Harford County continued to deal with widespread power outages, road closings and minor damage to buildings Tuesday afternoon, but the immediate danger from Storm Sandy's sweep through the region appeared to be over.
The county and the lower Susquehanna River towns remained on the alert for high water, but there were no serious floods, no deaths or any fires or serious incidents reported from the storm, which brought heavy rains and winds with gusts to 60 mph from Sunday night through late Monday night.
In the Bel Air area Tuesday, some businesses were open or planning to open. Fast food restaurants and convenience stores were doing a brisk trade.
But more than nearly 35 percent of the county's homes and businesses were still without power Tuesday afternoon, as utility crews scrambled to deal with outages throughout the region.
Many county and state roads remained closed because of high water or trees and wires down, and government offices and schools were still closed.
Bel Air Town Administrator Chris Schlehr said half the town was still without power Tuesday afternoon, but otherwise, "we're doing reasonably well."
"I think we've cleared all the trees and limbs from the streets and all town streets are open," Schlehr said.
There was still intermittent rain falling around the county Tuesday afternoon, but gone were the sustained high and gusting winds that buffeted the county throughout the day Monday and into the overnight.
High water concerns
The main concern, a county government spokesman said early Tuesday, is with rising water from the rivers, creeks and streams swollen by what is expected to be a foot of rain or more when the storm finally leaves the area for good.
"We're still stressing voluntary evacuation of residents and businesses in flood prone areas from Havre de Grace to Joppatowne because of rising water," Bob Thomas, the county government's spokesman, said shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The Harford County Division of Emergency Operations issued a Connect CTY notification message to more than 6,600 businesses and residents from Havre de Grace to Joppatowne early Tuesday morning.
The call advised citizens to consider voluntarily evacuating because of rising water associated with the storm surge from Sandy.
As of 6 a.m. Tuesday, the EOC reported water in the Havre de Grace area was two feet above normal with the high tide approaching at 11 a.m. low-tide, according to a county news release.
Havre de Grace city emergency personnel had said Monday they expected a surge of two to three feet which, they noted, would be far lower than the levels of the destructive Isabel storm of 2003. That view was unchanged Tuesday, although a police department spokesman said they were keeping an eye on any tidal surge along the Susquehanna later in the day and evening.
Thomas also said more than 40 people occupied the two temporary shelters the county had set up Monday at Patterson Mill High School and the Level firehouse. The shelters closed at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Thomas also said many roads remain closed from the storm. The Susquehanna River bridges have been reopened, he said, following earlier closures because of high winds. The I-95 Tydings Bridge was shut down for several hours late Monday, while the Route 40 Hatem Bridge was shut down Monday afternoon.
With respect to roads, the Harford County Department of Public Works, Division of Highways reported more than 50 county roads blocked or closed as a result of storm damage to include fallen trees, downed power lines and miscellaneous debris, a county news release said. Highways personnel were removed from the roads shortly before 9 p.m. Monday because hazardous conditions, including driving rain and strong wind gusts.
"County and state roads remain hazardous due to Hurricane Sandy and therefore we urge citizens not to drive unless absolutely essential," said County Executive David R. Craig. "This has been a very serious storm and we ask patience from our citizens and the business community as we work around the clock trying to return Harford County to a more normal state."
Because of widespread power outages throughout Harford County, a number of traffic signals are not working. The Division of Emergency Operations reminded motorists to treat all intersections with non-working traffic signals as a four-way stop. Drivers are reminded to come to a complete stop before safely proceeding through the intersection.