St. Mary’s braces for Florence
Emergency services director tells county to ‘prepare for the worst, but hope for the best’
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.
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.
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.