Officials: Prepare now for hurricane
Storm could bring high winds, heavy rain
jbellmyer@ cecilwhig. com
— The Cecil County Department of Emergency Services and forecasters with the National Weather Service are urging county residents to make preparations now as Hurricane Matthew heads to the mid- Atlantic.
The large and powerful storm made landfall on Haiti Tuesday morning with winds near 150 mph and torrential rain. By Tuesday evening, it was expected to reach Cuba. Hurricane watches have been issued for Florida.
“Through Friday, the storm will still be to the south,” said Lance Franck, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Mt. Holly, N. J. “If it hits, it will be Saturday into Sunday. The time to prepare is now.”
Richard Brooks, CCDES director, said residents need to monitor the weather and watch the skies.
“And sign up for Regroup Mass Notification,” he said of the county’s recently launched emergency announcement system. “You’ll get timely information from DES as we put it out.”
Regroup is available as an email, message or text to a phone, computer or tablet. Sign up online at ccgov. org.
Brooks said residents need to take advantage of the advance knowledge of the storm.
“We’re four to five days out so people need to look at what their family can do now to prepare,” he said.
Franck suggested people review or devise their family emergency plan and gather essential supplies including ready- toeat foods, bottled water, flashlights with extra batteries, a battery- powered radio or television, any medical, infant or pet supplies needed and fill vehicle gas tanks.
“You should also review your homeowner’s insurance policy,” he suggested, especially for those in flood- prone areas.
Cecil County homes and businesses using natural gas should keep an eye on their meters and make sure the meters are clear of debris after the storm has passed. Duane Bourne, Elkton Gas spokesman, said that avoids damaging the lines with heavy equipment during cleanup. Natural gas- powered appliances can be left on during
the storm, Bourne said, because most have automatic shutoffs for safety.
Gas leaks should be reported immediately.
Likewise for customers of Delmarva Power, according to spokesman Nicholas Morici.
“We’re not hoping for power outages,” he said Tuesday. “We’re doing everything we can do to prevent them.”
That includes routine tree trimming and removal, about 1,600 miles each year, he said. Since Hurricane Isabel in 2003 when many in Cecil County were off the grid for a week or more, the utility company has been working to increase its reliability.
“We’re ready for Matthew,” Morici said, adding that since 2010 there has been a 44 percent decrease in the number of outages within their system and that response time to outages has improved 17 percent.
He reminded residents not to touch trees lying on wires and assume any wire is electrified.
With the merger of the utility with Exelon, Morici said that should there be a significant outage, Delmarva has more help available.
“We can go to PECO or Con- Ed or BGE for help. We can pull from their resources,” he said.
Franck said the track of Hurricane Matthew would determine how much of it will descend on Cecil County.
“We expect it to remain a powerful hurricane at least to the middle of the week,” he said Tuesday.
As of midday Tuesday, Matthew was still a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 145 mph.
“If it tracks further east, there’s the potential for heavy rain,” Franck said. “If it tracks west, that would be a direct impact with high winds and coastal flooding.”
He doesn’t expect Hurricane Matthew to come up the Chesapeake Bay.
“Historically speaking, it’s unlikely,” he said.
The National Weather Service’s storm tracker, as of midday Tuesday, places Hurricane Matthew along the Atlantic coast this weekend.