Harford County residents and emergency crews began cleaning up in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene Sunday morning, as tens of thousands were without power, and widespread damage was reported around the area.
The power outages and impassable roads were so numerous and widespread that Harford County Public Schools announced that the first day of the 2011-2012 school year, scheduled to begin Monday, would be canceled. Harford County government also announced its offices would be closed Monday – with only critical employees required to report. A full storm’s-end update from Harford County government can be found at the end of this story.
However, low-lying areas of Havre de Grace appeared to have avoided any significant flooding, possibly thanks to an overnight low-tide which coincided with the worst parts of the storm.
More than 56,000 local residents were without power Sunday, according to a robo-call issued by county Emergency Manager Rick Ayers. He said traffic lights at many major intersections were not functioning, but warned locals to stay off the roads Sunday if possible.
A motor vehicle accident with a rescue required was reported at the intersection of Harford Road and Reckord Road in Hydes. Details of the crash and any injuries were not immediately available.
Wires were reported down Sunday morning on the 700 block of Shore Drive in Joppa, on the 2100 block of Harkins Road in Pylesville, and at the intersection of Calvary Road and Cedar Lane in Bel Air, according to the county’s emergency operations Web site. A field fire was reported on the 400 block of Bonham Road in Joppa.
Later in the day, wires were reported down at the intersection of Rt. 24 and Sharon Road in Forest Hill, the 400 block of Dembytown Road in Joppa, and the 1400 block of Trappe Road in Street. A large tree fell on power lines off Robin Hood Road, below, one of many around the county.
Traffic lights were out across Aberdeen, closing left-hand turn lanes in the Beard’s Hill area. Paradise Road was closed east of Rt. 543 as crews worked to repair downed wires.
In the Bel Air area, power was out at The Festival shopping center, traffic lights were out on Main St. and businesses along Main St. did not appear to have power.
Traffic lights were out at the intersection of Rt. 24 and Bel Air South Parkway, and also at Rt. 24 and Wheel Road. Some traffic lights were also out along Hickory Avenue. However, traffic lights were working and power was on along Rt. 1 in Bel Air and businesses were open.
A downed tree was blocking the southbound lane of Rt. 924 near Wakely Terrace, but police appeared to be on the scene at around 8:15 am.
A large tree limb fell on a car at a home on East Pennsylvania Avenue in Bel Air as Hurricane Irene passed through the area overnight Saturday.
Power and trees alike were knocked down in Fallston, as well.
In Rocks State Park, the concern was trees impeding traffic.
Water was high and fast in Deer Creek, but did not crest the banks.
The rain-loosened soil along Deer Creek and high winds were enough to topple several large trees.
Several smaller roads outside of Rocks State Park and in the northern end of the county were closed due to fallen trees and limbs.
Portions of 93 roads had been closed as of 1:15 p.m. Sunday, while 20 had been cleared and re-opened, according to the county’s tracking system.
Maryland State Police issued caution when traveling through intersections in areas without power:
State troopers are urging motorists to use extreme caution when driving through areas where the power is out and traffic lights are not functioning.
Troopers are on patrol around Maryland are reporting the most serious hazard they are seeing today involves motorists moving through intersections with nonfunctioning traffic lights due to power outages. Many motorists are acting as if they have no obligations if the lights are not working. That is not true and can be deadly.
Maryland State Police and State Highway Administration officials are reminding motorists that upon approaching an intersection with non-functioning traffic lights ALL drivers should stop at the intersection first and then proceed with caution. If lights are on flash, those facing yellow flashing lights can proceed with caution. Those facing red flashing lights must stop and then proceed with caution.
In Havre de Grace, the waters of the Susquehanna turned brown with runoff and silt, but remained well below street level noontime Sunday.
A few trees fell around town, thanks to a already-heavily saturated ground, but missed causing any major damage.
At the end of Alliance Street, John Stansbury and his wife Debbie were cleaning up the small amount of debris in front of their home. The couple piled a few city-provided sandbags in front of their door at 103 Alliance St., but Debbie Stansbury said the water never even came close.
“When Isabel hit [in 2003] we got flooded out,” she said. “We had to start over. This year we didn’t get hit nearly as hard.”
Nonetheless, memories of the earlier hurricane, which flooded much of lower Havre de Grace and destroyed the Promenade, made for a restless night.
“We were all worried last night,” she said. “We couldn’t sleep at all.”
By 6:30 p.m. Sunday, 82 sections of road remained closed and both county government and public schools had already announced they would be closed on Monday.
Harford County Councilman Jim McMahan, in an email update to constituents, reported that a total of 20 people used the shelter set up by the county, but that all had left as of 5 p.m Sunday.
“From County Council President Billy Boniface and all the members of the Council a big thank you to all the folks that worked to help the folks that needed the shelter,” McMahan said.
“I am sure you know there is wide spread infrastructure damage with fallen trees and downed power lines. Some areas will be several days before power is restored,” he added.”
“The complexity of the situation is too awesome to even try to explain. The bright spot in all of this is that personal property damage is minimum compared to what it could have been.”
A full update on the storm’s aftermath was released Sunday evening by Harford County government:
Update on Harford County’s Recovery Efforts from Hurricane Irene
Harford County continues its recovery efforts from Hurricane Irene, and the county’s emergency shelter at Patterson Mill Middle/High School (85 Patterson Mill Road, Bel Air) remains open for county residents who wish to use it. However, pets will no longer be accepted at the facility.
As of 7:00 PM on Sunday, there were 80 sections of county-maintained roads that were closed. Another 43 roads that had been closed had been cleared and reopened. County highways crews are working diligently to clear roads, and an updated listing of the status of county roads is available at www.harfordcountymd.gov/alerts/RoadStatus.cfm.
Also as of 7:00 PM, utility companies are reporting over 50,000 customers in Harford County without power. Utility crews are in the field working to restore power as quickly as possible. However given the large amount of homes and businesses without power, utility companies are advising that it may take a number of days before all power is restored.
At least 20 structures were reported as sustaining significant damage from falling debris. The Harford County Department of Inspections, Licenses, and Permits (DILP) has been preforming structural assessments determine whether the structures are habitable.
The most severe damage to a residence appears to have occurred in the 2200 block of Castleton Road in Darlington, where a dwelling was destroyed by fire that resulted from a fallen tree. Two volunteer firefighters and one EMS technician sustained minor injuries and were treated at the scene.
For safety reasons and to allow utility crews to perform their work, Harford County residents are asked to stay off the roads today unless absolutely necessary. If travel is necessary, drivers are reminded to treat intersections with malfunctioning traffic signals as four-way stops. Also, residents using generators are advised to ensure that there is adequate ventilation so as to negate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Due to the fact that there remains widespread power outages as a result of Hurricane Irene, as well as a number of county roads that remain closed, Harford County Government offices will be closed Monday, August 29, 2011. Critical employees must report for work as scheduled. Employees of the Office of Information and Communication Technology should report for work unless informed otherwise.
Harford Transit Link bus services will operate as normal on Monday.
The Harford County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) remains activated to coordinate recovery in the aftermath of the storm. On Monday, County Executive David R. Craig will announce plans for opening five drop-off locations around the county where residents can dispose of tree debris.
For more information on Harford County’s recovery from Hurricane Irene, visit the county’s website at www.harfordcountymd.gov.
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Dagger contributors Brian Goodman, Cindy Mumby, and Mark Elloff added additional reporting and photos to this story.