Cumberland Times-News

October 26, 2012

Utilities expect extended outages

Randall Chase
Associated Press

— REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — Mid-Atlantic electric utilities, facing the threat of a direct hit from Hurricane Sandy, reached across North America on Friday to secure extra help in restoring power that they said could be out for more than a week because of prolonged high winds and torrential rain.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley declared a state of emergency, and the Assateague Island National Seashore said it will close Saturday to campers and Sunday to all visitors.

O’Malley said Sandy also could affect Maryland’s early general election voting, scheduled from Saturday through Nov. 1.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell did not issue an evacuation order Friday, but officials were monitoring the storm closely because the state appeared to be in the storm’s crosshairs.

“If you’re along the coast, there’s a possibility that an evacuation is coming,” Markell said, adding that a decision likely would be made Saturday.

In Washington, Mayor Vincent Gray declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon. Workers on Washington’s Metro subway system were inspecting drains and placing sandbags in flood-prone areas. Emergency management officials across the region urged residents to prepare for days without power, water and natural gas.

Christopher Geldart, director of the District of Columbia’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency, said the aftermath could be similar to the widespread power outages of more than a week that followed a storm in the area in late June.

“This storm truly has the potential, if it stays on its current path, to exceed the damage that we saw with Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and Irene in 2011,” said Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Rob Gould. Each of those storms affected 790,000 BGE customers, he said.

Forecasters expect the hurricane to turn inland around Delaware, but said it could still hit as far north as New York.

The storm moving up the Atlantic coast could pour a foot of rain on the coastal Delmarva Peninsula from Sunday through Wednesday, and 6 to 10 inches elsewhere, said Weather Underground meteorologist Shaun Tanner. He said winds gusting up to 60 mph could peak at hurricane strength, 74 mph, when the storm comes ashore Tuesday morning.

Sandy’s remnants could spawn tornadoes and knock down trees laden with soggy leaves, disrupting power across the region, Tanner said.

“It’s prolonged. It won’t be a one-day hit and gone,” he said.

A cold front approaching from the west will bring more rain, along with snow in the far Western Maryland mountains, Tanner said.