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.

Baltimore County officials assess flood damage following Sunday’s storms

Weather AlertBaltimore County officials and fire crews are assessing damage from Sunday’s severe storms, which caused catastrophic flooding in some parts of the state. In Baltimore County, Catonsville and Dundalk were hardest hit.

Catonsville received more than 10 inches of rainfall – more than nearby Ellicott City in Howard County, which was devastated by flash floods for the second time in less than two years. Ellicott City sits at the bottom of a stream valley and next to the Patapsco River.

No one has been reported missing in Baltimore County, and no serious injuries have been reported.

Fire and rescue crews were fully deployed and worked non-stop from start of the severe storms, which began at about 2 p.m. on Sunday. As the situation worsened, mutual aid swiftwater units from Allegany and Harford counties were brought in to assist Baltimore County swiftwater rescue teams from the Texas Fire Station, Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company, and Arbutus Volunteer Fire Company.

Three people were rescued Sunday afternoon from a rock in the middle of the Gunpowder River.  Another man was rescued in the Seven Courts community and a portion of Belair Road was shut down as well.

Across Baltimore County and until late Sunday evening, crews were dispatched to dozens of calls for vehicles trapped in rising water, flooded basements, washed-out roads, and other flood-related issues.

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Officials strongly urge residents not to drive to disaster areas to inspect the damage. This creates a risk to bystanders and hampers rescue and other emergency response efforts.

On Monday morning, fire crews began assessments of storm damage throughout the county.

Baltimore County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management oversees storm recovery efforts, including advice and aid for residents affected by flooding. Information about federal aid for storm victims will be provided as it becomes available.

Post-flood safety is a serious concern at this time, said Division Chief Jay Ringgold, who oversees the Office of HSEM. Major concerns include:

  • Danger of electrocution from damaged electrical systems
  • Danger of electrocution from downed power lines
  • Health risks associated with  polluted floodwaters, including contaminated food
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning from damage to fuel-burning appliances
  • Risk of fire or explosion from dislodged or damaged propane tanks
  • Assorted chemical hazards
  • Attempting to drive on damaged or flooded roads

Residents are urged to remain vigilant as cleanup efforts continue.

The Public Works emergency number for roads, bridges and flooding is 410-887-5210.

Emergency preparedness courses to be offered in White Marsh this fall

EmergencyBaltimore County emergency preparedness experts want to help local residents develop disaster readiness skills.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors is a free, emergency preparedness course designed to help citizens get through the first 72 hours following a disaster. Two sessions of this course will be offered this fall.

September 8 – October 6
Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company
Every Thursday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
1609 Bellona Avenue
Lutherville, Maryland 21093
Maximum Participants: 25

October 13 – November 10
White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company
Every Thursday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
5419 Ebenezer Road
White Marsh, Maryland 21162
Maximum Participants: 25

Neighbors Helping Neighbors is free to attend, and interested parties can register online to take the course.

This program is designed and presented by the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The course covers natural disasters, fire safety, and crime prevention.

Participants learn hands-only CPR and basic first aid that can help in emergency situations before a medic arrives.

Glen Arm man arrested for attempting to solicit a minor

Arrested HandcuffsMaryland State Police investigators from the Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force have arrested a local man on sexual solicitation related felony charges.

The accused is identified as Alexander Christensen (pictured below), 24, of Glen Arm.  Three other men from Frederick, Columbia, and Annapolis were also arrested.

All four men have been charged with the sexual solicitation of a law enforcement officer posing as a minor. Upon conviction, they each face up to ten years imprisonment and up to $25,000 in fines.

On Tuesday, May 24, the Maryland State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force conducted a proactive operation involving the online sexual solicitation of minors. During the covert operation, Christensen communicated online with an undercover police officer posing as a minor. He allegedly made statements expressing a desire to meet the minor and engage in sexual activity.

Christensen traveled to an undisclosed location in Howard County for the encounter. At 8:30 p.m. that night, Christensen was placed under arrest and taken to the Howard County Detention Center.

Investigators from the Maryland State Police Computer Crimes Unit and state troopers from the Field Operations Bureau conducted the covert operations. Assistance was provided by the personnel from Homeland Security Investigations.

Alexander Christensen