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Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Officially Declares State Of Emergency; State & Federal Offices To Be Closed On Monday

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Everything has come to a standstill in Maryland as Hurricane Sandy gets ready to hit the state. Roads, schools, businesses, governments, travel– all of it has been shut down. Some have even been evacuated from their homes. Everyone is being warned about what the governor has called a killer storm.

Derek Valcourt has more.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declared a State of Emergency for Baltimore in order to ensure comprehensive preparations for Hurricane Sandy and to help allow for future federal reimbursement of potential storm costs.

Gov. Martin O’Malley has declared that state and federal offices will be closed on Monday due to Hurricane Sandy and only essential personnel will be working.

“This is a very unpredictable storm,” Gov. martin O’Malley said.

So dangerous, virtually all transportation in Maryland will come to a standstill as the storm and its powerful winds make landfall Monday. Emergency officials are on full alert. The government is closed. The National Guard has been activated. Coast Guard search and rescue crews are at the ready.

“And we are urging all citizens to hunker down at home and stay off the roads [on Monday],” O’Malley said.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake and city agencies are coordinating efforts to ensure that all necessary emergency response vehicles are in-service and fully fueled, and that adequate police, fire, EMS, public works, and forestry staffing plans are in place, going into the expected storm period.

Her jurisdiction is now providing sandbags for residents in flood-prone areas.

“It makes it so much easier to weather a storm when the power goes out, if you have what you need,” she said.

The city has set up three sandbag sites– one in Rash Field, one in Harbor East and the other in Fells Point.

Web Extra: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Talks About Emergency Operations Underway In Baltimore City

Sandy’s powerful winds which are expected to knock out power to hundreds of thousands.

With hundreds of thousands of power outages expected, out-of-state electrical repair crews are already arriving and on standby. But Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) warns Sandy’s expected long duration over Maryland, could mean days before the restoration efforts get fully underway.

“So if you do see a BGE truck parked in your neighborhood and it doesn’t seem that there is work being done, it may be because there are high winds and we can’t use our bucket trucks if winds are more than 25 miles per hour,” Rachel Lighty, a BGE spokesperson, said.

In Baltimore, emergency operations are fully ramped up. Some in flood-prone area prepared with sandbags as best they could for the what is expected to be a deluge.

“Let common sense be your guide. Move your car if you know that you are in that low-lying area. If you know that you’re in an intersection that normally floods, even if it’s heavy rains, move your car,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

The City of Baltimore announced that liberal leave will be in effect for non-essential employees Monday. Essential employees and employees designated as emergency essential for the current incident must report to work or remain at work as scheduled. Baltimore City Public Schools are closed Monday.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the Department of Transportation advised residents in Fells Point, south of Lancaster Street, to relocate their vehicles in anticipation of possible flooding.

Fells Point residents who live south of Lancaster Street are strongly encouraged to relocate their vehicles. Citizens may park their vehicles free of charge at the following garages and parking lots starting at 2:00 p.m.:

Caroline Street Garage located at 805 S. Caroline Street
Fleet and Eden Street Garage located at 501 Eden Street
Little Italy Garage located at 400 S. Central Avenue
Edison Parking Lots located at Fallsway and High Streets

Parking at these facilities is on a first come, first served basis, and all vehicles need to be removed from these locations no later than noon on Tuesday, October 30, 2012; this may be extended depending on weather conditions. In addition, citizens who reside in flood prone areas in South Baltimore, Cherry Hill, Westport, etc. may move their vehicles to Lot O of the stadium lots during these times.

Parking restrictions will be implemented along roadways south of Lancaster Street starting at 6:00 p.m. today and will continue until 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 due to the possibility of flooding.

Related Story: Maryland Residents, Especially Those In Coastal Cities, Brace For Hurricane Sandy

Citizens are also reminded they can call 311 for the latest information about the City’s preparations during weather events. BGE Customers should report outages by calling 877-778-2222. Any residents in need of non-emergency social service resource assistance can call Maryland 211 service.

BGE has $1 million worth of extra storm equipment ready and out-of-state crews on standby. But Maryland’s emergency management officials are on standby to warn Sandy will not pass quickly.

Related Story: Ocean City Residents Watching Sandy Closely; Mandatory Evacuation Of Some Areas In Effect

“We don’t know how long this storm will park over the Mid-Atlantic,” O’Malley said. “It will be a couple of days before it is even safe to get linemen back out, on the streets, up in the bucket trucks, reconnecting people to power.”

The Baltimore City Emergency Operations Center has been activated. Police officers and emergency responders will be deployed throughout the city and are able to respond to any incident, and forestry and public works response crews are on stand-by. 911 and 311 are fully operational. Use 911 for emergencies only. Police officers are deployed throughout the city and able to respond to any incident.

“This is a large storm and is expected to have a wide impact, no matter where the center of the storm is. Citizens should use the remaining hours of safe weather to get prepared,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “We need to hope for the best and plan for the worst.”

According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Sandy is expected to bring rain, winds and a storm surge to the Baltimore region beginning tonight, and continue through Tuesday. During the height of the storm, sustained winds of 40 mph, and gusts of up to 60 mph, are expected. Heavy rain and winds will cause disruptions to power and access to roadways. Residents are urged to stay away from downed power lines and should not drive through standing water.

“Citizens should expect disruption—power outages, downed trees, blocked roadways and possible flooding,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “We urge residents to stay inside during the height of the storm, and to be on the streets only if necessary.”

Related Story: MARC Trains Canceled For Monday; BWI Delaying & Canceling Flights Due To Hurricane Sandy

Mayor Rawlings-Blake urged residents to take time today to prepare their homes with essential provisions to sustain them through the emergency. The essentials items include:

A battery-powered radio with extra batteries. If the power goes out, a battery-powered radio may be the only way to receive information.

Flashlights or battery-powered lanterns with extra batteries. The Mayor urged residents to refrain from using candles, which pose a serious fire risk.

Set aside enough water to last three days – at least one gallon per person, per day for drinking and sanitation.

And, residents with special medical needs, prescription drug needs, or important medical appointments should plan ahead now and make arrangements; and, to stock up on non-perishable items.

The Coast Guard has closed north and south access channels leading to the Port of Baltimore. That means ships that are not already in the channels will not be permitted to transit in.

Any ships currently in the channels will need to anchor until the end of the storm.

Four hundred and fifty National Guard members have been deployed to conduct emergency operations.

Related Story: Maryland National Guard Prepares For Hurricane Sandy

Winds of more than 70 miles per hour are expected to blow across the state as Hurricane Sandy inches closer to making landfall. The governor urged residents to be ready.

“You need to prepare to hunker down for a couple of days until this large violent deadly storm passes through our area,” said Governor O’Malley.

O’Malley also announced that early voting was canceled Monday.

As Hurricane Sandy moves closer to the east coast, Director of Emergency Management Mark Hubbard this morning reminds Baltimore County citizens that this is an extremely serious storm, whether or not the storm maintains hurricane status as it approaches the east coast.

Hubbard said county officials received an update at 9 a.m. from forecasters at the National Weather Service. He stressed that this storm will have a significant wind and rain impact on Maryland and Baltimore County regardless of where the center of the storm makes landfall.

“This is a huge storm forecast to intensify as it merges with a winter storm system,” Hubbard said. “We should be prepared for a long-lasting event with several days of disruption to our daily lives. We may experience some or all of the following: Wind damage, power outages, heavy rain, inland flooding and a storm surge along the bay. Baltimore County wil begin to feel the impacts tonight. Conditions will deteriorate through the night. We will feel the most serious impacts on Monday and the storm to last into the early morning hours Wednesday.”

Citizens who still have not prepared for this storm have a last chance to do so Sunday morning.

Hubbard issued these important last-minute reminders:

Emergency management officials ask citizens who live in flood-prone areas along the coast or along inland creeks and streams to consider relocating. Forecasters predict some coastal flooding, but it is unclear at this point how severe it will be. Emergency responders (fire and police) may not be able to rescue people living in these areas during the height of a severe storm. If you live in a flood-prone area, plan now where you will go. If and when the forecast indicates a serious threat to coastal areas, emergency management officials will reach out to affected residents as soon as possible.

Heavy rain will cause roads to flood. Officials ask you to stay off the road once the storm starts, but if you must drive do not attempt to drive through standing water. Most deaths from flooding involve motorists trapped in vehicles that floated away.

When traffic signals go out, state law requires motorists to treat the intersection as a four-way stop.

Do not drive through intersections with non-working signals.

Make plans immediately for family members who use power-dependent life-sustaining equipment.

If you plan to use a generator, make sure you place it outside, at least 15 feet from the house. Generators produce deadly carbon monoxide gas.

We expect considerable tree damage as a result of this storm. Trees that fall on private property are the property owners’ responsibility. Trees that fall in the public right of way are the County’s responsibility.

Baltimore County officials will provide information on their Twitter feed, @BACOemergency, for the duration of this event.

“We appreciate and need your cooperation as we work together to get through this historic storm,” Hubbard said.

The Harford County Division of Emergency Operations has implemented Level 3 activation in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Level 3 activation is a full activation of the EOC on a 24-hour basis. The EOC staffing commenced at noon on Sunday.

“The EOC has been activated as part of our emergency preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy,” said Russell J. Strickland, Manager of the Division of Emergency Operations. “The EOC, under the direction of Emergency Manager Rick Ayers, will be staffed by personnel from various departments of county and municipal government as well as the State of Maryland. Our team is well trained and prepared to deal with severe weather events such as what we are anticipating from Hurricane Sandy.”

In preparation for the impending storm, the Division of Emergency Operations, in cooperation with City of Havre de Grace officials and the Harford County fire and emergency services, are advising citizens of Havre de Grace, to consider evacuating from their homes ahead of the storm. The voluntary self-evacuation is for those citizens who live near or reside in areas that are prone to flooding.

“We believe Hurricane Sandy is unlike previous storms that have impacted Harford County,” said County Executive David R. Craig. “Most of the storms we have dealt with are fast moving storms and therefore pass through the area rather quickly. Hurricane Sandy poses a serious threat to our community with long-lasting rain, winds and flooding. The storm could result in power outages throughout Harford County that may last for several days.”

Harford County is opening a shelter for those needing temporary housing assistance during the storm. Patterson Mill High School, located at 85 Patterson Mill Road of MD Rt. 924 near Bel Air will open at 7:00 p.m. Sunday and serve as an emergency shelter.

Citizens with routine concerns or inquiries as a result of Hurricane Sandy may call the Harford County “Hotline” at 410-838-5800. Citizens with true emergencies are urged to call 911.

Howard County is also closely monitoring Sandy. County Executive Ken Ulman wants residents to know that the Office of Emergency Management is continuing to closely monitor the progress of Hurricane Sandy and has accelerated its emergency preparations.

“County officials are taking this storm very seriously, and we hope our residents are too. This is an enormous storm that will have tremendous implications for Howard County because the rainfall amounts, high winds and duration of the storm will cause flooding and widespread power outages. We already know BGE can’t begin to restore those outages until the storm ends and it’s safe to have crews out. If they haven’t done it already, we are asking residents to spend today getting prepared,” said County Executive Ulman.

The Howard County School System is closing schools for Monday. Howard County is making plans to open The Bain Center, 5470 Ruth Keeton Way in Columbia at noon Monday as a shelter. Since personal space is limited, those needing to shelter are encouraged to bring only essential items including medications, medical equipment, personal care items and sleeping bags or bedding. Pets will be allowed – bring crates and food for your pet. If you have children, bring small items or toys to keep them occupied. Be sure to bring earphones for audio devices. If you have special dietary needs, you should bring your own provisions. The county will provide additional information about when those shelters will open.

The County will open its Call Center (410-313-2900) at 4 p.m. today. The “water buffalo” is now in place at the Gary J. Arthur Community Center in Glenwood for people who may need water. All county parks and facilities will be open today during normal hours but will be closed tomorrow and until conditions are safe to reopen.

According to the National Weather Service, the latest projections indicate that Howard County will see rain start to fall today and get heavier during the night. By 8 a.m. Monday, predictions call for 25 mph sustained winds increasing throughout the day to 40 mph with gusts of 60 mph or higher.

Heavy rain and sustained winds will continue through late Tuesday or early Wednesday. Temperatures will drop into the 40s with wind chill close to freezing. Emergency officials strongly encourage residents to stay at home and off the roads during the storm, since standing water, high winds and falling trees and branches will make travel unsafe.

If your power does go out as a result of the storm and you use a portable generator, residents are reminded that it is important to take steps to safeguard your family. The exhaust from generators contains poisonous carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, invisible killer. The amount of carbon monoxide from one generator is equivalent to hundreds of idling cars and can be deadly.

Follow these safety tips when operating a portable generator after a storm or other event that has caused a power outage:

Never use a portable generator indoors, including in your home, garage, basement, crawlspace, shed or partially-enclosed area – even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home.

Only use a portable generator outdoors in a dry area far away from doors, windows and vents that can allow CO to come indoors.

Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home. Test the alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.

Get to fresh air right away if you start to feel dizzy or weak. The CO from generators can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death.

Plug appliances into a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cords and plug the cords into the generator.

Some other general recommendations for residents:

Make sure your electronic devices, including cell phones, are fully charged and keep a battery powered radio on hand;

Make sure all lawn furniture, grills, trash cans, plants and other outdoor items are secured so they don’t become airborne during high winds;

If you live in a low-lying or flood prone area, be prepared for what could be 48+ hours of rain;

Howard County is anticipating using its reverse-911 automated calling system to provide information to residents during the storm. Residents should answer their telephones even if they do not recognize the incoming number.

Finally, to keep updated on County related information regarding emergencies, sign up for the FREE NotifyMeHoward notification system by going to notifymehoward.org or text HOWARD to 411911. For the latest updates, follow the County on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hocogov or on Twitter at @hocogov.

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