LANHAM—Prince George’s County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T) do not anticipate Hurricane Joaquin will hit the Washington Metropolitan area, but they are still preparing nonetheless.
Paulette Jones, DPW&T public spokeswoman, said the concern throughout this weekend will be more focused on the Nor’easter storm slated to hit the region rather than the hurricane, which would not hit until Sunday or Monday, if at all.
But the region has already seen effects from the Nor’easter with Northeast winds reaching up to 15 to 20 miles per hour and wind gusts reaching up to 35 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service with rainfall continuing throughout the weekend. The state could see anywhere from five to 10 inches of total rain depending on location.
“The time to prepare is right now,” said Russ Strickland, executive director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. “A few steps before heavy rains can help reduce effects of the storm on you, your family and your home.”
DPW&T have already started preparations for the Nor’easter expected to hit throughout the weekend, Jones said.
“We’re working on making sure our storm drains and outlets are clear of debris. We’ve been at the pumping station making sure everything is functioning there,” Jones said. “We’re primarily advising our motorists that they should prepare and they should clean out their gutters and make sure their pumps are working properly.”
If drivers on the road come across standing water, Jones said, they should avoid it at all costs—especially if road markings and lines are not visible.
“You just shouldn’t drive through that water,” Jones said. “It could become problematic.”
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan previously signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency throughout the entire state of Maryland ahead of Hurricane Joaquin, but has since rescinded that order for Prince George’s County. The path of the hurricane still has not been established, but Hogan said the state is taking “proactive measures” in preparing for extreme weather.
“With the storm moving away from our coasts, we are directing state resources to countries and areas with the highest potential need to assistance,” Hogan said. “However, the majority of the state still remains under a state of emergency and rain and wind gusts could cause power outages and flooding in low-lying areas. We continue to encourage Marylanders to use common sense and look after family members and neighbors who might need help during this time.”
The county will not be issuing sandbags to residents, Jones said. DPW&T recommends residents purchase sandbags at hardware stores throughout the county if they believe the sandbags are necessary.
“Right now, we’re not actually in the hurricane. Although there is a plethora of rain that’s out there right now we’re actually in what they call a Nor’easter,” Jones said. “But we are on standby and alert. We are prepared to mobilize as early as Sunday if the forecast deems it necessary.”
The American Red Cross, throughout the region, is preparing for Hurricane Joaquin as well, according to Linda Mathes, chief executive officer of American Red Cross in the National Capital Region.
“People living in communities threatened by heavy rains or the potential path of Joaquin should keep informed about weather conditions and get prepared now,” Mathes said.
Red Cross is reaching out to government partners in the region and prepositioning resources to open shelters if they are needed, she said. The Regional Disaster Coordination Center will be open at the National Capital Region headquarters in Fairfax Virginia.
In the event of a hurricane, here are tips for hurricane preparation from Red Cross.
- Listen to local weather advisories and stay informed about the storm.
- Build an emergency kit or update an existing one.
- Plan now for what members of the household will do in an emergency. Include ways to contact one another and two places to meet – one near the home and one outside the neighborhood.
- Fill your vehicle’s gas tank and get some extra cash.
- If the neighborhood is prone to flooding, prepare to evacuate quickly if necessary.
- If ordered to evacuate, obey the order, avoiding flooded roads and washed out bridges.
- If flooding threatens, head for higher ground and stay there.
- Turn around, don’t drown. If someone comes upon water above their ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. If a roadway is flooded, turn the vehicle around and go another way.
- If caught on a flooded road and the waters are rising rapidly, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
- Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to see flood danger.
DPW&T also recommends residents and those working or commuting throughout the weekend sign up for “Alert Prince George’s” text and email emergency alerts.