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MD vulnerable to flooding

People on the thin, fragile strip of land that holds Maryland's Ocean City were boarding up their homes and heading inland Tuesday as Hurricane Isabel closed in.

BY SUSAN KIM | OCEAN CITY, Md. | September 16, 2003

"People are focused on boarding up their homes if they're on the coast."

—Jane Yount

Some people on the thin, fragile strip of land that holds Maryland's Ocean City were boarding up their homes and heading inland as Hurricane Isabel closed in.

Of all communities in Maryland, Ocean City is one of the most vulnerable, said Ed McDonough, spokesperson for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).

But other Maryland communities may also be particularly vulnerable this hurricane season, too, said McDonough, because of the unusually wet summer. "Maryland is just very prone to flooding right now," he said. "The ground is damp deep down. Tree roots are apt not to hold and trees could fall onto power lines and cars and houses."

When Hurricane Floyd swept through parts of Maryland in 1999, the state was just coming off a drought. "Not now," said McDonough. "Anything can trigger flooding right now."

To make matters worse, a line of storms hit parts of Maryland Monday.

MEMA was in contact with emergency management officials from Delaware and Virginia. McDonough said that the priority will be determining if other localized evacuations are needed, most likely due to flooding. "Shelters would then be opened in local areas," he said, "but that will have to be determined on a location-by-location basis."

Maryland's Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) were urging people to be prepared. "People are focused on boarding up their homes if they're on the coast," said Jane Yount, president of the Maryland VOAD, a consortium of faith-based and secular disaster response groups.

Yount and other disaster response leaders urged residents to stock up on food, water, flashlights and other materials. "Flooding is a real concern in Maryland," she added.

Yount also urged people to take this storm seriously. "Don't try tubing down the river because it looks like fun," she said.

From a national perspective, federal officials were urging people to get ready.

Michael D. Brown, under-secretary for emergency preparedness and response within the Department of Homeland Security, encouraged residents in potentially impacted states to take steps now to get prepared.

"Isabel is a good reminder that Americans in coastal regions should take the time to prepare for a hurricane well before it arrives by developing a family communication plan, an emergency supply kit and by learning more about the threats hurricanes present," said Brown. "FEMA is also preparing now by closely monitoring the hurricane's development and planning to manage a federal response if it becomes necessary."

FEMA encouraged to take preparedness steps, including:

-- Buy bottled water or store tap water in clean containers with lids. For drinking, you need two quarts per person per day. Be sure you have several days worth on hand for each person and your pets.

-- Ensure you have on hand several days' worth of canned and/or non-perishable food s that don't need refrigeration or cooking. Be sure you have a non-electric can opener.

-- Make sure you have a transistor radio and flashlights that work, along with extra batteries. And make sure you have a basic first aid kit.

-- Know where your main turn-off switches are for electricity, water and gas.

-- Discuss with members of your family how you will contact one another if the hurricane comes ashore when family members are separated. Discuss evacuation routes and relatives or friends outside the immediate area that you can all contact to report your location.

-- Make sure your pets have collars and identification tags and enough food to last several days.

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