Region Dodges Hurricane’s Worst; Stays Ready

WASHINGTON — While some parts of Maryland, Washington and Virginia continue under a state of emergency, the region appears to have missed major damage from Hurricane Joaquin, which hammered the Bahamas and is causing significant damage in the Carolinas, weather officials said.

On Sunday morning, the category 4 hurricane was veering to the northeast after lashing the island nation of the Bahamas, a popular winter tourist destination, and causing flooding in the mid-Atlantic area of the U.S.  

Joaquin has already caused flooding in North and South Carolina and resulted in a number of deaths, including possibly 33 people aboard an American cargo reported missing near the Bahamas.  

The Washington-Baltimore area, however, has been spared significant damage.

A number of events were altered Saturday due in anticipation of possible storm damage.  Howard University, for instance, canceled its annual homecoming parade scheduled for Saturday morning in northwest Washington.  In Baltimore, the Fells Point festival, which draws hundreds and represents an economic boom to local businesses, was postponed.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon while at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency in Reisterstown. 

 “Our state is taking every precaution, and I urge Marylanders to do the same,” Hogan said. “At the best, we’re going to have some flooding, and heavy rains and some winds. At its worst, we could have significantly more damage.” 

The governor urged residents to visit mema.maryland.gov for updates.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gave a press conference Friday morning on how the city was preparing for the potential storm.

“Baltimore was recognized by the National Weather Service as storm ready,” Rawlings-Blake said. “It’s time to show our readiness.  We hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

The mayor urged residents to be prepared and to help each other out. 

“Take basic precautions,” she said.  “Make sure you have your storm readiness kit. Make sure you clear your drains around your house and other potential flooding hazards.

“Keep your eye on your neighbors, especially if your neighbors are seniors; make sure they have what they need.”

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser along with Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) and We Are D.C. set up a storm preparedness site called ready.dc.gov. 

As the storm began veering away from the states on Friday, but has already dropped four to eight inches of rain in parts of the Carolinas in a matter of hours.   Homes have been evacuated and damaged and some lives have been lost.

Washington officials reminded residents that even though Joaquin is projected to go out to sea, it could still shift towards the East Coast. 

“It’s not looking like it’s going to hit us as hard as we thought,” said a representative for Bowser’s office. “But you should make sure to check the website for updates.” 

The D.C. website provides updates on the storm’s path and gives instructions on how to prepare for and survive it. It urges people to listen to battery powered radios for updates, keep flashlights and batteries in case of power outages, board up windows and be ready to go if they need to evacuate. 

Emergency preparedness officials warned of possible flooding along the Anacostia River, including Bolling Air Force Base.  Rain from the hurricane could also flood areas surrounding L’Enfant Plaza, the Waterfront Metro, RFK Stadium and the Navy Yard Ballpark, officials said. 

For those who do not need to evacuate, ready.dc.gov tells residents to stay inside and move to a small room, closet or hallway. Those with medical equipment that need power were told to contact PEPCO's Emergency Medical Equipment Notification Program prior to any emergency.

Ready.dc.gov reminds residents that flash flooding can occur at any point and that residents should be ready to evacuate if necessary. “Board up windows with plywood and fill up your car with fuel,” the website said. “Take your Emergency Go Kit, which should have enough food and water for three days.”

An intensive search by the U. S. Coast Guard Saturday turned up a life ring but no other sign of a cargo ship that lost communications off the southeastern Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin.

U.S. Coast Guard and Navy aircraft covered a large expanse of the near Crooked Island for the El Faro, which was taking on water as it was battered by massive waves at the height of the hurricane. 

Hurricanes are rotating windstorms that usually include heavy rains and winds. They can cause flash flooding, power outages, debris and downed power lines and trees.  Hurricane season is from June 1 through November 30 with the peak months being August and September.