SHA Prepares for Hurricane Sandy
A massive coastal storm threatens to bring heavy rain, high winds, widespread power outages and a coastal storm surge to the mid-Atlantic region, including Maryland. Hurricane Sandy is a huge slow moving storm with wide-ranging impacts anticipated regardless of where she makes landfall. Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) crews are preparing by clearing drains, fueling up, stocking road signs and readying chain saws and other equipment. In addition, SHA’s teams are preparing for the possibility of snow in Western Maryland. With leaves still on most trees, significant tree damage and power outages are a major concern.
“This is a dangerous storm on many levels. Trees could be damaged by heavy rains and high winds, making them susceptible to falling,” said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters. “Since this storm is likely to impact the entire State, each SHA maintenance shop is preparing equipment. During the storm, travel conditions will be hazardous and motorists should expect that there could be delays and detours for days after as crews clean up. ”
Remember, a new law enacted this summer mandates drivers must treat intersections with non-functioning traffic signals as four-way stops. Do not assume that you or the other driver has the right-of-way; make eye contact if possible and proceed safely through the intersection.
To keep traffic moving smoothly, SHA will:
• Provide real-time traffic information and storm-related road closures through Maryland’s 511 phone system and at WWW.MD511.ORG as well as www.roads.maryland.gov where you can click on CHART to see live traffic cameras.
• Program overhead Variable Message Signs along major roadways and Traveler Advisory Radios to inform motorists of crashes, delays and route diversions. However, smaller routes prone to flooding may not be listed as they happen quickly and often go unreported. Just because a road isn’t listed as problematic on these resources, conditions change quickly, so use caution and allow extra time regardless.
Here are some additional tips for motorists:
• Do not try to cross a flooded roadway. Eighty percent of flood-related deaths occur in vehicles. Two feet of rapidly moving water can float a bus and six inches can knock a person off his or her feet.
• Avoid downed or damaged power and transmission wires and cables.
• Stay alert for animals, such as deer, that will be fleeing dangerous areas and crossing roadways.
• Stay alert for traffic signal issues related to power outages. Use extreme caution and do not assume the other drivers will stop or yield.
• Prepare your vehicle by filling the gas tank, checking tire pressure and washer fluid, charging your cell phone and bringing snacks for you and passengers.
• SHA urges motorists to exercise extreme caution as weather conditions change. If you must drive, please buckle up and obey posted speed limits.
In conjunction with other agencies and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), SHA is monitoring the storm from the Statewide Operations Center (SOC) near BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. During hurricanes, snow storms and other crises, the SOC doubles as SHA’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) providing access to hundreds of camera images, constant contact with field personnel and quick response to changing conditions. From the EOC, SHA communicates with local jurisdictions, neighboring states, emergency responders and the media.
SHA’s Emergency Management team runs through a thorough checklist including: participating in National Weather Service and Delmarva Emergency Task Force conference calls; inspecting and cleaning storm drains, drainage ditches and inlets; testing and verifying critical equipment parts and supplies; reviewing evacuation plans; identifying potential road construction issues along evacuation corridors. SHA crews are also ready to deploy high water signs as needed.
Other SHA precautionary actions include the following:
• Fueling emergency generators;
• Acquiring additional fuel;
• Checking chain saws, wood chippers and other equipment;
• Clearing roadside drainage systems;
• Notifying contractors SHA may need their services;
• Placing signal technicians on stand-by.
The Maryland Emergency Management Agency stresses awareness and preparedness as Hurricane Sandy approaches Maryland. Go to www.mema.state.md.us for the latest storm track and preparedness information.
For the most up to date highway traffic information, call 511 or 1-855-GOMD511 or visit www.md511.org, which also includes weather. Sign up to personalize travel route information through MY511 on the website. Remember to use 511 safely – Maryland law prohibits hand-held mobile phone use and texting while driving.
For emergency information, log onto MEMA. For more general – non storm specific information, follow SHA on Twitter @MDSHA and “like” us on Facebook at: