The National Weather Service’s 2 p.m. update shows Hurricane Sandy producing tropical storm-force winds in the Atlantic as it nears Carolinas. The storm is still about 300 miles off the coast of Charleston, S.C., with tropical storm conditions expected to reach the Carolinas this afternoon.
The system is forecasted to move parallel with the U.S. coast through the weekend. A storm surge between four and eight feet is possible from Ocean City to the Connecticut border with Rhode Island. Surges for the upper Chesapeake Bay are forecast for one to two feet and two to four feet for the Delmarva peninsula, including the lower Chesapeake. The extent of flooding will depend on when the surge strikes.
The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for central and eastern parts of Maryland, with Sandy expected to make landfall somewhere between the Delmarva peninsula and northern New Jersey. That could bring 3-5 inches of rain to the Interstate 95 corridor in Maryland, according to the weather service.
On Saturday afternoon, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declared a State of Emergency for Baltimore. The formal step will allow for federal reimbursements for potential storm damage. The city is coordinating response efforts, including ensuring that emergency vehicles are fueled and road ready and staffing plans are set for first responders. Gov. Martin O'Malley made a similar statewide declaration Friday.
The mayor will active the Emergency Operations Center at 7 a.m. Sunday.
The city’s three sandbag locations will remain open to residents until 9 p.m. The locations are Rash Field, the Broadway Pier in Fells Point and the parking lot at 401 Thames Street.
Steve Zubrick, science and operations officer and meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the storm is approximately 300 miles off the coast of Charleston, S.C., causing rain along the coastal southeast and as far north as Cape Hatteras, N.C.
Baltimore should see heavy rain and winds from the storm late Sunday or early Monday, Zubrick said. By late Monday night, the storm would be traveling over Ocean City, if it follows its current track.
The projected track from the National Hurricane Center has been moving throughout the day, but has shifted back toward Maryland. Earlier in the day, it had appeared to be heading slightly north in the direction of the Delaware Bay. The storm is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm again but regain hurricane strength early Monday before making landfall.
Forecasters urge East Coast residents not to take the storm lightly. Tropical storm force winds of at least 39 mph extend 450 miles from the center of the storm, meaning Maryland could be subject to heavy winds for two days or more starting late Sunday.
Hurricanes and tropical storms are rare for Maryland in October, Zubrick said. Across the Baltimore region, residents are preparing for the unusual encounter.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. officials warned residents to prepare for extended power outages, and generators have been quickly disappearing from hardware store shelves.
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