Hurricane Sandy preparations

An employee at the Klein's ShopRite Supermarket on North Main Street in Bel Air said the store had been "very busy" throughout the day Friday, as shoppers made preparations in anticipation of severe weather from the approaching Hurricane Sandy. (PHOTO BY ALLAN VOUGHT | AEGIS STAFF / October 28, 2012)

Harford County government continued to ramp up its preparations for Hurricane Sandy on Sunday, advising residents of low lying areas of the city of Havre de Grace to consider evacuating their homes in anticipation of the tropical storm's landfall in the region, now expected sometime Monday.

The county also announced a public shelter will be open to provide temporary housing starting at 7 p.m. Sunday at Patterson Mill High School, 85 Patterson Mill Road, in Bel Air.

Harford County Public Schools announced schools will be closed Monday. Employees will operate on Code Green. Cecil County Public Schools likewise will be closed Monday.

Harford County government buildings and offices also will be closed Monday, as will public libraries. Harford transit will not operate Monday, and the Harford Waste Disposal Center will be closed.

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"Emergency and critical employees only should report," county government spokesman Bob Thomas said in an e-mail. "A decision on whether county government will be opening Tuesday will be made late Monday afternoon."

The state board of elections also canceled early voting for Monday. Harford elections officials said they would be notified later about Tuesday.

The municipal governments of the City of Aberdeen, the Town of Bel Air and the City of Havre de Grace also have advised Harford County officials they will be closed Monday. Any decision regarding opening of Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace municipal governments will be announced late Monday.

The county remains under a state of emergency declared Friday afternoon by County Executive David Craig.

Craig went the county Emergency Operations Center near Bel Air around 2 p.m. Sunday to record a message about the storm for the county's phone notification system, Thomas said. He also received briefings from the county emergency operations manager, as did other county agency heads and representatives of the sheriff's office.

Citizens with routine concerns or inquiries as a result of Hurricane Sandy may call the Harford County "Hot-Line" at 410-838-5800. Citizens with true emergencies are urged to call 9-1-1.

Sunday afternoon, the greater Bel Air area began to experience steady rain and, around 5 p.m., the wind had started to blow more steadily compared to earlier in the day.

Much more severe weather is expected across the county and the region.

According to forecasts updated Sunday morning, the tropical storm's outer bands could begin buffeting Baltimore and the Eastern Shore as early as Sunday evening with drenching downpours and strong gusts.

The storm's worst is expected Monday, likely wreaking havoc on the morning commute before Sandy makes landfall somewhere between the Delmarva Peninsula and northern New Jersey in the afternoon or evening.

The Harford County Division of Emergency Operations implemented Level 3 activation in preparation for Sandy at noon Sunday, according to a county media advisory.

"Level 3 activation is a full activation of the EOC on a 24-hour basis," the advisory states.

"In preparation for the impending storm, the county Division of Emergency Operations, in cooperation with City of Havre de Grace officials and the Harford County fire and emergency services, are advising citizens of Havre de Grace, to consider evacuating from their homes ahead of the storm," the advisory continued.

"The voluntary self-evacuation is for those citizens who live near or reside in areas that are prone to flooding."

"We believe Hurricane Sandy is unlike previous storms that have impacted Harford County," Craig said. "Most of the storms we have dealt with are fast moving storms and therefore pass through the area rather quickly. Hurricane Sandy poses a serious threat to our community with long-lasting rain, winds and flooding. The storm could result in power outages throughout Harford County that may last for several days" County Executive Craig remarked.

"The EOC has been activated as part of our emergency preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy, said Russell J. Strickland, manager of the Division of Emergency Operations. "The EOC, under the direction of Emergency Manager Rick Ayers, will be staffed by personnel from various departments of county and municipal government as well as the State of Maryland. Our team is well trained and prepared to deal with severe weather events such as what we are anticipating from Hurricane Sandy."