Havre de Grace Halloween survives superstorm

Sandy rained on Havre de Grace's annual Halloween parade, but even a superstorm could not curtail trick-or-treating in the battered waterfront town.

The Harford County city of 13,000 on the banks of the Susquehanna River postponed its annual Halloween parade and rescheduled it for Sunday because of the storm. But city officials gave the door-to-door quest for candy on Wednesday the go-ahead.


"We are 95 percent back to normal," said Mayor Wayne H. Dougherty. "There is still the kid who loves Halloween in me, and I wanted the kids to enjoy the night. It will be safe for them."

Neighboring states and jurisdictions still reeling from the devastating storm have delayed Halloween traditions.


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued an executive order postponing Halloween celebrations until Monday. Greensboro and Denton on Maryland's Eastern Shore were grappling with flooding and power outages Wednesday and opted to reschedule the observance to Friday and Saturday, respectively. Henderson, a tiny enclave in Caroline County, had canceled Halloween but then it got power back Wednesday afternoon.

"The power and trick-or-treating are back on," said Henderson Mayor Sandra M. Cook. "People understood when we canceled. They knew we had to make it safe to trick-or-treat."

The hurricane hit Havre de Grace hard, flooding parks, toppling trees and downing power lines. Creeks spilled over their banks. Twice during two days of rain and high wind, city officials considered evacuating residents in low-lying areas, only to reconsider as the waters subsided. High tide combined with storm surge Tuesday morning threatened one more time, but the waters finally receded.

By Wednesday night, about 300 homes in the town were still without power. The city's water-logged promenade and waterfront parks remained closed. But, with street lights all back on and roads and sidewalks clear of debris, Dougherty declared that Halloween should go on and hurried home at dusk. Experience told him he would be welcoming at least 50 kids on his doorstep.

Harford County Executive David R. Craig, a Havre de Grace resident and a former mayor, recognized the importance of Halloween. Harford still counted 14,000 homes without electricity and 43 roads closed Wednesday, but Craig made no plans to cancel trick-or-treating. He did ask parents, equipped with flashlights, to accompany their children.

Salisbury Mayor James Ireton Jr. also issued safety tips for residents, warning that even though the storm had passed, roads remained slippery with leaves and could become blocked by high tides. And power lines, he noted, should never be touched.

"Everyone needs to stay alert, be careful, and we need parents to accompany their children when out this evening for trick-or-treat," Ireton said in a statement. "Walk in well-lit areas and pay attention to lingering storm hazards."

In one of the Havre de Grace subdivisions threatened Monday by a swollen creek, Halloween festivities were well under way before the sun went down Wednesday. Jim and Amy Sheckels treated more than a dozen neighborhood kids to pizza before sending them off to knock on doors to beg treats. Nothing — not the weather, the lights out, even an executive order — could have deterred these children.


"They can't cancel Halloween," said Danny Mattei, a 13-year-old dressed as a banana. "I would have gone even if the town said we couldn't."

Rebecca Lapointe, a mom masquerading in red stripes as Waldo, clarified that she doubts parents would allow children to violate a municipal order.

"But the kids would have missed out," she said. "At least, they would have had the party."

The Sheckels scheduled the party just in case another downpour deterred outdoor activities. Several parents joined in the revelry.

"This party and trick-or-treating have been our tradition since these kids were babies," said Amy Sheckels, hostess and mother of three. "It's our favorite holiday."

Their street forms a half-circle off a main road.


"Our kids can hit a lot of houses really quick," said Jim Sheckels. "Lots of other parents drop their kids off here. We have laid in candy by the bucket load."

After a few lively games, the young costumed revelers headed to neighbors' porches, ready to fill their own buckets, bags and plastic pumpkins.