Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on Friday reiterated the call for citizens to take every necessary precaution in advance of Hurricane Irene, which is schedule to reach Maryland on Saturday evening.
The executive even sent out an automated call to more than 7,000 households in Baltimore County's coastal communities — the county has more than 200 miles of waterfront — urging them to take shelter with relatives and friends prior to the potential arrival of Hurricane Irene.
"Obviously, we don't know the extent of the storm at this stage," said Kamenetz at a press conference with emergency personnel in the Emergency Operations Center, in Towson.
"It's only early predictions," he said, "but our game plan is to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. "
Kamenetz advised residents to follow the county's emergency page on Twitter (@BACOemergency) and on the county website, and reminded them to call 911 in the case of emergencies. He said emergency personnel would also assist in the event of an evacuation.
At the press conference, Director of Emergency Management Mark Hubbard said the Emergency Operations Center will be activated at noon on Saturday, and will be open for the duration of the storm.
A shelter will also be opened at Eastern Technical High School, 1100 Mace Ave., Essex, beginning at noon Saturday, though Hubbard urged those who feel the need to evacuate to first seek shelter with friends and family members.
Police Chief Jim Johnson asked all motorists not to operate motor vehicles during the storm, but if necessary, said they should not try to drive through standing water. He also urged residents to use caution when the storm is over, as traffic signals may remain broken even after it ends.
Director of Public Works Ed Adams said his crews were out all day clearing storm drains in advance of the storm.
He added that trucks are fueled and chain saws ready for clearing fallen trees.
BGE says its as ready as can be
Rob Gould, vice president of BGE, said the utility company is prepared for the weather.
"I think we're in a good place, as far as we can be at this point, preparing for what we expect to be a very serious storm," Gould said. "We're taking this very seriously."
Gould said 850 external linemen, tree crews, and support staff had arrived to aid their response, with another 150 workers secured today and en route to the area in time for the storm.
The company expects as many as 500,000 customer outages, which is less than the 790,000 outages caused by Tropical Storm Isabel.
Should there be mass power outages, emergency services, pumping stations and water treatment plants will be the first locations whose power is restored, followed by the largest blocks of customers affected, followed by individual homes.
If the power goes out, "Customers can expect to be out of service for several days, make no mistake about it," Gould said.
Hurricane parties … but batteries not included
Around the county, residents found their own ways to prepare for Irene's arrival:
On Thursday evening, customers were stripping the shelves of the Ayd Hardware Store in the 6700 block of York Road in Rodgers Forge, of flashlights and batteries.