BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Tropical storm watches and hurricane watches are now posted for parts of Maryland. The storm is pounding the Bahamas with heavy rains and 120 mph winds, causing lots of damage on some of the smaller islands.
In North Carolina’s outer banks, a steady stream of cars is pouring inland as people flee from the coastal beaches. The hurricane is expected to arrive there on Saturday, before moving into Maryland.
Pat Warren has the latest from Governor Martin O’Malley.
Gov. O’Malley, in conjunction with Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan, has declared a state of emergency. He is telling everybody to get out of Ocean City—the sooner, the better.
Early Thursday the Ocean City hurricane action plan entered phase one, and boaters took precautions.
“With the storm coming up I thought it would be a good time to pull it out and not have to worry about it,” said Sam Davis, boater.
But now it’s a storm so potentially damaging that the state, in conjunction with Ocean City, has declared a mandatory evacuation.
“In conjunction with the mayor of Ocean City, we are ordering a mandatory evacuation of the barrier island of Ocean City,” Gov. O’Malley said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “What does that mean? That means that any visitors or residents of Ocean City should be making plans to leave the island as soon as possible and in an orderly way.
“We have already started to evacuate some seasonal workers from Ocean City that did not have transportation, and that evacuation will be proceeding,” he continued. “And it is our goal to make sure that Ocean City is evacuated by 5 p.m. on Friday. So people should not waste time. This is not a time to get out the camera and sit on the beach taking pictures of the waves.”
Phase three of the hurricane action plan takes effect at midnight. At that time all people other than emergency personnel are ordered to evacuate. Ocean City residents need to seek shelter elsewhere, and visitors should go home. Incoming traffic is limited to emergency vehicles only. And as of midnight the sale of alcohol is banned.
The governor says 100 troopers have been deployed to assist in the evacuation of Ocean City and the lower shore.
Weijia Jiang explains the time to prepare for Hurricane Irene is now.
State leaders say they can’t stress it enough. That now is not the time to procrastinate nor is it a time to doubt just how powerful the storm could be for the area. They’re asking everyone to have a plan in place before it is too late.
As Hurricane Irene tears up the eastern seaboard with Maryland in her sight, state leaders warn there should not be too much calm before this storm.
“Now is the time for action. Do not wait for tomorrow,” said Sgt. Art Windemuth, National Resources Police.
Natural Resources Police are getting crews in place to deploy to emergencies. And at the U.S. Coast Guard shipyard in Baltimore, officers are closely monitoring the water. Anticipating monster winds, they’ve taped up all windows of the command center. Also, they’re pulling nonessential rescue boats to safety– urging the public to do the same.
“When we get hurricane or gale-forced conditions, even our own assets and the men and women in the Coast Guard, we’re not going to be able to send them out in harm’s way to help somebody else. So, our warning is just to stay off the water,” said Lt. Randall Brown, U.S. Coast Guard.
Back on land, people are getting ready too, with the rush to stock up. By mid-Thursday, most major hardware or department stores ran out of generators.
“We have an 88-year-old great aunt who lives in Greektown, and we figured it would be safer for her to have flashlights in the house than lighting candles if the power goes out,” said Michael Kosmas, of Baltimore.
Baltimore resident Lisa Shanton has a game plan: “To the market, water, milk, eggs, bread, lunchmeat, so we can have just in case something goes out. We already have a cooler. Get some ice.”
Also in high demand: sand bags, wet vacuums, humidifiers. Pretty much “anything right now because people are in a panic to get supplies for the hurricane,” said Nick Sypridakos, Home Depot employee.
Many stores say they are getting extra shipments of generators. So, if you want one, they advise you to call and be put on a waiting list. Also, Baltimore City is providing sand bags to flood prone areas. You can pick them up at the former ESPN Zone downtown, the Broadway pier and Rash field.