Superstorm Sandy batters Howard County

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman declared a state of emergency Monday as Hurricane Sandy unleashed heavy rain and high winds on Howard County.

"I cannot emphasize enough the serious nature of what looks to be a once-in-a-lifetime weather event," Ulman said in a statement. “Now is the time to stay in place, be safe, and be vigilant.”

As of 9:47 p.m. Monday, Howard County's Department of Fire and Resuce Services has responded to seven incidents of partial roof collapses as a result of downed trees in the county.

A Laurel family of five was displaced after a large tree fell on their residence, located in the 10900 block of Hammond Road, at approximately 8:30 p.m. Monday, a HCDFRS spokesman said.

The spokesman said no one was injured, but the house sustained heavy damage.

The family will be spending the night in a hotel, he said.

Other minor reports include an incident reported at approximately 6:10 p.m. in Fulton and an incident occurring at 6:45 p.m. in Ellicott City.

In the first incident, a large tree came down on a residence located in the 7000 block of Meandering Way in Fulton. The spokesman said part of the roof collapsed, and responders aided the residents in patching up some windows.

The second incident occurred at 6:45 p.m., when officials responded to the 4600 block of Ilchester Road in Ellicott City.

The spokesman said a tree fell on the front porch of the house, partially punching a hole in the roof.

No one was displaced or injured in both minor incidents, he said.

HCDFRS has also reported three incidents of power lines and trees down in the county.

The spokesman said wires and trees are down on near the intersection of Triadelphia Road and Lakeway Drive in West Friendship, wires across the roadway near the 7000 block of Kit Kat Road in Elkridge, and trees and power lines down near the 7100 Sanner Road in Columbia.

The South Entrance Road exit off of a Route 29 in Columbia has been closed due to flooding.

The Mall in Columbia announced it would be closed Monday, joining the county school system and county government offices, which had earlier announced closures. The Mall will remain closed until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a spokesperson.

All Howard County schools and school offices will be closed tomorrow, as well. A work session scheduled for the elementary redistricting proposal has been canceled.

Rebecca Amani-Dove, spokeswoman for the Howard County Public School System, said Monday night the system's maintenance department was out at county schools earlier Monday checking roof drains and HVAC systems.

So far, she said, there have been no problems reported at any county school.

As soon as it's safe to venture out Tuesday, Amani-Dove said, building supervisors would be doing a complete check of each school.

Events and classes have also been canceled at Howard Community College for Tuesday.

"This decision has been made in order to ensure the safety of our shoppers and employees during the hurricane. Some of our department stores and restaurants may be open for business, please reach out to them directly for their hours," read a statement on the mall's facebook page. The status of the mall on Tuesday has not yet been determined.

All Columbia Association facilities, including pathways, closed at 12 p.m. Monday and will remain closed all day Tuesday. Facilities are scheduled to reopen Wednesday morning.

The county remains under a flood watch through Tuesday evening, with coastal flooding expected late Monday into Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy rain, as much as six inches, and high winds, with gusts as much as 70 miles per hour, are expected throughout Monday afternoon and well into Tuesday, according to forecasters.

As of 8 p.m., according the National Weather Service, Sandy had been designated a "post-tropical storm," and was expected to make landfall within the hour.

Early Monday, as the rain increased in intensity, county emergency officials urged residents to stay home and off the roads, noting that flooding, high winds and falling trees will make driving unsafe.

In addition, emergency officials said they were expecting traffic light outages throughout the county.

"Because of the dangerous conditions that are expected, we are asking that you limit non-essential travel and activities during this time," Ulman said in a statement. "With schools, government offices and many businesses closed, we hope that residents will have little reason to venture out unnecessarily."

On flood-prone Main Street in Ellicott City, the river was rising but had not flooded as of 10:30 a.m., several business owners said. Power remained on, but at least three restaurants were closed in advance of the storm: Cacao Lane, Portalli's and the Diamondback Tavern. Business owners said flooding and power outages were anticipated.

On Twitter, Ulman warned residents and business owners on Main Street to move their cars to higher groud. The Howard County Circuit Court parking lot was open, Ulman said.

At Phoenix Emporium, on the corner of Main Street and Maryland Avenue, employees had moved most of the food from the basement to the second floor and placed sandbags arund the back entrance, owner Mark Hemmis said.

Elsewhere in the county, businesses closed early Monday or did not open at all. In Columbia's Wilde Lake Village Center, for example, the parking lot was nearly empty and the Bagel Bin & Deli was one of the few open shops.

Owner Emily Park said Monday afternoon that the shop had seen its typical number of customers throughout the day. She had not decided whether to open Tuesday.

Inside the Bagel Bin, Columbia resident Dominic Bruce, 18, said he was disappointed the Columbia mall, where he works, was closed due to the weather. "I was looking forward to working, getting out of the house," he said.

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