Officials preparing for potential localized flooding from Hurricane Florence

Hurricane FlorenceAlthough the current projected track of Hurricane Florence would appear to take the storm south of the Baltimore area, County Executive Don Mohler and his top public safety and public health team gathered at Bowleys Quarters Volunteer Fire Rescue and Marine this morning to advise residents to stay alert to possible changes and prepare in case of localized coastal and inland flooding or power outages from downed trees.

The storm is expected to stall and produce heavy rains, which could lead to some inland and coastal flooding throughout the south and possibly in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“The Memorial Day weekend flooding in Catonsville, Ellicott City, Oella and Turner Station was an unwelcome reminder of our vulnerability, and that it doesn’t take a direct hit from a hurricane to ruin homes and businesses and cause prolonged power outages and possible loss of life,” Mohler said.

Mohler reminded residents to monitor Baltimore County’s social media channels for storm-related updates.

“Providing accurate, timely information to our citizens during an emergency is a top priority for us,” he said. “During storms and other emergencies, we push out frequent updates via Twitter and on our Baltimore County Fire Department Facebook page.”

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Baltimore County emergency managers will continue to receive regular updates throughout this weather event and will provide updates on social media as needed.

“Living in eastern Baltimore County and along the waterfront myself, I am particularly grateful to all of our career and volunteer fire service, police officers and public works staff who stand ready to jump into action if necessary to protect people if this storm should cause problems,” said Councilwoman Cathy Bevins.

Fire and Public Works Crews are Prepared and Ready to Respond

The Baltimore County Fire Department and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will continue to monitor the storm and will be prepared to respond if needed.

The Baltimore County Department of Public Works (DPW) has placed special emphasis this week on checking their equipment and clearing storm drain inlets to help reduce flooding potential. DPW warns that the saturated ground from recent rainy weather means that trees can be vulnerable to toppling from lighter winds than usual. County tree crews and contractors are ready to clear trees that may fall into roadways and the public right of way.

DPW asks residents to help by reporting any problems that may occur including blocked inlets and downed trees to the Bureau of Highways using the BaltCoGo mobile app. The app is offered free of charge to Android and iPhone users and may be downloaded from their respective app stores. Residents may also call the Bureau of Highways at 410-887-3560.

Emergency Management, MDOT prepare for Hurricane Florence

Hurricane FlorenceBaltimore County Emergency Management officials are preparing for Hurricane Florence to bring heavy rains and serious inland and/or coastal flooding to the Baltimore area.

The potential for flooding and for trees to topple and bring down power lines is greater because the ground is already saturated from months of above-average rainfall. Residents should prepare now to get along for seven days without power, said Baltimore County Fire Department Division Chief Jay Ringgold, who oversees the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“This is a serious, potentially catastrophic storm,” Ringgold said. “Don’t wait until the last minute to buy supplies and think about how you will get along if the worst happens and power goes out for an extended period. Take steps today to prepare.”

Latest from NWS

Local emergency management officials participated Tuesday morning in the National Weather Service’s telephone update on the Florence forecast.

Here is the latest from the NWS:

  • Forecasters are increasingly confident that Florence – now a Category 4 storm – will make landfall in the Carolinas, probably late Thursday. The storm is expected to be at least a Category 3 at landfall, with significant storm surge.
  • Forecasters are less certain where the storm will track and how fast it will move once it moves inland. As of Tuesday morning, forecasters expect the Baltimore area to feel the first effects from the storm late on Thursday. The NWS believes the storm will stall, dumping heavy rains. The storm’s wind speeds, once it moves inland, are difficult to predict.  The amount of wind depends on where and how quickly (or slowly) it moves.
  • Because the storm is expected to stall and produce heavy rains, inland and coastal flooding are major threats throughout the south and the Mid-Atlantic. In some areas, flooding could be historic and catastrophic.
  • The emergency situation from Hurricane Florence is exacerbated because the ground is already saturated. Trees are expected to fall, especially in areas that experience heavy wind, causing power outages and posing at threat to life and property.

Baltimore County emergency managers will continue to receive regular updates throughout this weather event.

How to Prepare

Officials say every household should prepare for this weather emergency as soon as possible.

“The exact track of a hurricane is difficult to predict the exact track of a hurricane, and we could very well find ourselves affected by dangerous flooding and strong winds later this week,” said County Executive Don Mohler. “It is imperative for each of us to think ahead and prepare to provide for the needs of our loved ones, especially the elderly, children and pets.”

Residents should consider how they will manage if the power goes out for an extended period.

Steps to take now:

  • Locate and purchase supplies. Residents need non-perishable food, a manual can opener, medications, supplies for infants and vulnerable adults, pet supplies, flashlights/batteries and a battery-powered radio.
  • Buy or store extra water – at least a gallon per person, per day, plus extra for pets.
  • Fully charge all of your electronic devices. If power goes out, use them sparingly to make them last as long as possible.
  • Get cash. ATMs will not work during a power outage, so visit one now.
  • Secure boats and outdoor furniture.
  • Plan where you will evacuate if you live in a flood-prone area and need to move to higher ground.
  • Assist vulnerable family, neighbors with storm preparations. This is critical; many vulnerable people, including older people cannot prepare by themselves.

The Baltimore County Fire Department and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management have been monitoring this storm for days and preparing for a “worst-case scenario” response. These preparations include:

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  • Inspecting swift-water and high-water rescue equipment; pumps and other apparatus.
  • Reviewing staffing and operational plans.
  • Preparing  to open and staff the Emergency Operations Center, in case this becomes an emergency requiring a coordinated, multi-agency response.
  • Contacting our mutual aid partners in case we need additional resources.
  • Regular updates with National Weather Service regarding the forecast.

Maryland Department of Transportation

As Hurricane Florence moves closer to the east coast, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) is deploying maintenance forces throughout the state to begin preparations for the storm and its impacts. MDOT SHA crews will inspect, clean and clear storm water ditches, drains and inlets to ensure adequate drainage.

Crews from MDOT SHA maintenance facilities are also evaluating all emergency response equipment such as high water signs, chain saws, chippers, loaders and grading trucks. Additionally, crews are ensuring that all generators are fully topped off and functional in case of power outages. Generators will keep maintenance shop operational, especially the fuel pumps, to keep crews in continual response mode.

Motorists are encouraged to monitor the weather conditions, and if possible, avoid driving in any hazardous conditions.

“This is a major storm system, and it will likely cause significant damage and disruption to the state highway system,” said MDOT SHA Administrator Gregory Slater. “Maryland has received above-normal rainfall throughout summer and the ground is saturated so additional rain is likely to run-off rapidly.”

Motorists are reminded to “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” A majority of flood-related deaths occur in vehicles. Two feet of rapidly moving water can float a bus and six inches is capable of knocking a person off their feet. Other advice includes:

• Avoid downed or damaged power and transmission lines as these could still be live;
• Be cognizant of fallen trees or tree limbs; and
• Remain alert for wild animals, such as deer, that may flee dangerous areas and cross roadways.

In additional to high-water, the approaching storm could result in scattered power outages. MDOT SHA reminds motorists that if you encounter an intersection where traffic signals are without power, treat all directions of the intersection as a four-way stop.

SHA also advises motorists to stay aware of the forecast and, should heavy rain and high wind begin to affect the area, curtail travel as much as possible.

Governor Hogan declares State of Emergency for Hurricane Florence

State of Emergency Maryland FlorenceGovernor Larry Hogan has signed an Executive declaring a state of emergency for the state of Maryland beginning Monday, September 10, 2018 ahead of the landfall of Hurricane Florence.

The executive order will allow state officials to more efficiently coordinate support and provide assistance to local jurisdictions within Maryland and neighboring states.

“At this time, there is still some uncertainty about the track of this storm and its potential impact, but we are preparing for any possible outcome, including the potential for historic and catastrophic rainfall, life-threatening flooding, and high winds,” said Governor Hogan. “Our state is taking every precaution, and I urge Marylanders to do the same. Stay tuned to your local news stations for the latest updates, listen to state and local authorities, and most importantly, use common sense.”

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Weather forecasters have indicated that there is the potential for life-threatening conditions, including catastrophic flooding as well as high winds and dangerous conditions in our waterways. Current forecasts indicate that torrential rains, tropical storm force winds, and tidal flooding/storm surge could affect Maryland as early as Thursday.

The state’s Emergency Operations Center Response Level has been elevated and center is fully staffed with emergency management personnel and state agency coordinating function representatives.

The state of emergency allows the governor to access critical resources in order to increase the state’s response, like the Maryland National Guard. It also allows Maryland to receive assistance from other states as part of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. This compact serves as the cornerstone of the nation’s mutual aid system and offers assistance and aid during states of emergency through member states.

“A state of emergency is a good indicator that residents should remain alert and follow officials’ orders, news stations, and weather forecasts in order to be informed of the situation,” said MEMA’s Executive Director, Russell Strickland. “We encourage all residents and visitors to our State to visit www.KnowYourZoneMD.com to see if they are inside, or, if they are traveling to, a hurricane evacuation zone,” he added.

Hurricane Florence projected path could bring storm surge to Maryland

Hurricane FlorenceMarylanders were already beginning to prepare on Monday as Hurricane Florence rapidly strengthened to a strong, category 4 storm.

Forecasters say the powerful hurricane will likely make a direct hit on the East Coast.

As of Monday morning, forecasters were predicting that Hurricane Florence would make landfall in North Carolina by Thursday.

The storm could then “stall out” which could mean catastrophic flooding for North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, while a dangerous storm surge could affect Maryland by the weekend.

Parts of the East Coast may experience flooding of “biblical proportions,” according to CBN News.

“We continue to monitor this storm as it moves toward the coast,” said Governor Larry Hogan on Monday. “Please, take this time to prepare yourself, your family, and your home.”

Residents are encouraged to monitor the Baltimore County Stormfighter website for real-time updates as the hurricane approaches the coast.

Citizens can also download the official Baltimore County mobile app for both iPhone and Android to stay informed.

Residents should also be familiar with their designated evacuation zones and download the MDMEMA hurricane evacuation guide.

Stay up-to-date on the latest Hurricane Florence data from the National Weather Service here.

Hurricane Florence Projected Path 2018

Hurricane Florence Projected Path 2018a

Hurricane Preparedness

Governor Hogan announces statewide flood response efforts

State of MarylandANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan has directed Maryland state agencies to coordinate and work together to keep Marylanders safe and informed following Sunday’s severe weather, which included extensive and persistent rain, major flooding, and power outages in multiple locations throughout the state. Ellicott City in Howard County was particularly devastated by this weather event, which also included significant flooding in Baltimore County, Baltimore City, and Annapolis.

Governor Hogan declared a statewide State of Emergency on Sunday, May 27, which enables the state to efficiently coordinate support and provide additional assistance to all local jurisdictions experiencing flooding conditions. The governor is urging Marylanders to avoid the Ellicott City area while crews perform rescue operations and work to assess the damage left by the floods to begin the recovery process.

“We are heartbroken to see the devastation that occurred yesterday in Ellicott City, and the serious flooding in multiple jurisdictions across our state” said Governor Hogan. “State agencies have been working around the clock to coordinate resources, begin assessing damages, and clean up debris, mud, and damaged infrastructure.”

“If you want to help, my message is very clear: put your safety first, stay out of flooded areas, heed all warnings, and call 911 in the event of an emergency. The state stands with all impacted areas and will provide all possible resources in support of recovery efforts.”

The following actions and operations are being undertaken by state agencies to respond to the storm and assist those affected by the flooding and severe weather conditions:

Maryland Emergency Management Agency

  • On Sunday, MEMA elevated the State Response Activation Level to help efficiently coordinate assistance and support for local emergency management offices.
  • MEMA is supporting Howard County and other jurisdictions’ requests for assistance and fulfilling needs as requests come in.
  • MEMA is coordinating with neighboring states for support and has collaborated with parts of Maryland and Virginia to organize an Incident Management Team to support operations in Howard County.
  • MEMA is facilitating conference calls with state agencies and local partners to maintain situational awareness and coordination.
  • MEMA Executive Director Russ Strickland is in Ellicott City today working with Howard County Office of Emergency Management.

Maryland State Police

  • Superintendent Colonel William Pallozzi immediately contacted Howard County Police Chief Gary Gardner and offered assistance.
  • A Maryland State Police Mobile Field Force was activated bringing more than two dozen state troopers to work perimeter security around Ellicott City, including members of the State Police Motorcycle Unit who are patrolling on all-terrain vehicles.
  • Troopers from the Special Operations Division are staffing the Howard County Emergency Operations Center as well as the State Emergency Operations Center in order to ensure any requests for State Police assistance are addressed immediately.
  • Maryland State Police Aviation Command crews are on standby to assist with any requested aerial support.
  • During the storm, troopers responded to areas of high water, including the outer loop of I-695 between I-70 and Washington Blvd., where three feet of water required the highway to be temporarily closed.

Maryland Department of Transportation

  • Six state roads remained closed this morning, including four from yesterday’s storms and two from earlier storms. Several other roads were closed on Sunday evening.
  • State Highway Administration (SHA) CHART crews were deployed across every district last evening through this morning, with at least two crews on patrol in all seven districts.  Three CHART units were dedicated to Ellicott City area to manage closures and response.
  • The Office of Materials Technology arrived in Ellicott City this morning to begin evaluating pavement repairs required on MD144.
  • USDOT’s Federal Highway Administration has reached out to MDOT SHA to discuss the possibility of applying for Emergency Relief Funding.  MDOT SHA’s Office of Maintenance will continue discussions with Federal Highway Administration and Howard County.
  • The Motor Vehicle Administration is prepared to work with law enforcement and local authorities to identify vehicles impacted by the flood and ensure they are processed appropriately. MDOT MVA requests that anyone who needs to obtain a lost driver’s license or identification card should contact our call center at 410-768-7000.

Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulations

  • The Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning will provide job search services at the Columbia Workforce Center on a daily basis to assist all dislocated employees in connecting to employment opportunities. We will reach out to the local workforce director and will work alongside the local American Job Center to get job services to those affected by the flood in an expedited manner.
  • The Columbia Workforce Center has staff and computers available to assist individuals with applying for unemployment. The Center is also prepared to provide any re-employment services needed to the residents of Howard County. The Columbia Workforce Center is located at 7161 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia MD 21046 and can be reached by phone at 410-290-2600.
  • The Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Unemployment Insurance is prepared to assist individuals who are unemployed as a result of the disaster in Ellicott City.
    • Claims for unemployment insurance benefits can be filed over the phone or online. Claim Centers take claims by telephone only every Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    • Individuals may file a claim by phone by calling 410-853-1600 or 1-877-293-4125 (toll free in MD only). Individuals may file a claim by online by visiting www.mdunemployment.com and clicking on “Apply for Unemployment Benefits.”
    • Claimant Information Service is available to answer questions about unemployment insurance benefits at 410-949-0022. Callers from Maryland but outside of the Baltimore area can call 1-800-827-4839.
  • The Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing will provide: Expedited printing or proof of licensing if licenses are damaged or inaccessible; Pamphlets that explain the importance of hiring licensed individuals to perform home repairs and electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work; and Representative(s) to explain or answer questions as needed.
  • The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) unit can assign personnel to the disaster site for consultation assistance. We can also offer a supply of safety glasses and personal protective equipment including vests, gloves, and hard hats. The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health’s (MOSH) emergency phone number to report a workplace accident or fatality is 1-888-257-6674.
  • The Safety Inspection Unit can provide final inspections of affected equipment such as elevators, boiler and pressure vessels and the railroad line. To reach the Safety Inspections Unit immediately, please call the emergency phone number at 410-767-2990 or e-mail: dldlisafetyinspection-dllr@maryland.gov.

Department of Housing and Community Development

  • The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is deferring payments due on current loans for Ellicott City businesses that participated in the 2016 Maryland Business Recovery Loan Program and have been affected by the May 27, 2018, flooding.
  • DHCD is activating emergency lending and grant programs to support businesses, individuals and families who require rental assistance, and homeowners and landlords that need help with repairs.

Maryland Energy Administration

  • Maryland Energy Administration and the Maryland Public Service Commission continue to monitor, support, and coordinate with the Maryland utilities on their storm mobilization, restoration and public safety efforts.

Maryland Department of Health

  • The agency stands ready to support sheltering operations as requested, support requests for additional sanitarian staff for food service facilities, and support recovery operations and mental health needs as requested.
  • The Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services, Dr. Howard Haft, met with the Howard County Health Officer Sunday evening.

Maryland Department of Disabilities

  • The Department will continue to provide the following programs, services, and constituent support: an inventory of assistive technology available for temporary loan, 11 portable ramps of varying lengths available for temporary loan and access to other ramps around the state, and durable medical equipment for loan through our partners.
  • The Department coordinates reimbursement programs for personal care attendants for those previously approved and qualified for this program, coordinates affordable housing programs for people with disabilities, provides referrals and coordination for cases involving families and individuals with disabilities and may expedite certain loans for assistive technology.
  • The Department continues to provide subject matter expertise and information accessibility support to local jurisdictions and state agencies, along with document remediation, website testing, and rendering social media messages for universal access for agencies supporting the response and recovery.

Maryland Insurance Administration

  • The Administration is available to assist consumers with any insurance issues or questions. Consumers may call (800) 492-6116 for assistance.  Information on the claims process is also available on our website www.insurance.maryland.gov and on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/MDInsuranceAdmin.

Maryland Department of Commerce

  • Commerce immediately reached out to the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) to offer assistance and was advised that HCEDA has a team in place, ready to respond once emergency personnel have completed their work.
  • Funding previously provided by Commerce to the Department of Housing and Community Development, through the Small, Minority and Woman-Owned Business Program (VLT program) may also be available to assist businesses in recovering from the flood. 

Maryland Department of Information Technology

  • The Maryland.Gov state portal was updated on Sunday with information from the Governor’s Office regarding the State of Emergency declaration.

Department of Natural Resources

  • The Natural Resources Police has officers stationed at the Ellicott City command post and in the field working in tandem with the Maryland State Police. All-terrain vehicles and boats are on scene and being deployed as needed.
  • The Maryland Park Service advises that the Avalon Area (including Avalon, Glen Artney and Orange Grove) of Patapsco Valley State Park (South Street/Route 1 in Elkridge extending to Ilchester Road south of Ellicott City) will be closed Memorial Day, and is expected to remain closed over the next several weeks. Bikers, hikers and other patrons are asked to access other park areas. The ongoing construction project to remove the Bloede Dam will take about two weeks to recover. The Patapsco Valley State Park site lost two bridges and a couple pieces of equipment, but there appears to be no damage to the new work.
  • The Wildlife and Heritage Service is offering tracked utility task vehicles and personnel for assistance in and around Ellicott City; they are also monitoring potential impacts to land and wildlife management areas.
  • The Chesapeake and Coastal Service will offer assistance to the county, state and city during the recovery stage to incorporate adaption and resiliency strategies to mitigate against future floodingimpacts to the community and infrastructure.
  • The Maryland Forest Service advises those affected by the recent weather event to hire only Maryland Licensed Tree Experts to trim branches and remove damaged and downed trees. Only licensed tree care professionals can lawfully perform this work in Maryland. Click here to find a licensed expert in your area.
  • The Resource Assessment Service is collecting post-storm water quality samples today at four sites: Gunpowder River, Patuxent River, Little Patuxent River and Manokin Branch.

Department of General Services

  • DGS maintains an emergency resource list of 100+ vendors that are ready to serve during a state of emergency.
  • DGS can coordinate with our fellow state agencies to provide access to any vehicles in our DGS fleet or in other state agency fleets, including any trucks or four wheel drive vehicles, for usage by local or state agencies whose fleet may have been negatively affected by this flooding emergency.
  • DGS, as the agency of record for the Federal Surplus Property Program, DGS can work with our federal partners, including FEMA and GSA, to secure a variety of surplus items.
  • DGS can work with our fuel supply contractor Mansfield Oil and with our state fueling sites to coordinate the delivery of additional fuel to emergency assistance vehicles if such assistance is needed.
  • DGS has a designated MEMA resource team procurement officer ready and willing to report on site to assist in utilizing the emergency resource list, as well as an offsite procurement officer available to provide additional emergency support.
  • Ellicott City Multi-Service Center will be open for regular business on Tuesday, May 29th.

Department of Agriculture

  • If anyone is concerned about livestock affected by the flood, they should call MDA’s animal health office, 410-841-5810.

Department of Human Services

  • The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) provided a representative to the State Emergency Operations Center and will continue to provide representation over the next 24-48 hours.
  • As with any emergency, DHS’s Howard County Department of Social Services is ready to assist with emergency economic benefits such as food (as approved by the state and federal offices) and counseling services.
  • DHS’s Howard County Department of Social Services will assist as navigators of local and state resources for those who are displaced or in eminent need of both economic and non-economic resources.
  • DHS is prepared to provide staffing or resource support for sheltering as requested by the local jurisdiction.
  • DHS continues to support all statewide communication efforts, relaying information regarding resources and support to any Marylander or visitor impacted by the devastating floods.