A large bank of white to gray clouds hung over Main Street, where traffic appeared steady and most parking spaces were full in the city of town.

Weekend school activities canceled

Harford County Public Schools decided early Friday to cancel all activities in its buildings scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

"Due to the potential severity of Hurricane Irene, all Saturday (8/26/11) and Sunday (8/27/11) HCPS activities have been canceled," Teri Kranefeld, Manager of Communications for Harford County Public Schools, wrote in an email shortly after noon Friday.


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Kranefeld had also emphasized that all Friday evening activities will continue as planned.

Gov.Martin O'Malley declared a state of emergency on Thursday in advance of the first hurricane of the Atlantic Ocean's storm season, which has been roaring up the eastern seaboard, hitting the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos islands mid-week.

Harford County government sent out a countywide press release and a Connect CTY message Thursday afternoon, telling residents "Hurricane Irene is expected to affect Harford County Saturday evening into Sunday afternoon. The forecast calls for 3 to 6 inches of rain, a storm surge of 1 to 3 feet along the Chesapeake Bay and sustained winds of 35 to 40 mph. Additionally, we could also experience tropical force wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph. Because of the impending storm we could experience widespread power outages in the county."

The Emergency Operations Center will operate Saturday at a Level 1, which means personnel, law enforcement and other first responders will staff the center, according to an e-mail.

The early outlook and plan

If early weather reports are any indication, Irene will bring high winds and heavy rain to the area this weekend. How severe the weather will be and how long it will last is yet to be determined, as the category of the storm could lessen or grow stronger by the time it reaches the state's coast.

As of Thursday evening, accuweather.com reported 4 to 8 inches of rain is possible Saturday through Sunday, with showers and possible thunderstorms overnight into Sunday morning. The storm, according to a map on weather.com, will be a category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds, and seems to pass by late Sunday afternoon/Sunday night.

Meteorologist Jared Klein, of the National Weather Service, reported Wednesday afternoon that at this point, Harford County should be getting mostly rain. On its current track, Hurricane Irene is expected to get closest to Harford County around 8 a.m. Sunday, but still out of the area.

It could shift, Klein reiterated, because there is "some uncertainty."

"This far out, three to four days out, there is still a little uncertainty, as well as room for error," he said.

What this means for Harford County, only time will tell, but plans are being put into action.

Emergency Manager Rick Ayers said Wednesday the Harford County Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, has had daily conference calls with the National Weather Service to make sure the county is properly preparing.

"Right now the current track of the hurricane is keeping it off the coast," Ayers said.

If the hurricane maintains its current path, Ayers said the county will likely see between 1 and 3 inches of rain, but added that forecast could change before the weekend.

"Certainly there's a lot of uncertainty with the storm," Ayers said, later adding, "If it just turns just a little bit to the west it will have a lot different effect of us."

Harford County Public Schools is preparing for the storm, as well, according to Manager of Communications Teri Kranefeld.