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Mid-Atlantic Braces For Extended Power Outages Amid Fears It Will Be Like Derecho

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BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — While there’s a lot to be concerned with because of Hurricane Sandy, many Maryland residents are worried about the loss of power which could continue for days. Gigi Barnett takes a look at the homeowners who were in the dark for days after this summer’s powerful derecho storm.

With the massive storm approaching, they’re taking careful steps to guard against power outages.

Eight days in the dark. That’s how long neighbors on one Woodlawn street in Baltimore County lived without electricity. A destructive derecho storm knocked down trees, which took out power lines.

“After two or three days, it got worse and worse. I was kind of a little frustrated but without electricity, there’s nothing you can do,” Aubrey Dodson Jr., a homeowner, said.

Now, with Sandy blazing a path toward the Mid-Atlantic, neighbors on the street are hoping this time will be different.

“What I’m concerned with and what my neighbors are concerned about is, how will we survive with our homes, the trees again?” said neighbor Lisa Stanley.

And the trees may not be the only problem—a storm like Sandy may bring flooding.

“You take the amount of leaves that are actually on the trees that will clog up the drains and the drainage systems and you take the rain– we’re expecting about six-plus inches in some areas– that’s going to cause localized flooding. And that’s what people are going to be dealing with when this rain starts to come down,” WJZ meteorologist Tim Williams said.

Homeowners say that with a massive storm like Sandy headed our way with many trees looming over power lines, they say they are hoping for a quick restoration.

Related Story: Emergency Plans Activated Across Md. As Hurricane Sandy Makes Its Way To The East Coast

“I’m begging [it will be better than last time], and I’m sure my neighbors are, too,” said a resident.

Related Story: Ocean City Could See Tremendous Damage

Millions of Mid-Atlantic residents made last-minute preparations Saturday — and regional officials warned of devastating flooding and power outages — as Hurricane Sandy continued an ominous trek up the coast and threatened to become the first hurricane to deliver a direct hit on Delaware.

Related Story: Emergencies Declared Ahead Of Eastern Superstorm

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on Saturday issued a mandatory evacuation order for more than 50,000 residents living in coastal communities in the state. Markell and leaders in Maryland and the District of Columbia declared states of emergency in anticipation of a megastorm that forecasters said could bring days of heavy rain, sustained wind and tidal surges. Utilities throughout the region warned customers of the prospect of hundreds of thousands of outages that could last for days.

The latest projections call for the storm to reach landfall early Tuesday near the Delaware coast, then collide with two winter weather systems as it moves inland, creating a potentially monster storm.

You never want to be too naive, but ultimately, it’s not in our hands anyway,” said Andrew Ferencsik, 31, as he purchased plywood and 2-by-4 lumber from a Home Depot in Lewes, Del.

In Maryland and the District of Columbia, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company and Pepco warned customers that they should expect to be without power for days; together they have requested thousands of additional out-of-state tree workers and other personnel to help repair outages. Sustained winds of more than 40 mph were expected to delay immediate work. The utilities will likely be scrutinized after many households were left in the dark for the better part of a week when powerful windstorms slammed the area last June.

Related Story: BGE Urges Customers To Prepare For Possible Outages Ahead Of Hurricane Sandy

Though state emergency management officials urged residents from all corners of Maryland to be prepared, the heaviest rain and flooding was expected along the Eastern Shore as Sandy barrels up the coast. One sliver of good news was that the storm was arriving well after tourist season, meaning that far fewer people were likely to be in the worst-hit areas, said Ed McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

“Instead of 300,000 people over there, there may be only a few thousand tourists,” he said. “In fact, with the weather season being what it is, there may not be all that many tourists out there anyway, especially if they saw the weather forecast.”

The Delaware evacuation order was to take place over a 24-hour period starting at 8 p.m. Saturday. Markell declared a limited state of emergency, and said the mandatory evacuation order covered coastal communities in Kent, Sussex and New Castle counties. Those who refused to leave could put themselves and others in harm’s way, he said.

“This is not a police state. People have to take personal responsibility here,” Markell said.

Washington’s Metro system had no immediate plans to change or curtail its service but was urging travelers to sign up for email and text alerts to learn of changes to their rail and bus schedules. Though the train system is generally impervious to rain, sustained wind gusts can lead to speed limits on above-ground rail or cause service interruptions if debris or tree limbs are blown onto the tracks.

The system was prepared to ramp up service if the federal government lets workers out early.

“Our service needs to match that because one-third of our rail ridership is federal government employees,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

Delaware officials were preparing for the worst blow. In Wilmington, Mayor James Baker issued an evacuation order for the southeastern section of the city. Residents who leave before 6 p.m. on Sunday will be provided with transportation, and police and the National Guard will patrol the evacuated areas to keep them secure, said George Giles, the city’s emergency operations director.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, some storms have skirted inland after coming ashore further south, and many have passed just offshore, including Gloria in 1985. But this storm has the potential to be the first to make direct landfall in the state.

“It’s a bit unprecedented, that we are having this type of storm at this time of year. This is the time when most of my guys are on vacation,” said Ian Drummond, a boatyard supervisor at Indian River Marina, south of Rehoboth Beach, who said he and his crews had been working a series of long days to pull boats out of the water and ensure that they were properly tied up.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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