Harford continues to sift through the damage from Irene

Harford County remained under a state of emergency Monday as county officials continued the recovery effort fromHurricane Irene.

School and county officials also decided to close school again on Tuesday because of the widespread power outages.

"It's been a challenging weekend," Harford County Executive David Craig said at a Monday morning press conference held at the county's emergency operations center in Forest Hill.

He added people "sort of forget that the reason we got through this so well is the cooperation of so many agencies who are in this room right now… Our different internal agencies have really been working hard."

Craig said he was "still a little concerned" about reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency because Harford was not on the original list of counties to get federal help.

"Some of the things we are paying for right now, we are not sure we can get reimbursement," Craig said.

He said U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, however, have been very supportive about that.

Rick Ayers, the county's emergency operations spokesman, said cost estimates for the storm were still being calculated. He said a preliminary estimate was expected to be submitted by noon.

He urged residents to call the county if they do not have flood insurance or homeowner's insurance so they can get reimbursement.

Robert Tomback, superintendent of Harford County Public Schools, said 28 schools remained without power and he did not know if they would re-open Tuesday.

The school system would make that decision by the end of the day Monday, he said.

"We know we have lots and lots of disappointed students, and even more disappointed parents, that schools didn't open on time," Tomback joked.

Non-functioning traffic lights and closed roads remained a problem around the county.

"We are going to have to encourage people to act like the old days, slow down," Craig said, reminding that a downed traffic light should be treated as a four-way stop.

Lt. Chuck Moore, at the Bel Air Barrack of Maryland State Police, said 13 troopers were out to patrol the intersections, and he expects up to 20 to help ensure traffic is flowing and close off certain lanes to create four-way intersections.

Richard Lynch, director of the county's department of inspections, licenses and permits, said 26 structures had been evaluated for damage so far. Four suffered major damage and two are no longer inhabitable.

"We still have a lot more evaluation to do," Lynch said.

Seven people have also been taken to hospitals for carbon monoxide poisoning. Ayers, of emergency operations, said he did not know their conditions.

"We are experiencing individuals who are using their generators improperly," Lynch said. "Carbon monoxide poisoning is certainly something to be concerned about."

The emergency operations center was flooded with thousands of phone calls during the storm, Craig said.

During the first hour of the storm, Craig said, the 911 center processed about 2,600 phone calls, as well as 400 calls internally through the county's internal dispatch center.

About 53,000 Harford Countians lost power and 100 road sections were closed at the height of the storm, he said. As of 12:30 p.m. Monday, 32,724 were still without power, according to BGE's website.

Craig said he understands what residents are dealing with, noting his sun porch was damaged, the basement filled with water and a fence collapsed. At his father's house, a tree fell.

"We have been concerned, and we understand how people feel," he said.

The county is setting up three drop-off sites where residents can take tree limbs and other storm debris. The sites are: the Edgewood Recreation Park parking lot, 1702 Trimble Road in Edgewood; the Aberdeen Department of Public Works Maintenance Shop parking lot, Michael Lane in Aberdeen; and the Havre de Grace Community Center parking lot, 100 Lazaret Lane in Havre de Grace.

Craig noted the sites will only accept tree limbs, "not sofas or mattresses, those kinds of things."

The sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday through Monday, Sept. 5.

The Harford Waste Disposal Center yard waste facility will also be open to the public from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. It will accept residential and commercial loads.

The Tollgate yard trim drop-off site will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday to Monday. Only residential loads are accepted.

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