St. Mary’s County and Southern Maryland were spared the brunt of Hurricane Sandy this week as it came ashore Monday evening in southern New Jersey, but it still brought high winds and heavy rain to this region.
A man was injured in the Forrest Farm neighborhood during the storm, and there were a few reports of trees falling on houses.
There were thousands of electrical outages as trees came down, but it was not the widespread damage that was expected.
Emergency shelters were opened Sunday, as schools, colleges, businesses and the federal and local governments were closed Monday and Tuesday as a precaution.
St. Mary’s County schools were set to reopen today, Wednesday.
The shelters closed Tuesday morning, and the local state of emergency was lifted at noon.
Patuxent River Naval Air Station was to resume normal operations Wednesday.
Though rain from Sandy started in St. Mary’s on Sunday, the maximum winds arrived Monday evening. The National Weather Service reported maximum gusts of 74 mph at a buoy in the Potomac River off Point Lookout, 64 mph at St. Inigoes and 58 mph at Pax River, though gusts were weaker inland.
Shortly after 8 p.m. Monday, the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative saw its peak outage with 11,487 customers without power, 7,814 in St. Mary’s. By midday Tuesday, there were still 2,272 outages with 1,830 out in St. Mary’s. SMECO anticipated restoring at least 95 percent of St. Mary’s customers by the end of Tuesday, said Tom Dennison, public affairs manager.
SMECO assembled its largest pool of manpower ahead of the storm with 533 field workers in anticipation of what forecasters were calling a super storm. “We went into full storm mode, making preparations for historic outages,” Dennison said.
Last year Hurricane Irene knocked out power to 108,000 SMECO accounts, 72 percent of its Southern Maryland customers.
“We were seeing a lot of rainfall, a lot of wind, a lot of different conditions and we were energizing feeders throughout the day,” on Monday, Dennison said, as power would get knocked out and then restored.
“It was a tremendous job by our crews and our contact-level staff,” he said.
St. Mary’s County government opened two shelters at Great Mills and Leonardtown high schools on Sunday.
Though numerous trees and electrical wires fell across roads, the number came nowhere near those of Hurricane Irene in August 2011, said Bob Kelly, director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Emergency Management and Technology.
“Irene was pretty devastating. I think we were extremely fortunate here,” he said.
Voluntary evacuations were made at the low-lying areas of St. George Island, Colton’s Point and the end of Adkins Road in Great Mills.
“At times like these, the county comes together pretty well. We were prepared for and ready for the storm hitting us and the storm went north,” Kelly said.
At one point, forecasters thought Hurricane Sandy would make landfall on the Delmarva peninsula.
During Irene in August 2011, there came a point during the night when so many trees were falling that emergency responders couldn’t go out anymore.
During Hurricane Sandy, “they were responding all night,” Kelly said, frequently clearing downed trees from roads.
Wes Gleason, a Hollywood weather observer, recorded a gust of 49 mph on Monday. “The winds were the same direction as last year’s storm and the derecho [thunderstorm] so most of the weak trees were probably already down,” he said of this storm.
Sandy did bring a lot of rain.
As of Tuesday, Pax River had recorded 8.2 inches of rain from the storm, according to the National Weather Service.