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NewsMarylandBaltimore CountyTowson

As Superstorm Sandy washes through Towson, residents dig in

Kevin KamenetzHurricane Sandy (2012)Hurricanes and Tropical StormsLocal GovernmentDavid MarksMartin O'Malley

By the time Hurricane Sandy had made her presence truly felt in Towson on Monday, Oct. 29, Chuck Linzey, 66, had already spent hours digging ditches along the sides of Round Oak Road in an effort to direct water to small off-road storm drains.

"I started planning on this three days ago," Linzey said. He pointed to inches of standing water that had gathered in his neighbors' yards as a harbinger of what would come.

"The ground, as you can see, is very saturated," Linzey said. "There's nowhere else for the water to go."

County residents largely conceded the early part of this week to the storm. For days, Sandy gained strength off the Atlantic, and on Monday turned west on a line for the Mid-Atlantic region.

But by the time the hurricane hit Baltimore County, the Towson area had followed much of the state's lead, and shut down in advance of the worst Sandy could offer.

Early Monday evening, nearly all businesses on York Road, save for the Giant Food just north of the city line, had sent its employees home for the night, joining the masses of county government and private sector employees in the relative safety and comfort of home.

At a press briefing Monday late afternoon, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz commended residents for their handling of the storm — namely getting out of the way.

At that time, Kamenetz, Police Chief Jim Johnson and Fire Chief Fred Hohman reported no road closures and very few fallen trees in the county. And County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, praised the county government's communication in advance of the storm for ensuring residents were prepared.

But as Kamenetz, Johnson, and Hohman spoke at the press conference in Middle River, winds picked up and a driving rain reminded them that there was no cause for joy yet.

"What we've seen now is nothing compared to what we're going to see in the next 24 hours," Kamenetz said.

Indeed, officials were not downplaying the storm in any way. Kamenetz declared a state of emergency, and said he was in regular contact with Gov. Martin O'Malley and emergency responders.

O'Malley ran operations from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Reisterstown, and the Baltimore Sun quoted him warning of the dangers of the storm Monday in plain language.

"There will be people who will die and are killed in this storm," he said.

Johnson urged people to stay off the county roads during the storm's strongest period, and reminded that a new state law requires drivers to treat intersections without working traffic signals as four-way stops.

Additional police patrols were scheduled to assist residents during the storm. The county asked for high-water vehicles from the Maryland National Guard to assist its efforts to rescue residents who are stranded out of reach.

"The contact with county executive's office was very good, but quite frankly, many residents were very prepared for this storm," said Marks. "The power outages really got bad after 5 p.m."

Baltimore County Public Schools were closed for both Monday and Tuesday.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. was reporting Monday evening that the county had 51,657 customers without power — though 12,941 earlier outages had already been fixed.

BGE was slated to use the State Fairgrounds in Timonium as one of several staging areas for crews to address outages.

The utility said it was deploying more than 4,100 employees, contractors and out-of-state linemen, tree personnel and support staff, including about 1,700 from Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

BGE was reminding residents that to report power outages and downed wires through 1-877-778-2222. In the wake of the storm, customers are urged stay away from downed power lines and never to assume they are de-energized, even if the power to the area appears to be out.

Meanwhile, the county opened a "pet friendly" shelter at Eastern Technical High School, in Essex, and state was also operating two shelters on the west side of the county — at the Retriever Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Road, Catonsville; and at the Jewish Community Center, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills.

All Baltimore County senior centers were closed, and CountyRide and trash and recycling pick-ups were suspended.

Residents had begun preparing for Sandy on Friday, Oct. 26 and for many, the storm's approach gave a ominous reminder of the derecho storm in late June that left some areas of Towson without power for more than a week.

Laura Bonnichsen, 36, of Stoneleigh, picked up one of the last generators at Ayd Hardware on Friday.

"We were out for seven days in July," Bonnichsen said. In both derecho storm and last summer's visit from Hurricane Irene, Bonnichsen's home lost power. Without the sump pump her basement, which she said sits on an underground stream, flooded each time.

"I just can't do that anymore," she said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Kevin KamenetzHurricane Sandy (2012)Hurricanes and Tropical StormsLocal GovernmentDavid MarksMartin O'Malley
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