Cecil County Hunkers Down as Sandy Looms; Governor says “People Will Die” in Storm
(UPDATE 11:55 a.m. Monday)– Cecil County residents hunkered down Monday as the massive, hybrid storm known as Sandy began its assault on Maryland, and Gov. Martin O’Malley bluntly warned, “People will die in this storm.”
Cecil County government shut down all but emergency services operations and the county landfills were closed to customers, according to the county website. County public schools and administrative offices were closed Monday and a shutdown for Tuesday was announced.
A “code red” robocall from the county’s Department of Emergency Services on Sunday advised that the storm would be “a long lasting event” and urged citizens to evacuate low-lying areas. The county established an emergency shelter at Rising Sun High School as of 6 p.m. Sunday, but emergency officials declared it should only be used as “a last resort for people to relocate.”
And Gov. Malley cancelled early voting for the 2012 general election on Monday, after two days of higher than usual early voting turnout on Saturday and Sunday. (Voting was scheduled to run through Thursday, 11/1/12, but in an executive order, the governor said that there could be a “potential extension” of the timeframe beyond Thursday.) The state elections board reported 1,333 votes were cast on Saturday and 770 on Sunday in Cecil County, constituting 3.37 percent of the county’s 62,524 eligible voters.
Appearing Monday morning on WJZ (channel 13) television, the governor said that “We’re right on the front lines of this,” warning that the storm had intensified and Maryland was “right in the crosshairs of this big, nasty, monster” storm. He said that instead of water being drawn out of the Chesapeake Bay, it now appeared that shifting winds would move water into the Bay, causing severe tidal flooding.
“People will die in this storm,” he said. The storm, which is also expected to bring possible blizzard conditions to Western Maryland, is likely to bring a “weather disaster” and “the likes of which we have not seen for 30 years.”
O’Malley said he had arranged with federal emergency authorities for deployment of several out-of-state swift water rescue teams, including some sent to the Eastern Shore and one assigned to the Upper Bay. He said he feared the Susquehanna basin could experience severe flooding—which would significantly affect Cecil and Harford counties.
[UPDATE: In a live 10.15 a.m. press conference from the state’s emergency operations center, Gov. O’Malley defended his earlier comment that “people will die,” saying his blunt warning was intended to convey the severity of the storm and the need for people to behave “responsibly.”
[“The intensity of this storm is such that there will undoubtedly be some deaths,” the governor said. “The more responsibly people respond the fewer people will die.”
[And, in a particularly important concern to Cecil County residents, O’Malley said that the storm and its lingering rainfall will place “tremendous stress on the Conowingo Dam.” He said the back-up of sediment behind the dam will cause environmentally-damaging flows into the Bay, spreading “deadly dust” than can kill the fragile aquatic life of the Upper Bay.]
In southern Cecil County, the Chesapeake Bay near the Turkey Point lighthouse had some low-rising whitecaps and strong winds with steady, heavy rains but conditions at 11:55 a.m. were nowhere near as serious as the sudden ‘derecho’ storm that pummeled the area earlier this fall.
There were no power outages in Cecil County as of 8 AM Monday, according to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. Area utilities—Delmarva Power and the Choptank Rural Electric Co-operative—had sufficient advance warning to mobilize emergency workers including out-of-state crews to be in place to repair what is expected to be significant power outages as the storm intensifies.
Robocalls from Choptank advisted its customers, mostly in rural areas of southern Cecil County, to expect outages and prepare in advance for loss of services. Choptank provides an automated outage reporting system and urges customers to call (800) 410-4790 to advise the utility of local power outages. As of 8:45 AM Monday, there were several small, localized outages in Choptank service areas in Talbot and Caroline counties and two local outages in Worcester County near Berlin and Snow Hill.
[Cecil County residents seeking storm information may contact the county’s emergency operations center at 410-392-2017 or 392-2018 for non-critical matters. Emergency calls for assistance should use the 911 system.]