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News Maryland Harford County Bel Air

Harford weathers storm Sandy, but high water concerns, power outages remain

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.

The most serious incidents reported Monday were trees falling on and damaging two homes, one in Bel Air and one in Aberdeen. No injuries were reported.

Late Monday, emergency personnel went door-to-door at a group of cottages along Broad Creek north of Darlington asking people to leave because of the rising water that had exceeded the height of a small earthen dam upstream. Only one person was present, however, and chose not to leave, the county said.

Schools, government offices, courts and community centers remained closed for the second day in a row Tuesday, as did Aberdeen Proving Ground, many private employers and some businesses, as county officials continued to advise people to stay put and stay off the roads.

County government, schools closed Wednesday

Thomas said Tuesday afternoon that many county government buildings were still without power, and so the county government will be closed Wednesday. Circuit and District courts will be open, he said.

Harford County Public Schools will also be closed Wednesday. Employees will continue to be on Code Green.

Early voting will open again Wednesday with extended hours, 8 a.m. through 9 p.m. through Friday, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Mary Hastler, director of Harford County Public Library, said all branches of Harford County Public Library will be open Wednesday, with exception of Bel Air, Fallston and Joppa branches which are without power.

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Baltimore Gas & Electric's website was reporting 30,700 of its 100,000 Harford County residential and business customers still did not have power.

BGE said more than 15,000 Harford customers had power restored since what had been a hurricane began to have an effect on the county Sunday afternoon; however, the outage number appeared to be rising slightly through the first hours of the morning.

Delmarva Power was reporting 1,365 of its 5,088 Harford customers did not have power as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Delmarva's website reported 8,434 of the company's 44,204 Cecil County customers were without power at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Five inches rain at Conowingo

According to the National Weather Service, Edgewood and Whiteford experienced the strongest gusts Monday, 60 miles per hour in Edgewood at 8:05 p.m. and a gust at 58 miles per hours in Whiteford at 3:59 p.m.

From 8 a.m. Monday to 8 a.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service reported a rainfall of 4.7 inches at the Conowingo Dam.

As of Tuesday morning, four floodgates were open at the Conowingo Dam and could possibly go up to 10 through Thursday, according to the Conowingo Spill hotline.

While there is a coastal flood warning in effect until 8 a.m. Wednesday, for the rest of the Harford County area the National Weather Service reports a high in the mid 40s, gusts up to 35 miles per hour and rain with a slight chance of snow showers.

It was still raining intermittently in the Bel Air area Tuesday afternoon.

Businesses open

Businesses appeared to be returning to normal Tuesday afternoon.

Harford Mall in Bel Air, which was originally to be closed all day, announced they would open at 2 p.m. DuClaw brewing company also reopened at noon, according to its official Twitter page.

Regal Cinemas in Abingdon was open for businesses and Target in Bel Air opened at its normal time Tuesday after closing at 4 p.m. Monday.

The store's manager, who did not want give her name, said the Target was "pretty well stocked" with the basics: water, bread, milk and even a few flashlights.

Cecil still secure

Perryville Mayor Jim Eberhardt said everything was going pretty well in his town Tuesday morning.

"We have some trees down, but it's more of an inconvenience," he said.

The biggest issue: almost the entire town was without electricity. Eberhardt said he lost electricity at his house at 6:10 p.m. Monday and Delmarva crews were unable to work Monday evening because of the high wind.

Eberhardt has been meeting with the town's emergency management crews every four hours since Monday night to stay updated on the town's condition.

Port Deposit fared much better in the storm, Mayor Wayne Tome said.

Most residents had power the entire time with a few lulls in service, he added.

Check back with http://www.exploreharford.com for updates.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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