Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Officially Declares State Of Emergency; Md. Officials Urge Caution, Readiness

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officially 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.

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.

It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach to battling the blow this superstorm is expected to deliver in the days to come.

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

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 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.”

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.

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.

Governor Martin O’Malley is holding a press briefing Sunday afternoon.

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.

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 managment 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.

By CapitalBay Online 10/28/2012 03:08:00