So. Maryland Braces for Hurricane Hanna

SOUTHERN MARYLAND (Sept. 5, 2008, 3:30 p.m.)—Southern Maryland is preparing for Hurricane Hanna as it barrels up the east coast. Local schools have announced cancellations of weekend activities. Governor Martin O’Malley and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) have issued a statewide Declaration of Emergency for all jurisdictions in the State of Maryland.

The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting that rain will begin across Southern Maryland Friday evening. The heaviest rainfall is expected Saturday morning and afternoon. Rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches are possible.

Sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph with gusts up to 50 mph are possible beginning early Saturday morning and lasting into the evening. The strongest winds will occur east of the Interstate 95 corridor, with southern Maryland having the highest likelihood of strongest winds.

NWS also warns there is a risk of isolated tornadoes along and east of the Interstate 95 corridor Saturday.

NWS is anticipating a coastal storm surge of 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and the tidal Potomac River. The highest water levels are expected during the high tidal cycle occurring late Saturday morning and afternoon.

Areas that will be prone to coastal flooding on Saturday will be Edgewater in Anne Arundel county; Broomes Island and Benedict in Calvert County; areas along the Port Tobacco River in Charles County; areas along the Wicomico River; Chaptico; Coltons Point; Breton Bay; St. Clements Bay; St. George island; and areas along the St. Marys River in St. Marys County.

Wayne Cooper, President of the Charles County Commissioners, declared a local state of emergency in Charles County at 1 p.m. Friday, which will be in effect for up to seven days, until Friday, September 12.

Declaration of a local state of emergency activates response and recovery aspects of any applicable local state emergency plan, and authorizes provision of aid and assistance under the applicable plan.

Charles County Public Schools has canceled all events and activities for Saturday, Sept. 6. All activities for today, Friday, Sept. 5, are proceeding as planned.

All St. Mary's County Public Schools' activities and events scheduled for Saturday, September 6, and Sunday, September 7, 2008, are cancelled.

Calvert County Public Schools activities scheduled for Friday, September 5, may proceed as scheduled. CCPS activities planned for Saturday, September 6, are canceled. At this time, facility use by community organizations planned for Sunday, September 7, may proceed as scheduled.

The College of Southern Maryland has not announced any closings as of 3:20 p.m. Friday.

All Eastern Shore Maryland State Parks have suspended new camping, full-service and camper cabin reservations effectively immediately through Sunday, September 7. This suspension also includes Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary’s County. Additionally, Elk Neck State Forest in Cecil County will be closed as a precautionary measure.

Current reservations for camping, full-service and camper cabins will be honored. Customers should contact the state park in advance of their arrival to check current weather conditions and restrictions.

Today's statewide Declaration of Emergency for all jurisdictions in the State expands the limited declaration issued yesterday to the Eastern Shore. The Declaration was made at 3:00 p.m. Friday, with the weather effects from Hanna expected to impact Maryland early Saturday morning.

“While we can never be certain as to the path or the devastation of any storm, it is nonetheless our responsibility out of an abundance of caution to prepare the people of Maryland and the appropriate resources,” said Governor O’Malley. “Marylanders should take the necessary steps to prepare themselves and their families, and be assured that their government is sparing no expense or effort to do the same.”

A Declaration of Emergency permits Maryland to engage the National Guard as a resource and pre-deploy troops throughout the State. Additionally, it allows Maryland to ask other states for help and resources through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), as well as seek federal aid and reimbursement.

The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) at MEMA, which has been staffed around the clock since Saturday, has elevated its response to a Level 3. This increase brings in agencies such as the Maryland State Police, U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland Department of Transportation, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and other organizations directly involved in planning for this event.

“Hanna’s projected storm track suggests regions in Southern and Central Maryland in addition to the Eastern Shore may also be impacted by heavy rains,” said Richard Muth, Director of MEMA.

“Even with the advanced technology that monitors these weather events, the storm’s path can change rapidly, and we need to adapt quickly. It is prudent to move to a statewide emergency declaration,” Muth said.

MEMA continues to coordinate with local emergency managers and state agencies to review hurricane plans and assess available resources in preparation for the storm.

History shows that power outages are a virtual certainty for at least some southern Maryland residents when heavy rains and high winds hit the area.

SMECO's outage restoration policy is to make repairs that will restore service to the most people in the least amount of time. Transmission lines and substations are repaired first, followed by distribution lines that feed neighborhoods; tap lines and individual service lines are then repaired to restore power to customers who may still be without electricity.

SMECO has provided the following advice of how to prepare for a storm and what to do if you experience an extended outage.

The following is a list of steps customers can take to prepare for power interruptions:

-- If someone in your household depends on electricity to operate life support systems, make plans for alternate sources of power or alternate lodging. Call our special needs information number: 1-866-524-9402. In addition, you can check with your local fire department, which may offer temporary shelter.

-- Keep flashlights and fresh batteries on hand.

-- Stock nonperishable foods and keep a manual can opener handy. The ideal choices are foods that require no cooking, such as canned fruit, peanut butter, crackers, cereals, cereal bars, canned soup, and bread.

-- Do not stock your refrigerator or freezer with foods that may perish during a power outage.

-- If you plan to use a charcoal or gas grill for cooking, keep the grill outdoors.

-- If your water at home is supplied by a well, store extra water in clean jugs, bathtubs, or laundry tubs.

-- Keep a battery-powered radio with fresh batteries and stay tuned to local news bulletins and weather reports.

-- Keep fresh batteries in your smoke detectors.

-- Make sure that you have a standard phone available. Cordless phones do not work without electricity. If you use a cell phone, an auto adapter may be needed to recharge your phone.

-- If you plan to use a portable generator, use extension cords to connect what you want to power directly to the generator. Place your generator outside, not in a crawl space or in a basement. Make sure your generator is connected safely; a generator that is not connected safely can cause serious injury or death. When your power comes back on, turn off and disconnect your generator immediately.

-- Keep your automobile gas tank above half full.

-- As in preparing for any other emergency, maintain a supply of cash. Credit cards and ATM machines may not work if the power is out.

If your power goes out:

-- Call SMECO's Outage Hotline at 1-877-74-SMECO or 1-877-747-6326.

-- Turn off all the major appliances in your home, especially the heat pump. This will prevent damage to the appliances once the power is restored. Then, try not to turn everything back on at once; turn on appliances gradually so the electric demand does not jump suddenly.

-- Make sure the oven and stove are off to prevent fires if the power comes back on while you're away.

-- Open the freezer and refrigerator as little as possible. This will help food stay fresh longer.

-- Never touch downed power lines or attempt to remove trees from power lines. Contact with live lines may result in serious injury or death. Let qualified SMECO crews handle the clearing and repair work. Please report downed power lines to SMECO immediately by calling 1-888-440-3311.

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