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Washington County outside Irene's predicted path

storms, high winds still possible

August 27, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com
  • A sign on Interstate 295 northbound warns travelers of the impending Hurricane Irene Friday, Aug. 26, 2011, in New Castle, Del. Irene has the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage all along a densely populated arc that includes Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and beyond. At least 65 million people could be affected.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Washington County will likely watch from the sidelines Saturday and into Sunday as Hurricane Irene batters most of the East Coast, according to the National Weather Service.

The county is outside of the predicted path of the storm but could experience some wind gusts up to 45 mph and some showers or thunderstorms, Trina Heiser, meteorology technician with the Sterling, Va. office, said Friday.  

At midmorning Saturday, the weather service predicted a chance of showers for later in the day, with thunderstorms possible after 2 p.m. The Saturday night forecast called for possible showers or thunderstorms, with winds of 20 to 26 mph. The expected total rainfall Saturday ranges from six-tenths of an inch to an inch, with more possible in thunderstorms, the weather service said.

On Sunday, the weather service predicts a chance of showers before 11 a.m., with wind gusts up to 37 mph.

All Marylanders are being asked to seek refuge from the storm this weekend as Hurricane Irene threatens most of the state.

In a message released Friday, Gov. Martin O'Malley said that the storm is a "slow moving, large, deadly storm with the potential to cause significant damage."

"This is not a storm to take lightly," he said. "We are in a state of emergency and we need every Maryland citizen to be prepared."

O'Malley declared a state of emergency for Maryland Thurdsay, days before the storm was predicted to reach the state. The emergency designation allows for activation of the state National Guard if necessary.

The weather service expects the storm to hit Maryland sometime today, Heiser said.

Mandatory evacuation from Ocean City, Md., parts of Wicomico County on the Eastern Shore and other areas of the state were ordered, the governor said. Everyone in low-lying coastal areas were encouraged to seek shelter on higher ground.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency encouraged all residents to check their insurance policies to ensure they were covered for flood damage, according to its website www.mema.state.md.us.

Most homeowner's policies do not cover floods, according to the site.

The Washington County Division of Emergency Services was encouraging local residents to use caution when dealing with potentially hazardous weather conditions over the weekend.

Sam Anderson, emergency planner with the Washington County Emergency Management Office, cautioned that storms of this type are unpredictable.

"Things can change quickly," Anderson said. "This storm is very large, and the rain bands and wind fields stretch out around 200 miles from the center of the hurricane. Everyone should still keep a close eye on Irene."

For the thousands who are planning to ride the MARC train to work on Monday, the Maryland Transit Administration will be monitoring the weather this weekend and should have a service status available by 6 p.m. Sunday, said Terry Owens, chief public information officer. Information on the MARC train can be found at www.mta.maryland.gov/marc-train.

The MARC train does not operate on weekends, Owens said.

Amtrak trains in the Northeast and Keystone corridors have been canceled as of Friday, according to a notice on www.amtrak.com. Additional service announcements would be made as the storm moves north, the notice said.


Health dangers

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene warned people to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide when using gas-powered appliances such as generators and charcoal or gas grills.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas, and is highly poisonous. Depending on the level of exposure, it can cause fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath upon exertion, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases, death.

The state health department also recommends not using small, portable cooking grills inside the home or in proximity to dwellings because of the danger of fire.

More hurricane public health and safety tips are available at www.dhmh.maryland.gov.

FirstEnergy, which operates locally as Potomac Edison, issued a news release that said it is keeping close watch on Irene and will have resources and employees available throughout its service area to assist in storm power restoration.

Those who lose power are asked to contact their local electric utility to report the outage, the release said. Downed wires or trees on power lines should be reported immediately. Never go near a downed power line and do not try to remove trees from lines, the release said.

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