Projected path of Hurricane Sandy as of Saturday afternoon. (Courtesy of the National…)
Harford County continued to brace for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy on Saturday – and for the prospect once severe damage locally from the storm once it arrives in the area as anticipated.
Harford County remains under a State of Emergency, put into effect Friday afternoon by County Executive David Craig. A state of emergency was declared throughout Maryland by Gov. Martin O'Malley, also on Friday.
The Harford County Division of Emergency Operations also partially activated Friday in preparation for the arrival of Sandy, which is expected reach the area in some form between late Sunday or early Monday, according to forecasts and weather modeling as of Saturday afternoon.
All departments and agencies of Harford County government have been involved in briefings and planning for the impending storm, the county said in a news release issued late Saturday afternoon.
The Department of Public Works Division of Highways began preparations on Thursday. Harford County volunteer fire and emergency medical personnel, as well as local, county and state law enforcement officials have also initiated preparations for Hurricane Sandy, the county said.
Among the specialized units preparing for the storm are the Technical Rescue Team, the Swift Water Rescue Team and the Hazardous Materials Response Team.
Using its Twitter feed Saturday afternoon, the Harford County Fire and EMS Association advised residents that local fire companies would not be pumping basements out during or after the storm.
"We hope everyone has been heeding the warnings issued on Sandy and taking appropriate actions," the fire and EMS association public information officers tweeted about 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
The two electric companies serving Harford, BGE and Delmarva, say they have emergency personnel on standby in anticipation there will be widespread power outages form the storm.
Bearing down on U.S.
Sandy closed in on the United States on Saturday morning, threatening the eastern third of the country with heavy rains, high winds, major flooding and power outages.
Though meteorologists still differ on when and where the storm will hit the Northeast, most agree it will bring destructive rains and winds, possibly compounded by the tidal stage of the moon, which will be at its fullest on Monday.
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.
The Baltimore metro area should see heavy rain and winds from the storm late Sunday or early Monday, a NWS official in Hatteras, N.C., told the Baltimore Sun Weather Blog Saturday afternoon. 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, according to the weather blog.
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.
Flurry of activity in Bel Air Friday
Aside from the low, dark gray clouds that seemed to be locked into sky since the early Thursday, downtown Bel Air looked like it does on any typical Friday afternoon, as Harford County and the rest of the Baltimore metro region awaited the approach of Hurricane Sandy from the south.
There were a few noticeable differences, however, in the pace of life in the Harford County seat.
At the Target on Route 24, store manager Tony Battaglia said people were acting like they do when a big snowstorm is coming.
He said the store had been busy all day Friday, with people buying things like milk, water, flashlights, batteries and other emergency supplies.
"People are basically shopping the store the way they would for a major snowstorm," Battaglia said. "Water's really been a significant thing."
"The [Target] executive team has done a really nice job of reaching out to our vendors and doubling up orders," he continued. "[People] are really shopping, as if their power is going to go out."
Battaglia said it looked as though the people who typically shop Sunday or Monday were doing it Friday and Saturday because of the storm warning, including people who may have waited until Monday or Tuesday to do their last minute Halloween shopping
At the ShopRite gas 'n' go at the split of North Bond and North Main streets, motorists were experiencing a short wait to get to the gas pumps, and there was a steady stream of vehicles coming in and out of the station.
A half a block north at the Klein's ShopRite Supermarket, most of the parking spaces were full, and the store appeared to be more crowded than usual for midday busy.