For Surge Sake, Bay Area Hopes Sandy Stays East

If the "Frankenstorm" turns west at the Chesapeake Bay, storm surges would rise.

Residents along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland are hoping the Frankenstorm starts its trick-or-treating to the east—and stays there.

A westerly turn for the storm could prove catostrophic, as the counterclockwise rotation of Hurricane Sandy would pull water into the Bay, creating destructive storm surges for the waterfront communities.

But if the storm stays to the east—as projection models early Saturday are beginning to favor—the Bay communities could be spared, while ocean-front communities along the East Coast could be hammered.

» Follow Maryland Patch on Facebook for constant statewide updates on the Frankenstorm.

In many early models, Havre de Grace would be under the eye of the storm at some point or another.

"It looks right now that 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. "If it goes up into PA, then 20,000 square miles of watershed comes back down the [Susquehanna] River again."

Bill Reeder, the city's deputy director of construction and program management, said even if the storm hits New Jersey, that Havre de Grace would get rain and wind from the “downswing.”

But the city is preparing for the worst.

“We’re thinking [it will be] similar to what Isabel did, maybe worse,”  said. “Surges, heavy rains and the wind."

Reeder said that because of the full moon, the surges would be higher.

Tides will play a factor with storm surges.

See this interactive map from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and see if your community is in a storm surge area or flood plain.

Baltimore County officials are making similar comparisons to Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003 and Hurricane Irene in 2011.

In Essex-Middle River, Bob Bendler, president of the Essex-Middle River Civic Council, said: "A lot depends on when the storm surge comes and how that ties into the tide. We had a worst case scenario with Isabel because the storm surge came at the high tide."

Irene struck last year, pulling water from the Chesapeake Bay—the best case scenario for the state's waterfront communities. Instead of storm surges, the rotation of the storm created extremely low water levels along many beaches and marinas.

Anne Arundel County's Bay-front residents are asked to take all reports seriously.

County Executive John Leopold said in a statement Friday, "Residents should hope for the best but prepare for the worst."

Sandbags were being handed out in Annapolis on Saturday. In outlining a serious of preparedness tips, Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen said: "At this point, the best thing we can all do is prepare residents and businesses."

And monitor the storm.

That's really all Marylanders can do until the storm hits—monitor the path and projected track once the storm reaches the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Isabel brought the worst storm surge into the Bay since 1933 when it hit in 2003.

(See the storm surge impact mapped out here.) 

The surge page on the NHC site said an eight-foot surge flowed into the rivers that normally feed the Bay during Isabel. That storm caused approximately $3 billion in damage throughout the region. 

For rooting purposes: If Sandy heads east, the Bay communities will suffer less. If the storm makes a direct landfall on the Delmarva peninsula—or drives up the Bay or anywhere further west—storm surges could prove catastrophic for the state's picturesque waterfront communities.

Stay with your local Patch sites for updated reports on how your communities are responding. Join the conversation below to discuss your preparedness plans with Bay-oriented communities in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties.

Michael Ney October 27, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Chesapeake region surge forecast: http://www.opc.ncep.noaa.gov/Loops/SURGE_MID_EAST/SURGE_MID_96_HR.shtml
Luxstar1 October 28, 2012 at 05:06 PM
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