-force winds extending for 450 miles in each direction from the center. The hurricane will be combining with a nor’easter storm and getting even larger in diameter. This means that the storm is NOT likely to miss Howard County. Please do not fail to make preparations because you believe the storm is going to miss. Substantial power outages are almost certain, and may last a few days to a week.

All residents should prepare as best they can for extended outages. Residents should expect sustained winds of 35-45 MPH, with gusts to 60 MPH, during the storm. The storm is currently expected to produce rainfall of 5-10 inches total. ———- For those residents who have not yet completed their preparations or are unsure what to do, Howard County Government offers the following recommendations to assist:

  • -Make a Disaster Supply Kit to make sure your needs during the storm and shortly thereafter are covered. Recommended items for a Disaster Supply Kit can be found here: http://mema.maryland.gov/prepared/Pages/DisasterSupplyKit.aspx
  • Listen to a battery-operated/hand-cranked radio or TV for news updates and evacuation routes. –
  • Fill up your car with fuel; gas stations may not be able to operate pumps right after the storm –
  • Get extra cash – ATMs and credit card machines are dependent on power. –
  • Stay inside whenever possible during the storm. Do not drive unless you absolutely must. –
  • Look out for high standing water and DO NOT drive through it. You could be trapped or stranded. –
  • Be aware of creeks and other low lying areas that are prone to sudden flooding –
  • Secure loose outdoor objects and bring pets inside. –
  • Use food supplies wisely. Keep your refrigerator doors closed. Use refrigerated foods first, frozen foods second and non-perishable foods last. For food safety tips and information, visit http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/poweroutage/needtoknow.asp.

Important Numbers, Websites, And Social Media Sites To Know:

RADIO:
WBAL 1090 AM and wbal.com

WEB:
National Hurricane Center
BGE: Report Power Outages by calling 877-778-2222
Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)METEOROLOGISTS/WEATHER FORECASTERS:
Justin Berk (@JustinWeather)
Foot’s Forecast

SCHOOL CLOSINGS:
WBALTV.com

Romancing The Storm: Saturday 10/27/12 @0719

Romancing the Storm is a collection of blog posts and articles that I will be publishing from Saturday, October 27, through the first week of November. In these entries, I will be chronicling the approach, landfall, and aftermath of hurricane Sandy as it makes its way toward and through the Mid-Atlantic region, adding my own thoughts, reflections, photos, and videos along the way.

TOWSON, MD Saturday, October 27, 2012, 0521

We have just received notification that Hurricane Sandy has been downgraded from a Category 1 Hurricane to a Tropical Storm. In addition, we have received our first weather alert from NWS at 0500 for an areal flood watch in effect from late Saturday Night through Tuesday morning. Additional alerts have just been issued at 0600 for a coastal flood watch and a high wind watch through late Monday.

Currently, the storm is traveling NNE at 10 mph. This is a slight increase from last night at 2300 hours, when the storm was being tracked NNE at 7 mph. The other significant change that has occurred overnight is that the NWS model shows landfall of Sandy just north of Ocean City, MD, where it was originally projected to make landfall. This is good for Marylanders, only for the reason that Chesapeake Bay will likely be spared the 10-foot surge that is now expected for the Jersey coastline. That is about all of the good news that Marylanders can take from this slight shift. The winds, the rainfall, and the duration of this storm are still unchanged. We are in for a major hit from late Sunday through Tuesday evening, at the very least. If the storm decides to stall once it makes landfall, it is possible that our Wednesday will show little improvement, and this storm could very well end with non-accumulating snowfalls east of Frederick. All points west and north are in greater danger of accumulating snows, especially in elevated regions.


I have always had an affinity for tracking such storms. When I was just a kid back in the early ’70s, my father — in the prime of his firefighting days — would chase fires and bring me along for the ride. He would hear a call come in on his Bearcat scanner at home, grab the map and me, and head out the door. The anticipation in the car as we followed the sirens intensified as we got closer. And when we could begin to see and smell the smoke and hear some of the other sounds of the scene — firefighters shouting commands over the radio, amplified so loud that it seemed to echo through billows of smoke illumined in flashing red and blue — my heart would beat so fast as I stood there breathless, speechless at the magnitude of the event.

My father understood all of the technical aspects of firefighting, and so he experienced the rush in a much different way. For me, it was all about the romance of the chase and the spectacular orchestration of extinguishing the blaze.

I wasted no time in transferring this fascination of fire to tracking any storm that might be approaching the Baltimore region. Of course, we didn’t have the sophisticated technology then that we have now, but there were still plenty of warnings and satellite maps to calculate predictions and possibilities.

Today, as I view the approach and landfall of storms with a little more knowledge than I had when I was a kid, I have not lost the spirit of the chase nor the fun in predicting the possible scenarios and outcomes. In fact, having more information (and especially historical data from previous storms) makes it even more fascinating.

I remember in early February 2010 when the category 3 Nor’Easter was just about to hit us, and one of our local meteorologists seemed almost giddy at the development of this storm. He was asked by the radio talk show host how he could be so happy about such a devastating event. I understood his response perfectly. He said, in essence, that to a weather geek, it is absolutely fascinating to see the magnificence of mother nature and how the science of such storms really works to create such a historic event. The excitement comes from a purely technical perspective. He made it clear that he wishes no one or no place the type of destruction and threat to life that such storms present. The safety of individuals and their property is always of paramount importance. In isolation, though, the storm itself and its development and track are truly fascinating to watch, study, and experience.

As we continue to track Sandy’s progress through the Atlantic and toward our region, I cannot stress enough the importance of being prepared for a sustained weather event with power outages in the Central Maryland region that could reach the quarter-million mark by Tuesday. BGE has taken great efforts to warn us with robocalls, frequent updates on both television and radio, and updated information online. None of us in the Mid-Atlantic region should ignore these warnings and updates. Be prepared for a multi-day emergency that will require plenty of common sense and community support through next week.

Important numbers, websites, and social media sites to know:

RADIO: WBAL
1090 AM and wbal.com

WEB:
National Hurricane Center
BGE: Report Power Outages by calling 877-778-2222
Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)

METEOROLOGISTS/WEATHER FORECASTERS:
Justin Berk (@JustinWeather)
Foot’s Forecast