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Hurricane Irene Heads Toward Maryland

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Hurricane Irene is picking up strength as it gets closer to the U.S.

 The destructive storm is now responsible for at least one death in Puerto Rico.  A woman died when she tried to drive across a flooded street.  Forecasters say the devastation in the Caribbean gives a glimpse of what it might bring to the East Coast.

Right now, beaches are closed in the Bahamas, where they’re preparing for the brunt of the storm.  Residents of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., are already scrambling to get their boats safely stowed away and some vacationers are following orders to evacuate parts of North Carolina’s coast.

Weijia Jiang spoke with Maryland’s emergency planners about local preparations for the hurricane.

Maryland emergency planners are carefully tracking Hurricane Irene as she threatens to rip through the state this weekend.

“This storm is a very serious storm and we have to watch it very closely.  We know it’s gaining in size.  Some models show it becoming a Category 4 hurricane,” said Richard Muth, MEMA.

All state agencies from police to transportation anticipate orders to fully activate at a Reisterstown command center in less than 48 hours.  They’re working with local jurisdictions and Homeland Security to deploy teams wherever necessary.

BGE is preparing, too, expecting widespread power outages from powerful winds.

“We’ve made requests for external resources, several hundred out-of-state linemen and support staff to come in and supplement our efforts,” said Linda Foy, BGE.

For many people across the state, the mere possibility of a hurricane hitting puts them on guard after learning tough lessons from Isabel in 2003.

“I moved my whole life,” said homeowner Nancy Conrad.

Flood waters all but destroyed Conrad’s Fells Point home of 31 years eight years ago.  She had just battled cancer and was too weak to deal with renovations.  Now she has a warning for anyone who’s not bracing for the worst.

“Get prepared and remove stuff you think might be valuable,” she said.  “Get it where it’s safe.”

Planners also urge families to put a hurricane kit together, including water, batteries, non-perishable foods and a fully charged phone.

For a complete hurricane preparation guide, click here.

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