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
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

 

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