County schools also canceled all weekend activities.
Harford County Executive David Craig declared a state of emergency late Friday afternoon.
According to an advisory sent to media, all county-owned facilities, including Parks & Recreation facilities, were closed effective at midnight Saturday and will remain closed until further notice. Also closed are all boat launching ramps that are owned by the county.
The emergency shelter that opened at Patterson Mill High School Saturday afternoon is available to any citizen who feels as though they are not safe in their homes.
The Harford County Information Hotline 410-838-5800 began operating at 7 a.m. Saturday. The hotline is available to answer citizens' questions before, during and after the storm, and to relay timely emergency status information.
"Hurricane Irene is a significant storm, and citizens should know that we are taking our preparations very seriously," Craig said. "Our Emergency Operations Center will be staffed with representatives of all county departments, state agencies, law enforcement, fire and EMS, and other emergency management professionals. While we cannot do anything to prevent the storm, we can take steps to lessen its impacts through preparedness, effective coordination, and quick action."
"Citizens should prepare by reviewing their storm survival plan and restock any needed food, water or other supplies to get them through the storm," Craig continued. "In addition, citizens should remove any potential hazards such as debris that could become projectiles in high winds, or that could block storm drains and cause flooding."
"Finally, those residents who will use generators should make sure that there is adequate ventilation so that they are not exposing themselves or their families to deadly carbon monoxide," Craig added.
County residents who own boats that are docked in a body of water are advised that
the National Weather Service is expecting Harford County waterways to be subject to large, battering waves, the county advisory also stated. Boat owners who have not already done so should take appropriate action as soon as possible.
For additional storm preparedness tips, go to the Harford County Division of Emergency Operations website at http://www.harfordpublicsafety.org and click on "Surviving the Storm" icon.
For updated information on storm recovery and road information, visit the Harford County Government website at http://www.harfordcountymd.gov.
Saturday morning in Bel Air
In downtown Bel Air, it seemed like any early late summer Saturday morning, despite the threat of the approaching hurricane.
The Klein's ShopRite on North Main Street in Bel Air was bustling around 9 a.m., not overcrowded, but certainly busy.
Inside, some shelf items like snacks and soup, seemed to be in short supply. A tractor-trailer was being unloaded at the store's loading dock, however, and another stood by on a nearby street.
Most of the chatter in the checkout lines was about the approaching hurricane. One woman said she had just come from the Saturday farmers market at nearby District Court building parking lot and described it as "crowded."
"Good for the farmers," she said, adding, "The rain will probably damage a lot of their crops."
Outside, it was cloudy and drizzling intermittently. The air felt humid, but there was no noticeable wind velocity.
By 1 p.m., some steady rain had fallen in downtown Bel Air and trees and flags were blowing steadily but softly.