O'Malley: 'No complaints' about federal response to Irene

August 26, 2011|By Annie Linskey | Baltimore Sun reporter

Gov. Martin O'Malley spoke with President Barack Obama and other governors this morning about the federal response to Hurricane Irene, the mammoth storm churning toward Maryland.

O'Malley described the president and his team as "very pro-active" and said the president was "letting us know that we are all in this together."

The president reached out to "hear directly from the governors if there were any problems," O'Malley said. "He wanted to hear ahead of the storm and not after if somebody wasn't getting what they need."

O'Malley said he has "no complaints" about the federal cooperation so far.

The storm is expected to hit Maryland early Sunday morning and one path shows the eye could travel directly over Annapolis. O"Malley briefed reporters from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Reisterstown this morning, where he plans to spend much of the day. He is expected to give another briefing at 2:30 p.m.

The governor warned of mass power outages, downed trees and flooding and suggested that Marylanders stock up on enough essentials to last 72 hours. Depending on the extent of damage, the storm could be the first test of a new "duel status" command structure between state and federal authorities that was finalized this summer at the National Governors Association meeting in Utah, O'Malley said.

Under the new rules a state national guard commanders can lead federal troops. "It took a lot of hashing out," O'Malley said. The rules were put in place to avoid some of the confusion between state and federal official that contributed to the inadequate response in to Hurricane Katrina.

O'Malley also provided an update on the Ocean City evacuation, saying it is going "fairly smoothly." The governor predicted that most people would be out of the city by today's 5 p.m. deadline.

"It is becoming a bit of ghost town," O'Malley said. He's ordered 50 state troopers to help local police enforce the mandatory evacuation order that was issued yesterday. This is the first time in two decades that the city residents have been ordered to leave.

The governor had stern words for anyone who might challenge authorities, saying it is the "height of stupidity and selfishness" to "burden" first responders by ignoring the order.

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