The Howard County Board of Education has closed school for Monday as Hurricane Sandy creeps closer to reaching land on the East Coast.

In addition, the county government announced Sunday it also will be closed Monday for non-essential employees. Among the offices closed are all county Department of Recreation and Parks centers and programs, and the circuit and district courts.

No decision has been made about opening the government on Tuesday.

The school system made the announcement Sunday, adding: "All evening activities in schools, both school-sponsored and community-sponsored, are canceled. This includes high school athletic practices and games."

Meanwhile, County Executive Ken Ulman announced Sunday that the government is scheduled to open a shelter at the Bain Center, 5470 Ruth Keeton Way, in Columbia, at noon Monday. Space is limited, so those needing shelter are encouraged to bring only essential items.

The Columbia Association, meanwhile, announced Sunday that its Inclement Weather Policy is in effect for Monday, which means there will be no classes or programs before 10:45 a.m. Residents can call CA's inclement weather hotline at 410-715-3154 after 10 a.m. to find out about later classes.

Ulman said Sunday that the Office of Emergency Management is continuing to closely monitor the progress of Hurricane Sandy.

“County officials are taking this storm very seriously, and we hope our residents are too. This is an enormous storm that will have tremendous implications for Howard County because the rainfall amounts, high winds and duration of the storm will cause flooding and widespread power outages.  We already know BGE can’t begin to restore those outages until the storm ends and it’s safe to have crews out.  If they haven’t done it already, we are asking residents to spend today getting prepared,” Ulman said in a statement. 

The county announced Sunday that it opened its Call Center (410-313-2900) in the afternoon. Also, the “water buffalo” is now in place at the Gary J. Arthur Community Center in Glenwood, for people who need water.

The National Weather Service said that Howard County should begin to see rain late Sunday afternoon. It will get heavier during the night.  On Monday, predictions call for 25 mph sustained winds increasing throughout the day to 40 mph with gusts of 60 mph or higher. 

Heavy rain and sustained winds will continue through late Tuesday or early Wednesday, according to the weather service.  Temperatures will drop into the 40s.

Emergency officials strongly encourage residents to stay at home and off the roads during the storm.

The slow-moving hurricane is projected to reach land late Monday between the Delmarva Peninsula and northern New Jersey. In the Baltimore area, between 6-8 inches of rain can be expected along the I-95 corridor.

The Howard County Office of Emergency Management is urging county residents and businesses to "be alert, be prepared and stay informed" as Hurricane Sandy will bring heavy rains, high winds, power outages and possible flooding.

Baltimore Gas and Electric is warning that its customers should expect "extended and widespread power outages potentially lasting several days." The power company said Friday it had mobilized local crews and requested some 2,000 out-of-state workers to deal with the potential outages.

Gov. Martin O'Malley declared a state of emergency Friday and warned that it might have an impact on early voting, which began Saturday and is scheduled to continue through Thursday, Nov. 1.

O'Malley later canceled all early voting on Monday.

On Saturday and Sunday, however, lines were long at the three early-voting locations in Howard County — the Bain Center in Columbia; Ellicott City Senior Center in Ellicott City; and Ridgely's Run Community Center in Jessup. Some people reported waiting in line for between one and two hours.

Throughout Howard County, traffic was heavy Saturday as people continued their preparations for Hurricane Sandy.

The Home Depot on Route 40 in Ellicott City was sold out of generators Thursday, said Jenn Livenspargar, special services manager at the store, and was out of flashlights by Saturday morning.