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Preparing For The Remnants Of Ida

The Category 4 hurricane that slammed into the Gulf Coast Sunday morning may have been downgraded to a tropical depression in recent days, but that doesn’t mean emergency officials in Maryland aren’t preparing for the potential effects.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has been holding daily telephone briefings with forecasters at the National Weather Service and local agencies, to plan for the heavy rains, high winds, and potential tornadoes accompanying the storm as it tracks into the mid-Atlantic region.

Wednesday morning, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered MEMA to raise its activation level to “coordinate an efficient statewide multi-agency response, and work in real time to address any local requests for assistance.”

In a statement, he urged Maryland residents to “take all necessary precautions, follow the local forecast, and heed any warnings from local authorities.”

In addition, the Maryland State Fair closed for the day Wednesday and public schools in Baltimore and Baltimore, Howard and Harford counties released students early in the day in anticipation of the storm.

Chas Eby, MEMA’s deputy executive director, said based on the track of the storm, different parts of Maryland will see different impacts.

“Northern, western and into Central Maryland will get two to four inches, and maybe even up to six inches of rain,” he said. “And points south and east of that will actually be at a higher risk for higher winds, severe storms and maybe even tornadoes.”

That probably means tornado watches and warnings along the I-95 corridor, he added.

Because the ground is already saturated from heavy rains over the last month or so, the predicted four to six inches of rain and the high winds could lead to flash flooding, downed trees and power outages, Eby warned.

“So, it is important that everyone charges their devices ahead of the storm, so that they can receive communications during and after it,” he said. “And it's really important that everyone can get alerts from multiple methods.” 

The worst of the rain probably will come between late morning Wednesday and into the evening, Eby said, issuing a plea for motorists to be careful.

“One way that the public can really help us is by never driving through flooded roadways or bridges,” he pleaded. “Even a little bit of water, you can't tell what's underneath there. And it can rapidly increase. So, it's very dangerous. Never, never go through or drive through flooded roadways.”

At the head of Chesapeake Bay, Michelle Lloyd, of the Cecil County Department of Emergency Services, says they have warned communities like Port Deposit of the potential for flooding, to move vehicles to higher ground and to get important things out of the basement. But her real worry is the Susquehanna River,

“The problem with the river is that it comes from upstate New York, and through Pennsylvania and filters down and then once it does, that is when we have we present the problem at the Conowingo Dam,” she said. “And then depending upon the threshold of water, what they have depends on how many gates open, and that certainly impacts the town of Port Deposit significantly.”

That’s why, she said, preparation is so important.

“We can't stop water. We know that's not going to happen. But preparation is the biggest thing just like we do with anything else is preparing for an event like this.”

In Baltimore County, Executive Johnny Olszewski warned residents in a news conference Tuesday to be prepared, as they expect the heaviest rains through Wednesday afternoon and evening.

“Accordingly, we're urging residents to take this opportunity to plan for tomorrow,” he said. “If you can, please consider a telework option. Please stay off roads whenever possible. And if you must be on roadways, we encourage you to use extreme caution and be aware of flooded roads and other dangerous conditions.”

David Bycoffe, the county’s emergency management chief, said they anticipate the biggest hazards they will face are road flooding, river flooding and coastal flooding.

“I cannot stress enough,” he said, repeating earlier warnings, “do not drive through flooded roads and be prepared to get to higher ground if your neighborhood is prone to flooding.”

Olszewski said the county would have emergency crews stationed in flood-prone areas, such as the lower east side of the county and Catonsville and he reminds everyone to be prepared.

Note: This report has been updated.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.