As nor'easter brews, Marylanders still struggle to dig out from Sandy

A nor'easter appears poised to rumble over Maryland next week, as residents on the state's eastern and western edges are still shoveling out snow and sand from this week's massive storm.

The nor'easter could swoop across the state as early as Wednesday, spilling an inch or two of rain and pushing seawater onto a coastline already saturated by Sandy, a hurricane turned post-tropical cyclone.

"If we didn't just have Sandy, we'd probably still be talking about the chance of minor coastal flooding," said Kristina Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist with Accuweather. "When you see those strong offshore winds, there is the possibility of coastal flooding and additional beach erosion."

Forecast maps show a low-pressure system moving Monday from the South Carolina coast to the northeast out at sea for Election Day, before taking a path similar to Sandy's toward the Delmarva Peninsula and New York areas Wednesday and Thursday.

Forecasters said the nor'easter would not be of the magnitude of Sandy, which smashed into New Jersey and New York, leaving more than 60 dead across the eastern seaboard, destroying seaside towns and paralyzing parts of Manhattan and the other boroughs. However, a new round of rain and storm-swollen tides could be devastating in areas still struggling to clean up from the storm.

"I just hope and pray we don't get that nor'easter," said Somerset County Commissioner Rex D. Simpkins. "What we need is about two weeks of northwest winds and sunshine."

Simpkins said crews were working to remove fallen trees in the Eastern Shore county. He met with volunteers in Crisfield on Friday who were preparing to help residents haul soaked furniture and carpeting from their homes.

"Folks are busy cleaning up," he said. "They've got to get their lives back together."

Simpkins estimated that the businesses, residents and local government had sustained more than $40 million in losses as a result of the storm.

Edward J. McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said officials would be tabulating the total cost of storm-related damage for months.

On the opposite end of the state, crews were still working to clear the 2 feet of snow that Sandy piled in the Western Maryland mountains. Rescue workers were checking on the elderly and those who live in remote areas.

Members of the Central Maryland Search and Rescue Team, who arrived Thursday in Garrett County, spent the day going door to door to check on residents, said County Commissioner James Raley.

More than two-thirds of Maryland households and businesses that lacked power Friday were in Garrett. About 10,700 Potomac Edison utility customers in Garrett were without electricity Friday and about 800 in neighboring Allegany County were also without power. About 5,500 other utility customers throughout the state lacked power.

About 700 BGE customers in the Baltimore area were without electricity Friday afternoon, although not all of them had been without power since Sandy swept through on Monday and Tuesday.

"BGE is approaching full restoration of electric service to its customers following Hurricane Sandy and remains confident that the vast majority of customers will be restored" Friday night, Jeannette M. Mills, a company official, said in a statement. "While some scattered outages may continue into the weekend in areas that have sustained significant damage, we're also experiencing new outages unrelated to Hurricane Sandy."

Raley said many Garrett residents were heading to county-run shelters to thaw out and eat a hot meal, then returning to chilly homes to sleep.

"If their houses are really, really cold and it looks like it's going to be a couple more days for power, we encourage them to go to the shelters," he said.

About 40 Maryland National Guard members were aiding recovery efforts in the county, McDonough said. Teams of Mennonite volunteers were helping remove trees from roadways, and 16 ambulance crews from around the state were relieving weary first-responders, he said.

Five dozen State Highway Administration workers have been working to clear snow in Garrett with dump trucks and front-end loaders for the past three days, according to state officials. Crews have removed nearly 2,000 trees and cleaned off about 250 miles of roads, state officials said.

Crews had plowed all but 10 miles of secondary roads by Friday afternoon, Raley said, and were working to restore damaged power lines.

State crews also brought fuel to power generators in two communication towers, securing radio communications for emergency personnel. Both state workers and emergency workers from Kansas have been bolstering the county's emergency operations staff of two.

While residents of the mountainous county are accustomed to deep snow, Raley said, they weren't prepared for the thick precipitation that rapidly fell this week.

"We've had huge storms, but we've never had a storm with the magnitude of heavy, wet snow that we have this time," Raley said.

The forecast does bring some relief for Western Maryland — the storm is unlikely to drop any significant snow in the mountains.

And, Pydynowski said, there remains a chance that the nor'easter could veer out to sea and merely graze Maryland's coast.

Baltimore Sun reporters Scott Dance and Jeremy Bauer-Wolf contributed to this article.

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