Low-lying parts of Baltimore and Annapolis, along with other areas on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, were inundated Friday by significant coastal flooding, though forecasters say the highest water levels are expected with the next tide cycle overnight.
Friday evening, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a state of emergency for all Maryland jurisdictions bordering the bay, the Atlantic and the Potomac River.
“We are taking this action to bring all necessary state resources to bear, and assist local jurisdictions in their response efforts,” Hogan wrote in a statement. “We urge Marylanders to remain vigilant, to stay tuned to local news stations for the latest updates, and to follow any instructions local officials may provide.”
Hogan said the Maryland National Guard divided 20 soldiers and 10 vehicles between two Eastern Shore armories “as a precaution in case they are needed to support civil agencies.” Friday between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m., Maryland State Police officers responded to 204 crashes, 24 roadside hazards and 38 disabled or unattended vehicles.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service predicted the storm front pushing water against the western side of the bay could produce some of the worst flooding along Maryland’s coastline since Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
The rising tides and heavy rain led officials to close dozens of roads in the Baltimore area, as steady rain continued into the night. Forecasters said showers could linger into Saturday afternoon.
Friday night, about 4,000 Baltimore Gas & Electric customers were disrupted by more than 200 power outages, according to the BGE outage map. Half a dozen Maryland public school systems were closed Friday or canceled after school activities because of the inclement weather.
A coastal flood warning remains in effect for Baltimore, Anne Arundel County and many other coastal jurisdictions through Sunday morning.
Saturday will start off mostly cloudy with a 40% chance of rain showers in the morning and possibly the afternoon.
High water levels should continue even after the rain dissipates, gradually going down Saturday evening and overnight, said Brian Lasorsa, a weather service meteorologist. On Sunday, an “offshore flow should push most of the water back toward our astronomical norms.”
Friday night, many streets in downtown Baltimore, including in Fells Point, were rendered impassable by the floodwaters, leaving some vehicles stranded. Much of the Inner Harbor promenade was underwater. In Annapolis, the tide covered City Dock, lapping up against the front doors of businesses across the street.
As of about 9 p.m., the water level near Baltimore’s Fort McHenry was 4.6 feet above normal. Overnight, it was expected to rise as high as 5.7 feet, which would be the fourth-highest figure ever recorded at the monitoring station. A reading from Hurricane Isabel in 2003 set the record at 8.15 feet.
The next high tide there is at about 2 a.m. In Baltimore County’s Bowleys Quarters, another at-risk coastal area where floodwaters were expected to inundate yards and homes, the next high tide is at about 4 a.m.
In Annapolis, the water level was also about 4.6 feet above normal as of 9 p.m. It was expected to reach 5.3 feet above normal overnight, which would be the third-highest figure ever recorded there. The next high tide is at around 1 a.m.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gauge at Solomons Island in southern Maryland recorded its highest level ever Friday night, surpassing the mark set by Isabel nearly 20 years earlier.
Earlier Friday, the Maryland Department of Emergency Management elevated its “State Activation Level” to “partial,” acknowledging the weather event requires significant monitoring and resources. The agency said in a tweet that increasing the activation level means more Emergency Operation Center employees at the ready, as well as supporting organizations on standby.
At a political event Friday, Hogan, a Republican, said MEMA was in its second highest activation level “because we’re expecting more flooding, more heavy rains and winds, maybe some issues with the Bay Bridge later on this afternoon.” He added that the decision to activate National Guard members followed “a few requests from local jurisdictions for assistance. And we’ve got some pretty severe flooding in a couple of places, so we’re keeping an eye on that.”
Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Dorchester and Harford counties closed schools Friday in anticipation of the severe weather. Baltimore City Public Schools canceled all afternoon athletics and activities.
While heavy rain fell at various points Friday, the flooding is mainly the result of strong winds pushing bay waters up against the coastline, said NWS forecaster Michael Souza.
“There is a high-pressure system that is banked well to the north of New England and we have an approaching area of low pressure. And the result of the two is essentially causing this easterly flow,” Souza said. “It’s really just causing the water to pile up on the shoreline. And therefore, the water levels — when the tide runs out — can’t fully evacuate.”
No rain is expected Sunday, though winds gusting up to 20 mph could make for breezy Halloween trick-or-treating. A high of 65 is expect to drop into the upper 40s overnight.
The Baltimore City Department of Transportation and the Parking Authority of Baltimore City said in news releases Thursday that they made sandbags and garage parking available for city residents.
The agencies encouraged residents, especially those who live in neighborhoods closer to sea level like Harbor East, Fells Point, Canton and Cherry Hill, to drive their cars to higher ground.
The following garages will be open through 9 a.m. Sunday at no charge: the Fleet and Eden Garage at 501 S. Eden St., the Caroline Street Garage at 805 S. Caroline St. and the Little Italy Garage at 400 S. Central Ave.
Emergency management agencies around the state urged drivers to avoid flooded areas and implored them, if faced with an inundated street, to “turn around, don’t drown.”
Capital Gazette reporter Donovan Conaway contributed to this article.