Gloomy, rain-streaked Baltimore arose this morning to face what could be the most severe lashing from Mother Nature in recent memory.
With sustained winds of 40 mph and heavy rainfall expected later today as Hurricane Sandy hurtles into the Northeast from the Atlantic Ocean (projected epicenter: the New Jersey shore), Baltimore resembled a spooky sci-fi movie – not a major city starting off the workweek.
Nobody, it seemed, was about.
All public transportation was canceled. This included MTA buses, Metro subway and light rail, flights to and from Thurgood Marshall-BWI (a few flights left earlier this morning), MARC commuter service and Amtrak trains serving other impacted parts of the Northeast.
Also suspended: Greyhound and Megabus service into and out of Baltimore, the Charm City Circulator, Baltimore County’s CountyRide, and MTA’s Mobility/Paratransit Program.
Hazardous Driving and Four-Way Stops
Most area roads are open (see list of city closings below), but the State Highway Administration warns drivers of very hazardous conditions due to wind and slick pavements.
(UPDATE: Gov. Martin O’Malley announced that the Bay Bridge and I-95 Tydings Bridge over the Susquehanna River will be closed Monday afternoon due to high winds. There are current wind restrictions on the Francis Scott Key Bridge.)
A new law requires drivers to treat intersections with non-functioning traffic lights as four-way stops. Do not assume you or the other driver has the right-of-way, even if you are driving on a major street, says SHA spokesperson Melinda Peters.
Many downtown offices are operating with minimum staff. The New York Stock Exchange and other financial institutions are closed. Area shopping malls have also shut for the day.
All non-essential government employees are encouraged to stay at home.
State district and circuit courts throughout the metropolitan area have been suspended.
Baltimore city and county public schools have been shut for the day, as have regional colleges.
(UPDATE: City and county public schools will remain closed tomorrow, Oct 30.)
Classes are canceled today at the University of Maryland Baltimore, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Towson University, Johns Hopkins University, MICA, and Stevenson University.
Most of these institutions are expected to be closed tomorrow.
Shelters and Closed Roads
With power outages expected, as well as flooding in low-lying areas of the city, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has declared a state of emergency and opened six shelters to residents at:
• War Memorial Building, Lexington and Gay streets downtown.
• Baltimore Junior Academy at 3006 W. Cold Spring Lane.
• Oliver Community Center at 1400 E. Federal St.
• Edmondson High School at 4501 Edmondson Ave (at Athol).
• Patterson Park High School at 100 Kane St.
• Forest Park High School at 3701 Eldorado Ave.
Citizens should use these shelters only in an emergency – and should bring their own supplies, including medications.
Those losing power in their homes should call BGE at 877-778-2222.
County Shelters Open
This morning, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz declared a state of emergency and opened three shelters for county residents at:
• Eastern Technical High at 1100 Mace Ave. in Essex (opening at 1 p.m.)
• UMBC at 1000 Hilltop Rd. in Catonsville
• Jewish Community Center at 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave. in Owings Mills.
So far, Baltimore City has closed the following roads and intersections due to potential and expected flooding in the Jones Falls Valley and on the Eastside:
• Clipper Mill at Meadow Mills Business Park in Woodbury
• lower Falls Rd. near Baltimore Streetcar Museum
• Monument St. and Pulaski Highway
• Aliceanna at Caroline St. in Fells Point
• North Point at Kane West in Bayview area.
The city has also called on the removal of all cars in Fells Point south of Lancaster Street in anticipation of flooding in the area. The city will allow parking at some city garages and lots (see here).
The city also encourages residents in low-lying areas of South Baltimore, Cherry Hill, Westport and Brooklyn to remove their vehicles. The city will let residents park at certain Stadium area parking lots.
BARC (Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter) is evacuating animals from its facility at 301 Stockholm Street south of the M&T Bank Stadium.
Someone posting on Twitter this morning denounced the city for ticketing volunteers who are helping remove the animals, saying:
“Parking enforcement ticketing cars of volunteers who are at Arena assisting w/ evacuation of BARCS animals. Surely expired meters aren’t a priority today!”