Md. residents told to prepare for the worst as Irene approaches

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Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on Friday urged residents in coastal regions of the state to heed all safety warnings and prepare for the worst in advance of Hurricane Irene’s anticipated arrival Saturday

The storm is expected to hit the state late Saturday morning or afternoon and bring a 20- to 24-hour period of heavy rains and winds throughout Maryland. Irene is expected to most aggressively hit the state’s Lower Eastern Shore, where residents of the popular tourist town of Ocean City have already been ordered to evacuate by 5 p.m. Friday.

Wicomico County residents who live near rivers have also been ordered to evacuate. Irene could ravage the Lower Eastern Shore with Category 1 winds exceeding 75 mph and more than 15 inches or rain, according to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

Conditions in the region are expected to be most severe between 2 and 5 a.m. Sunday. The storm could also cause flooding along the Chesapeake Bay, said MEMA spokesman Ed McDonough. He said winds at the Bay Bridge — which connects the Eastern Shore to Annapolis — could reach 55 mph late Saturday afternoon, meaning officials may have to close the bridge at that time to Eastern Shore evacuees.

Mr. O'Malley implored the region’s residents to follow all evacuation orders and consider finding safer ground even if they haven’t been ordered to do so.

“It is the height of stupidity and the height of selfishness for any citizen to stay in Ocean City and put a burden on first responders,” the governor said during a Friday morning news conference at MEMA headquarters in Reisterstown.

Conditions likely won’t be as severe in the western portion of the state — including the Baltimore and D.C. areas — but Mr. McDonough warned that residents could see power outages, flooding and downed trees brought on by expected 30- to 40-miles-per-hour and as much as 5 inches of rain. He said downed trees are very likely, as recent rain has saturated the ground throughout much of the region.

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