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Annapolis, Anne Arundel prepare for Isaias’ winds and water with sandbags, mooring balls and experience

In the 17 years since tropical storm Isabel swamped downtown Annapolis, Sveinn Storm has been ready for any storm bearing down on the city. This week is no different.

As tropical storm Iasias barreled up the East Coast Monday, the owner of Storm Brothers Ice Cream said he was ready to combat any flooding it brings.

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Storm has pumps in his shop that can remove stormwater. If necessary, he will install a waterproof board across his front door, a tactic he’s had to use twice in the last year, he said.

“If we get some flooding we’ll be ready,” he said. “Ever since Isabel, we’ve been prepared.”

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Isaias, pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs, was bringing heavy rainfall, high winds and widespread flooding expected to continue for most of Tuesday. As of Monday evening, the storm was expected to come ashore near the North Carolina-South Carolina border strengthen to a hurricane before reaching the Chesapeake Bay after 8 a.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

A tropical storm warning was issued for Anne Arundel County as well as the Baltimore region, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. In addition, the county is under a flash flood watch through 11 p.m. Tuesday and a coastal flood watch until Wednesday at midnight. High tide in Annapolis comes just before 7 p.m.

About 4-8 inches of rain is expected in Annapolis through Tuesday afternoon. Winds are expected to reach 44 to 55 mph with gusts up to 70 mph into Tuesday afternoon. The National Weather Service is forecasting a possible tidal surge of 1 to 3 feet in the Chesapeake Bay.

Annapolis is no stranger to flooding incidents, though damage on the scale of Isabel is rare. City residents deal often with nuisance flooding rain or shine. The city broke a record for the number of high-tide flooding days with 18 in 2019, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study.

City officials urged residents to plan ahead, offering free sandbags to combat potential flooding in low-lying areas and reminding them to restock their emergency kits. The sandbags were available until 4 p.m. Monday.

“Residents should know that this is very important, that it’s critical that they are prepared,” acting Mayor Rhonda Pindell-Charles said. Mayor Gavin Buckley is on vacation until Saturday.

Kevin Simmons, Annapolis director of emergency management, said city officials spoke with the state Sunday about storm preparation in anticipation of heavy rainfall.

He said the city is reviewing its planning operations ahead of the hurricane season, as the COVID-19 pandemic may require changes to mass shelter plans in order to be compliant with current social distancing guidelines. There’s no indication yet that the city would have to mobilize to prepare for mass sheltering.

Anne Arundel County issued a warning that businesses and other organizations that have set up tents to serve customers during the COVID pandemic should secure them for strong winds or take them down. Marina owners should take steps to secure and move boats.

Members of the agricultural community are advised to follow any guidance from the Maryland Department of Agriculture in terms of food, shelter and water for livestock.

The city opened the Hillman Garage Monday night to provide free parking for residents who want to move their cars from low-lying, flood-prone areas. Cars can remain in the garage until 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Simmons added the city has updated its 400-person roster of vulnerable residents to make sure it can contact the elderly and bedridden residents who may need help if the storm knocks out power for several days.

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“People have a lot of things etched in their minds right,” Simmons said. “But you also have to know that we’re in hurricane season as well, so you have to make sure you have [an emergency] kit.”

Storm changes

Anne Arundel County put a liberal leave policy in effect for Tuesday. County government offices will remain closed to the public because of COVID-19.

Emergency and essential employees must report for work at their usual times and will remain on duty for the duration of their regular shift or revert to their assigned emergency shift if appropriate. Employees who are already approved to telework should continue to do so or may take leave if unable to telework.

The change was one affecting services in Annapolis and across Anne Arundel County Tuesday.

Pump-out boat services have been suspended in the Annapolis harbor.

If winds reach 45 mph, the Spa Creek and Weems Creek drawridges will not open, the office said.

Some cruises offered by Watermark have been canceled for Monday and Tuesday, said Debbie Gosselin, Watermark’s owner. Tuesday’s water taxi schedule will be weather-dependant, she said.

Because of strong winds and rain expected Tuesday, meal distribution by Anne Arundel County Public Schools will be postponed until Wednesday.

County curbside collection services have been postponed until Wednesday.

In addition, the county asked the public to limit wastewater discharge during and immediately after the storm to minimize the flow through the public wastewater system. In the event of a wide-spread power outage that would limit the ability to pump or treat water, DPW encourages residents to draw and store water for drinking, hygiene, and toilets.

To report a water or wastewater emergency, contact 410-222-8400. To report downed trees on County roads call the DPW Storm Center at 410-222-4040.

The county Department of Recreation and Parks announced that Summer Child Care/Camp programs located in the Senior Centers, Aquatic Centers, and South County Recreation Center will be closed on Tuesday.

The county Senior Nutrition Program food distribution has been rescheduled from Tuesday to 2 p.m. Thursday. For questions regarding this change, call 410-222-0256. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes have been contacted to be ready to implement their emergency plans.

The Anne Arundel County Public Library closed all buildings and services on Tuesday.

The Anne Arundel Department of Health has canceled its COVID-19 testing clinics for the day. County residents can call 410-222-7256 to reschedule tests or for any COVID-19 concerns.

Wind and water

The Naval Academy has prepared for heavy rain and wind by installing door dams and placing sandbags in areas known to flood, Naval Academy spokesperson Alana Garas said.

The Annapolis Harbormaster’s office is making 76 mooring balls available on a first-come, first-serve basis for boats seeking shelter from Tropical Storm Isaias. Any vessel looking for a mooring should contact the Harbormaster at 410-263-7973.

As of noon Monday, vessels were permitted to stay in Ego Alley in advance of the storm. There will be no anchoring in city waters beginning at 8 p.m. on Monday. This includes Spa Creek and Back Creek, the harbormaster’s office said.

The harbormaster is encouraging boaters to remove their boats to dry land for maximum safety. Boaters are encouraged to download the Prepare Me Annapolis app to receive notifications about the storm.

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Sandbags are a key part of flood mitigation, in preventing damage to business and homes in low-lying areas like City Dock, said Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Hannah Thomas.

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And even if the bags aren’t needed this week, they could become useful later on during hurricane season, which spans from June 1 through the end of November, Pindell-Charles said.

Residents who stopped by Truxtun Park Monday to pick up their sandbags were appreciative of the service, including Andy Dukes of Eastport. He said the sandbags would be essential for preventing water from spilling in through a sliding door at her home.

Chris McKenna, an who lives on Spa Road, said he wasn’t taking any chances with the tropical storm’s landfall coinciding with a full moon and high tide.

“You know it could be the perfect trifecta of everything hitting all at once,” he said. “I’m trying to stay ahead of it.”

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