Storm Batters Ocean City

No Evacuation

November 13, 2009|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Michael.dresser@baltsun.com

Ocean City was pounded late Thursday by heavy rains and high winds from a severe nor'easter that was causing moderate to heavy flooding from rain and tides.

With a high-pressure system blocking its path to the north, the storm was lingering over the resort and dumping large amounts of rain. Chris Strong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., said the worst of the storm was expected to hit Thursday night and this morning, and then start easing later in the day.

"This thing should blow away entirely by the end of Saturday," he said.

The town's emergency response was complicated by its lack of access to the Route 90 bridge, one of only two that lead to the mainland. That bridge has been closed for emergency repairs, and the State Highway Administration said there was no way to reopen it during the storm.

Joseph Theobald, the town's emergency services director, said the roads leading to the U.S. 50 bridge remained open Thursday evening even though there was some standing water on the Philadelphia Avenue approach. He said that keeping that bridge open through the storm would be the town's biggest challenge.

Some other downtown streets were flooded at high tide late Thursday afternoon, and the parking lot at The Inlet was closed, Ocean City spokeswoman Donna Abbott said.

Theobald said the storm was not bad enough to contemplate evacuations. He said the Convention Center was prepared to shelter anyone who was forced to leave low-lying areas.

Town officials were expecting moderate beach erosion - a typical outcome of the nor'easters that often batter Ocean City during the colder months.

"This is not the worst Ocean City has seen, but it's going to be up there in the memory of the notable ones," Theobald said.

As of late Thursday, 30-mph winds were blowing at Ocean City Municipal Airport, with gusts up to 52 mph. More than 2 inches of rain had fallen since late Tuesday, and 2 inches to 5 more inches were expected by today.

The same storm system was causing problems over much of the Mid-Atlantic. Winds were gusting to 54 mph Thursday afternoon at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel near Norfolk. Tides in that area were running more than 4.5 feet above predictions.

Abbott said emergency crews were taking standard precautions, such as securing storm gates on the boardwalks and making sure loose objects were battened down. She said some of the town's holiday decorations, which had been put up for next weekend's Winterfest of Lights festival, "are getting battered up a little."

The storm struck at a time when Ocean City's population, which can reach 275,000 on a busy summer weekend, was reduced to a contingent that Abbott estimated at 10,000.

"It's a very small town," she said.

And it was a small town that was bearing up with stoicism.

"It's something we're used to," Theobald said. "Nor'easters are a fact of life."

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