St. Mary’s braces for Florence

Emer­gency ser­vices direc­tor tells county to ‘pre­pare for the worst, but hope for the best’

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JACQUI ATKIELSKI jatkiel­ski@somd­news.com

St. Mary’s res­i­dents are be­ing urged to take pre­cau­tions for po­ten­tial flood­ing and other in­clement weather caused by Hur­ri­cane Florence, fore­cast to hit the North Carolina coast as soon as to­mor­row as a Cat­e­gory 4 storm.

Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) on Mon­day de­clared a state of emer­gency in Mary­land, di­rect­ing state agen­cies to pro­vide any sup­port need- ed to lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions and Mary­land res­i­dents who may be po­ten­tially af­fected by the strong hur­ri­cane.

Steve Walker, St. Mary’s direc­tor of emer­gency ser­vices, said Mon­day that peo­ple should “pre­pare for the worst, but hope for the best.”

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice fore­casts rain daily this week in South­ern Mary­land, with “trop­i­cal storm con­di­tions pos­si­ble” start­ing as soon as Thurs­day night. Hurri- cane Florence is ex­pected to make land­fall on the Caroli­nas on Thurs­day. Heavy rain is pre­dicted for the South­ern Mary­land re­gion late Satur­day into Sun­day, de­pend­ing on the storm’s speed and path.

Along with collecting bot­tled wa­ter, non­per­ish­able food, new bat­ter­ies and flash­lights, Walker asked that peo­ple make plans

re­gard­ing their med­i­cal needs and their pets.

“Don’t take this [weather] lightly,” he warned, adding that peo­ple should “do what you have to do to sur­vive. Hope­fully this will be all for noth­ing.”

Ernest Rogers of Hol­ly­wood said Tues­day he lives near the wa­ter and was at the St. An­drews Con­ve­nience Cen­ter to fill bags with sand to help with po­ten­tial flood­ing. He said he planned to layer the sand­bags near doors be­tween two sheets of plas­tic, “clean the gut­ters and make sure the gen­er­a­tor is full.”

Anita Laird of Leonard­town, who was also fill­ing sand­bags Tues­day morn­ing, said her home sits on a hill but her garage doesn’t. She said she wanted to make sure it didn’t flood over the week­end.

Walker said peo­ple liv­ing in coastal ar­eas and low-ly­ing ar­eas that typ­i­cally flood should ex­pect flood­ing by this week­end as the storm moves through the re­gion.

Walker said peo­ple also shouldn’t “take the risk” of driv­ing in po­ten­tially flooded ar­eas. He said “the road may not be there” due to wa­ter wash­ing it away.

He said county staff are co­or­di­nat­ing with lo­cal vol­un­teer fire and res­cue ser­vices to re­spond to any flood­ing or other in­ci­dents caused by the storm.

If nec­es­sary, school build­ings will be used a shel­ters, Walker said, adding that the county li­braries or “any large safe spa­ces” will also be con­sid­ered as shel­ter sites. Also, the county will use Com­mer­cial Build­ing #2 at the county fair­grounds to shel­ter an­i­mals, if nec­es­sary.

Jeff Thomp­son, pub­lic schools’ direc­tor of trans­porta­tion, said about 20 stu­dents liv­ing on St. Ge­orge Is­land have to meet their school buses at the Piney Point boat launch ramp near the is­land’s bridge. This was due to high tides from an­other storm sys­tem that dumped rain over the re­gion this week­end. The is­land had been un­der a coastal flood warn­ing.

Wa­ter from the Po­tomac River lapped Mon­day at the road­ways close to the St. Ge­orge bridge. If there is a coastal flood warn­ing, Thomp­son said it’s typ­i­cal for stu­dents “to meet us at the boat ramp” for bus pickup and dropoff.

He said this will con­tinue as long as there is a coastal flood warn­ing for the area. Bus routes may be mod­i­fied through­out the county due to flooded roads, he said.

Par­ents can call their child’s school, the trans­porta­tion depart­ment or check the St. Mary’s pub­lic schools’ bus Twit­ter ac­count for up­dated in­for­ma­tion.

Jeff Walker, pub­lic schools’ as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of sup­port­ing ser­vices, said Mon­day that school staff were pre­par­ing schools by fil­ing gen­er­a­tor gas tanks and clear­ing roof drains.

What to do to pre­pare

Tom Den­ni­son, a spokesper­son with South­ern Mary­land Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive, said in a re­lease that staff are pre­par­ing to re­spond to out­ages that may re­sult from fall­ing trees and flood­ing.

“With the ground al­ready sat­u­rated from re­cent rain­fall, the like­li­hood that trees will fall on power lines is in­creased,” Den­ni­son said, adding that the co­op­er­a­tive wants cus­tomers to re­port any out­ages that oc­cur this week.

If some­one de­pends on elec­tric­ity to op­er­ate life sup­port sys­tems, SMECO rep­re­sen­ta­tives ask that peo­ple “make plans for al­ter­nate sources of power or al­ter­nate lodg­ing,” the re­lease states.

Peo­ple should op­er­ate por­ta­ble gen­er­a­tors out­side and not in an at­tic, due to the po­ten­tial for car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing, the re­lease states.

“If you plan to use a char­coal or gas grill for cook­ing, keep the grill out­doors,” the re­lease states.

Items like flash­lights and new bat­ter­ies should be kept on hand, as “lanterns and can­dles are not rec­om­mended be­cause they can cause fires,” the re­lease states.

When stock­ing food and wa­ter, SMECO rep­re­sen­ta­tives ask that peo­ple stock non­per­ish­able items that re­quire no cook­ing and to keep a man­ual can opener on hand.

“The ideal choices are foods [like] fruit, canned tuna, peanut but­ter, crack­ers, ce­re­als, ce­real bars, canned soup and bread,” the re­lease states. Food kept in a re­frig­er­a­tor or freezer is not rec­om­mended be­cause it could spoil dur­ing an out­age. Peo­ple should limit ac­cess to their freezer or re­frig­er­a­tor to main­tain the fresh­ness of food.

If a res­i­dent’s wa­ter at home is sup­plied by a well, SMECO rec­om­mended that ex­tra wa­ter should be sto­ried “in clean jugs, bath­tubs or laun­dry tubs.”

The St. Mary’s County Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works and Trans­porta­tion said in a re­lease that res­i­dents can stop by the six county con­ve­nience cen­ters to fill sand­bags in prepa­ra­tion for pos­si­ble flood­ing con­di­tions due to the hur­ri­cane. Sand­bags are not pre­filled and each in­di­vid­ual will be lim­ited to be­tween 10 and 25 sand­bags while sup­plies last.

Sand­bags pro­vide lim­ited pro­tec­tion and are in­tended to re­di­rect small storm wa­ter and de­bris flows away from struc­tures. When sand­bags are not avail­able, res­i­dents can use soil to fill con­tain­ers like small plas­tic gro­cery bags and pil­low cases, the re­lease states.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gists with the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice ex­pect rough seas ahead of Florence, as large swells will spread out­ward hun­dreds of miles away from the cen­ter of the storm this week.

For more in­for­ma­tion, see pre­pare.stmarysmd.com.

NA­TIONAL HUR­RI­CANE CEN­TER GRAPHIC

Here is a Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter graphic show­ing the prob­a­ble path of Hur­ri­cane Florence. The Cat­e­gory 4 storm is in the At­lantic, but is ex­pected to make land­fall in the Caroli­nas some­time Thurs­day. In­clement weather is ex­pected in ar­eas out­side the path of the storm.

STAFF PHOTO BY JACQUI ATKIELSKI

At least 20 peo­ple were at the St. An­drews Con­ve­nience Cen­ter Tues­day morn­ing to fill bags with sand to pre­pare for po­ten­tial flood­ing caused by Hur­ri­cane Florence.

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