Gov. Martin O’Malley and MEMA Executive Director Richard Muth laid out details of the state’s preparation for Hurricane Irene late Friday, saying the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is likely to be closed in the early evening Saturday.
O'Malley said he plans to sleep at MEMA headquarters in Reisterstown Saturday night to keep abreast of storm response.
The Ocean City area, Queen Anne’s County and low-lying areas of Wicomico County have mandatory evacuations, O’Malley said at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency's Reisterstown headquarters.
After the storm, it will be up to local jurisdictions to determine when people can return to evacuated areas. Decisions will be determined by the amount of damage as well as the presence of water barriers.
He said the Bay Bridge is likely to close in the early evening hours on Saturday depending on winds and where the storm is located but people should not wait until Saturday to leave.
The storm, Muth said, is anticipated to hit Maryland around 6 p.m. Saturday, with the worst time being around 2 a.m. Sunday. The storm will remain in the region for a 20-24 hour period, hitting the shoreline and continuing up the coast, and will likely dissipate by the early evening hours on Sunday, he said.
The storm will bring winds of 100 mph or more, but O’Malley warned that with the ground saturated, winds of 50 mph could knock trees over. Muth said if mobile phone signals are lost, there is a Department of Defense network federal officials can use and priority cell service for first responders.
If making phone calls gets tough, he recommended sending text messages, which take up less bandwith.
O’Malley said information about local shelters will come out through local jurisdictions Saturday.