As Hurricane Sandy nears the east coast, Havre de Grace city officials emphasize preparedness.
"It looks right now [like] the storm hits Monday but...we're going to have a long-term effect here," Patrick Sypolt, risk manager for the city of Havre de Grace, said during a Friday morning briefing with the mayor.
On Friday morning, Gov. Martin O'Malley issued a state of emergency for the state of Maryland in advance of the storm. As of 11 a.m. on Oct. 26, Hurricane Sandy was 480 miles southeast of Charleston, SC. Storm surges in Florida were estimated at 1 to 3 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
“We anticipate surges,” Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty said. As soon as the storm is tracked in the area, Dougherty said the parks and promenade in Havre de Grace would be closed. The mayor said the promenade is insured in the event of any damage.
Everything was secure at the Tydings Park yacht basin, according to dockmaster Steve Young, who had inspected all the lines and dock boxes. “A lot of folks are pulling their boats out," Young said. "People usually do it this time of year, but [this is] a week early."
The Lantern Queen will be at Pier 5 and Martha Lewis will be at Pier 3, said Young.
The owner of the Lantern Queen explained to Patch Friday afternoon the danger of leaving her riverboat where it is. "It's exposed," Becky Fitzgerald said of her ship's current location. In Hurricane Isabel, before she owned the boat, the owners didn't move it and the pilings were damaged, plus the boat ended up in the parking lot at Hutchins Park.
The city is taking several additional measures to prepare.
A valve near the American Legion will be closed off Sunday night to minimize flooding, and the city will use a water pump to suck water from Grace View if need be, according to Larry Parks, director for the city's Department of Public Works.
The police department has informed staff to bring a change of uniform and toiletries in case they are needed for multiple days, Police Chief Teresa Walter said.
If the storm hits, the police department will only respond to major emergencies, added Walter.
The Havre de Grace Community Center will open as a temporary shelter Sunday evening if necessary. Sandbags will be available for citizens at the community center as well on Friday, and officials asked residents to ensure that leaves were not blocking storm drains.
City officials said flooding was probable.
"There is a high probability for a significant flood event" in the Susquehanna River basin, said John Van Gilder, intergovernmental relations manager for the city of Havre de Grace. "Accumulation could be 7 inches of rain."
Van Gilder noted the forecasts were not exact. "We're just giving a heads up," he explained, encouraging citizens to check for weather updates on the National Weather Service page.
“Of course Lily Run is going to cut us in half,” said Bill Reeder, the city's deputy director of construction and program management. He noted the city would need to set up a detour, and the mayor pointed to the fact that Havre de Grace now had a sign it could use to let people know where to go.
The city will post information to its website as it becomes available.
In the meantime, officials urge citizens to have three days' worth of food on hand, clear their storm drains and enroll in the Harford County emergency notification program at www.harfordpublicsafety.org.
In addition, city officials ask that people not "gawk" at storm damage, which could put them and public safety personnel at risk.