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

 

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