All of Harford County was virtually shut down Monday, as residents braced for the worst of the powerful Hurricane Sandy, which was ever closer to making landfall on the coast between Maryland and New Jersey.
Heavy rain pelted the county overnight Sunday and throughout the day Monday. Increasing sustained wind were also evident in advance of the storm, whose worse impacts are expected from Monday evening through Tuesday, according to the most recent National Weather Service forecasts.
Sandy is expected to make landfall somewhere between the Delmarva Peninsula and southern New Jersey on Monday, according to the weather service.
Flooding, downed trees and utility lines and widespread power outages are expected from the storm. County emergency officials are advising people to stay off the roads and move to higher ground if they live in flood prone areas, especially in downtown Havre de Grace.
As of Monday afternoon, no serious fires, accidents or other incidents had been reported to the county Emergency Operations Center.
At 2 p.m. Monday, the Maryland Transportation Authority closed the Route 40 Hatem Memorial Bridge Maryland because wind speeds there exceeded 55 miles per hour, according to Trudy Edwards, special assistant in the authority's executive office.
Edwards said the bridge will remain closed until winds fall below 55 miles per hour.
The I-95 Tydings bridge was expected to be closed, according to comments made at a widely broadcast midday news conference on the storm by Gov. Martin O'Malley and his staff.
As of 4:30 p.m., the Tydings bridge remained open to traffic, according to staff at the JFK Barrack of The Maryland State Police. The option of closing the bridge remained in play, but no decision had been made as to when that would happen.
Both bridges crossing the Susquehanna River had been placed under wind warnings by MDTA earlier in the day, with wind gusts reaching into the 45-49 mph range, meaning house trailers, empty box trailers or any vehicle that law enforcement personnel felt might not safely cross the bridge were already being prohibited from crossing.
By Monday afternoon, the county still did appear to have any major accidents, Harford County Volunteer Fire & EMS Association spokesman Rich Gardiner said, adding he only heard of some wires on fire.
About 1,000 BGE customers were without power in Harford at that time, county spokesman Bob Thomas reported at about 3 p.m.
As of 11:30 a.m. Monday, Delmarva Power, which provides electricity primarily north of Deer Creek in Harford County, was reporting no outages in Perryville, Port Deposit or northern Harford County.
"Concern now is about rising water in Havre de Grace which is expected Tuesday morning," Thomas said. "Approximately five roads closed due to downed trees or rising water."
"County Executive Craig came to the EOC [Emergency Operations Center] before noon for a briefing and then toured several locations in the county including stops at both emergency shelters, Patterson Mill High School and Level Volunteer Fire Company," he said.
Susquehanna Hose Company Chief Scott Hurst said the company had yet to receive any storm related calls as of about 3:50 p.m.
He said Havre de Grace had already gotten 5 to 6 inches of rain, of the 9 to 12 expected, and the only major concern was, as always, the Lilly Run areas.
"There is starting to be some flooding in Havre de Grace," he said.
The forecast at the time called for 45 mile per hour winds with gusts of 90 miles per hour, and Hurst expected the storm to get really bad at about 5:30 p.m.
Schools, government, APG closed