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Keyword: public works

Officials Advise Residents to Plan for Possible Flooding and Power Outages

Although the current track of Hurricane Florence appears to be headed far south of our area, Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler and his top public safety and public health team gathered at Bowleys Quarters Volunteer Fire Rescue and Marine this morning to advise residents to stay alert to possible changes and prepare in case of localized coastal and inland flooding or power outages from downed trees. The storm is expected to stall and produce heavy rains, which could lead to some inland and coastal flooding throughout the south and possibly in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“The Memorial Day weekend flooding in Catonsville, Ellicott City, Oella and Turner Station was an unwelcome reminder of our vulnerability, and that it doesn’t take a direct hit from a hurricane to ruin homes and businesses and cause prolonged power outages and possible loss of life,” Mohler said.

Mohler reminded residents to watch the County’s social media channels for storm-related updates. “Providing accurate, timely information to our citizens during an emergency is a top priority for us,” he said. “During storms and other emergencies, we push out frequent updates via Twitter @BaltCoemergency and on our Baltimore County Fire Department Facebook page.” Baltimore County emergency managers will continue to receive regular updates throughout this weather event and will provide updates on social media as needed.

“Living in eastern Baltimore County and along the waterfront myself, I am particularly grateful to all of our career and volunteer fire service, police officers and public works staff who stand ready to jump into action if necessary to protect people if this storm should cause problems,” said 6th District County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins.

Fire and Public Works Crews are Prepared and Ready to Respond

The Baltimore County Fire Department and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management continue monitoring the storm and preparing to respond as needed. These preparations include:

  • Inspecting swiftwater and high-water rescue equipment; pumps and other apparatus.
  • Reviewing staffing and operational plans.
  • Preparing to open and staff the Emergency Operations Center, in case this becomes an emergency requiring a coordinated, multi-agency response.
  • Contacting our mutual aid partners in case we need additional resources.
  • Regular updates with National Weather Service regarding the forecast.

The Baltimore County Department of Public Works (DPW) has placed special emphasis this week on checking their equipment and clearing storm drain inlets to help reduce flooding potential. DPW warns that the saturated ground from recent rainy weather means that trees can be vulnerable to toppling from lighter winds than usual. County tree crews and contractors are ready to clear trees that may fall into roadways and the public right of way.

DPW asks residents to help by reporting any problems that may occur including blocked inlets and downed trees to the Bureau of Highways using the BaltCoGo mobile app. The app is offered free of charge to Android and iPhone users and may be downloaded from their respective app stores. Residents may also call the Bureau of Highways at 410-887-3560.

Flooded basement issues can be reported to 911, so they can be evaluated for fire risks on a case by case basis. The County asks homeowners take steps to prevent problems, or reduce their impact, by clearing downspouts and basement stairwells.

Preparation is Key for Residents

Every household should prepare for this and other possible weather emergencies, considering how thay will manage if the power goes out for an extended period. Steps to take now:

  • Locate and purchase supplies. You need non-perishable food, a manual can opener, medications, supplies for infants and vulnerable adults, pet supplies, flashlights/batteries and a battery-powered radio.
  • Buy or store extra water -- at least a gallon per person, per day, plus extra for pets.
  • Fully charge all your electric devices. If power goes out, use them sparingly to make them last as long as possible.
  • Get cash. ATMs will not work during a power outage.
  • Secure boats and outdoor furniture.
  • Plan where you will evacuate if you live in a flood-prone area and need to move to higher ground.
  • Assist vulnerable family and neighbors with storm preparations. This is critical; many vulnerable people, including older people cannot prepare by themselves.
  • Stay informed about the track of this storm. Follow weather forecasts and our social media posts, @BaltCoEmergency on Twitter and @BaltCoFire on Facebook.

Is that text worth your life?

By Steve Walsh, Director, Baltimore County Department of Public Works

I am definitely not laughing out loud when a guy passes me at 70 mph and he’s texting behind the wheel. Not funny. And possibly deadly.

  • One in four crashes involves a cell phone.
  • A third of all drivers admit to reading or texting behind the wheel.
  • Drivers under 30 years old account for nearly 36 percent of all distracted drivers involved in crashes.

I’m not the first to point out the dangers of this practice, of course. But as Baltimore County’s director of Public Works, whose department is involved with roadway safety, I believe we all have a responsibility to speak out and to protect the innocent.

I understand the temptations of technology. I’ve got kids, so I see the lure of phones, computers and tablets every day. But we need to remind ourselves of the statistics. In just one year, 3,450 people in the U.S. were killed in distraction-related crashes, according to the latest Federal data.

A driver can safely glance away from the road for only about two seconds. Answering a text takes five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, five seconds is enough time to travel the length of a football field.

“Hands free” is the law in Maryland.

Focus on the road and the drivers around you.

Is that text worth your life?

Avoid distractions with these safety driving tips from AAA

  • Put aside electronic distractions. While driving, never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle.
  • Pre-program your GPS and adjust seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before driving.
  • Properly secure children and pets before you start the car.
  • Store loose items that could roll around in the car.
  • Snack smart by avoiding messy foods that can be difficult to manage.

By Steve Walsh, Director, Baltimore County Public Works

In recent years, Baltimore County has been dumped on. The rains are longer, the storms harder. The waters have caused flooded basements, instant lakes and backyard bayous. People want to know why they’re having water problems they never had before, and they want to know what the County can do about it.

The change in the rain cycle is one of many reasons for the increase in flooding. Various climate sources now document an increase in rainfall over the past 60 years across the country. In our area, the northeast, the amount of precipitation falling during intense, multi-day events increased an astounding 71 percent, say the experts. Since rainfall record-keeping started in 1873, the wettest September was in 2011 (13.32”) and the wettest June was in 2015 (13.09”). The wettest July has been this year, 2018, with 13.36” as of July 24.

But there are other factors.

Modern Environmental Regulations Don’t Protect Some Older Areas

Some of the homes now experiencing flooding problems probably wouldn’t be allowed to be built in those locations today, given current regulations designed to protect the environment and prevent homes from being flooded. Current floodplain setback requirements, environmental buffers and other protective regulations didn’t exist when many of our older, low-lying communities were built.

The development of the storm drainage system - roadside ditches, inlets, pipes and stream systems - was haphazard in some older areas of the county, often an afterthought of the homebuilders. Now, these older communities are left with little protection from increasingly significant rains.

Maintaining Drainage Systems

Baltimore County Public Works maintains and cleans 1,437 miles of storm drains, 51,000 stormwater inlets and 3,600 cross road pipes, bridges and culverts. Our current maintenance activities center on responding to complaints, keeping inlet grates and cross road culverts clean and free flowing, and unclogging pipes when necessary.

These systemic neighborhood-wide stormwater problems cannot be solved overnight. The Department of Public Works will investigate, study and design solutions, and continue discussions with communities about the level of flood protection and costs of reasonable drainage projects.

House-Related Flood Problems

A homeowner can be flooded from a nearby stream, an overwhelmed unseen piped drainage course, an overwhelmed sump pump, or from seepage through the floor or basement walls. The County cannot assist with house related problems.

As rains continue, we suggest homeowners first understand the risk of flooding for their property, and then do their best to protect it. Sometimes site grading or home basement waterproofing improvements can help.

Information can be obtained from knowledgeable experts such as basement waterproofing professionals, engineers and landscapers. Below are some more resources:

  • Find out about local flood plain locations, flood insurance and more. An Interactive Flood Mapping Application along with the instruction sheet is available online.
  • See “Protecting Your Home from Flooding – low-cost projects you can do yourself.” FEMA has lots of online resources at .
  • If there are problems with the public storm drain system in your community, contact the Baltimore County Department of Public Works (DPW) Storm Drain Design Division at 410-887-3711.

Revised September 11, 2017