By Jon Meoli, firstname.lastname@example.org
5:47 PM EDT, August 25, 2011
Local authorities are urging residents to be prepared for Hurricane Irene, which is gaining strength off the coast of Florida and is on track to hit Maryland late Saturday night.
"It is still unclear exactly what path the storm will take, but I encourage all County residents to be prepared to access emergency information if the storm arrives," Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in statement Thursday.
The Baltimore County Office of Emergency Management's website points visitors to a hurricane preparedness page on Ready.gov, which features ways for citizens to prepare for a storm.
Residents are advised to build an emergency supply kit, which includes non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights, and batteries.
Families are also urged to make an emergency plan and stay informed about the severity of the storm.
As the storm unfolds, county officials will post regular updates on Twitter (@BACOemergency). Residents can also find information by clicking the "Emergency Information" button on the county's website.
BGE powering up response teams
Elsewhere, BGE announced Thursday that it had requested approximately 850 external personnel come to the area in advance of the storm.
"BGE proactively requested the assistance of external resources to ensure they would be in place in advance of Hurricane Irene's arrival in Central Maryland Saturday afternoon, enabling BGE to begin restoring electric service as soon as the storm clears and it is safe to do so," A. Christopher Burton, senior vice president of gas and electric operations and planning for BGE said in a release Thursday.
BGE urges customers to visit its online Storm Center for more information on how to approach the coming storm.
Power outages can be reported by calling Bee's automated system at 1-877-778-2222, while downed power lines should be reported immediately to 1-410-685-0123.
SHA monitoring transportation impact
The State Highway Authority has also begun its preparations for the storm, beginning with efforts to aid the evacuation of Ocean City. According to a Thursday SHA release, central and western Maryland maintenance and emergency operations staff are being sent to the Eastern Shore to assist with the evacuation.
In a statement Thursday, acting SHA Administrator Darrell Mobley urged residents to take the storm seriously.
"When in doubt, do not attempt to drive through standing water, even if it appears to be safe," he said. "A few inches of water can quickly turn into a dangerous situation, putting you and your family at risk."
The SHA also issued several other recommendations for the storm. They urged residents not to drive around police or highway personnel who are blocking roads, to stay alert for animals, traffic signals that may be affected by power outages, and to fill their gas tanks in advance of the storm.