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Mayor Closes Havre de Grace Parks, Dispels Evacuation Rumors

Hurricane Sandy prompted a Sunday night briefing at City Hall.

Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty briefed his emergency operations staff Sunday evening, announced closures and emphasized that officials had not mandated an evacuation. 

In advance of Hurricane Sandy, Dougherty closed all city parks bordering water. During the closure, officials plan to make use of the city's 140 barricades to protect against rising tides, he announced. 

“All we’re worried about is people’s safety," Dougherty said. The parks closure began at 9 p.m. Sunday.

The parks, including the piers and promenade, “will not open until I’m satisfied from the Department of Public Works and the police department that it’s safe for those facilities to open again," Dougherty said.

The announcement at Havre de Grace City Hall came hours after the Department of Natural Resources decided to close all Maryland parks. Harford County Public Schools, Havre de Grace municipal offices and Harford County Government offices will also be closed Monday.

As of 8 p.m. Sunday, Hurricane Sandy was 280 miles east of Cape Hatteras, NC, according to the National Weather Service. Hurricane-force winds are expected in the mid-Atlantic on Monday. "We know this isn’t supposed to hit until tomorrow, but let’s get people used to it now," Dougherty said of his decision to close the parks.

No evacuations in Havre de Grace have been ordered as of Sunday night, Dougherty said. 

“We have not instituted any,” Dougherty told Patch. He said that Harford County might have issued voluntary notices to residents on Route 40 and waterways to get them thinking about the possibility of evacuating, but nothing had been mandated.

A spokesman for Maryland Transportation Authority said that he fielded multiple calls Sunday in reference to the Hatem Bridge, which remains open.

The bridge could close if three wind gusts of 50 mph occur within a ten-minute period. According to the Maryland Transportation Authority officer, winds on Sunday averaged 20 mph and the highest was 30 mph.

City personnel said that temporary shelter will be available at the Havre de Grace Community Center by 10 a.m. Monday for citizens who need relief. The Level Volunteer Fire Department runs a state shelter and Patterson Mill High School in Bel Air is hosting the Harford County shelter, according to a representative from the Havre de Grace Ambulance Corps. 

Two local institutions housing vulnerable populations—Harford Memorial Hospital and Citizens Care Center—are “non issues,” Dougherty said, because they are under the jurisdiction of Harford County. Both places have generators and are taken care of, Dougherty relayed from a Harford County emergency operations meeting.

As of 8:50 p.m. Sunday, more than 800 people had lost power in Harford County, according to BGE, which has restored 711 of those customers.

Employees from BGE have been staging at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, according to Teresa Walter, chief of the Havre de Grace Police Department.

Walter said that based on the emergency operations calls she's been on, Hurricane Sandy was projected to hit Havre de Grace Monday around noon.

The mayor emphasized that Walter and her staff would not tolerate “sightseers” who violate orders to stay off park property in and after the storm.

“The police department has a job to do and if there’s any interference and [people] fail to obey, there could be legal action taken,” Dougherty said.

Council President Randy Craig noted constituents were displeased after a previous storm by people trespassing, particularly around Seneca Point, to take pictures.

Trespassing is a misdemeanor that could result in a fine or 60 days in jail, said Walter.

As of Sunday evening, the city is still working to get some boats out of the marina and vehicles out of parking lots; it will take necessary measures if they are not moved before floods, said the mayor.

To report non-emergency issues related to the storm, contact City Hall at 410-939-1800.

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