OC Prepping For Major Event No Matter Joaquin’s Track

OC Prepping For Major Event No Matter Joaquin’s Track

OCEAN CITY – As weather forecasters debate whether or not Hurricane Joaquin will have any significant impact on the Eastern Seaboard, local officials are preparing for a wet weekend and potential heavy rains and flooding.

The National Weather Service predicts that a cold front could drench the region with multiple inches of rain over the course of the weekend, regardless of the track that Hurricane Joaquin takes.

“It’s still too early to tell what is going to happen,” said Ocean City Engineer Terry McGean, “but we will be prepared for it.”

Wednesday’s forecast had Joaquin passing by the Delmarva Peninsula around 2 a.m. on Monday morning, but the tropical moisture that the storm is carrying, coupled with the cold front, has significantly increased the precipitation predictions for the weekend, making this a much more likely rain event than anything else for many planned events in Ocean City and surrounding areas, such as the H2Oi automotive event, Wine on the Beach in the Inlet and the offshore powerboat races.


A Moving Target

Victor Mooney, the 49-year-old Brooklyn man who has received national attention for his 15-month quest to row across the Atlantic Ocean to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS research, is still stuck in Ocean City waiting for Mother Nature to allow him to embark on the final leg of his journey.

“I’ve seen storms like these before, and I know what they are capable of,” said Mooney this week from his Ocean City hotel room. “As a rower, I try to avoid being on the water anywhere from 48-96 hours before the system hits, and due to the north/northeast winds and the precipitation forecasted, I have to sit tight. Then you throw in the tropical storm, and I’m definitely here until at least Tuesday.”

Mooney has taken the time in Ocean City to rest, and begin work on a book that chronicles his epic journey.

“The Harrison Group was so kind to me and set me up in a nice hotel since I docked here,” said Mooney, “despite the weather, it’s been exactly what I needed to get ready for the last leg of the trip.”


Downtown Flooding Always A Concern

Despite Joaquin’s track, the low-lying areas of downtown Ocean City are undisputedly the resort’s most vulnerable spot during intense storms, or even heavy rainfall for that matter.

Gary Steger’s family has owned property in that area of the resort for over 100 years including a rental property on Dorchester Street they have had since 1962.

“I renovated that place a few years ago after Superstorm Sandy, but I used to have watermarks on the wood paneling to show how high the water rose in that building during the major storms,” said Steger. “During the 1962 storm, we had 21 inches of water inside. During Hurricane Gloria in 1985, we had 17 inches of water, and during Sandy, we had 19 inches.”

Steger says rising flood waters have always been a concern for his personal and rental properties downtown, but he’s never thought of leaving.

“It’s just a part of life,” said Steger, “We have sandbags to stop the wakes created by the cars passing by and pushing the waters into our front doors, since they are all only as high as the top of the curb on the street-but no, we’d never leave, we just hope the weather doesn’t scare our renters away.”

This past July, to help curb the flooding downtown, the Ocean City Mayor and Council approved a Hazardous Mitigation Grant from MEMA (Maryland Emergency Management Agency) to purchase 14 backflow preventers (at a cost of approximately $70,000 — $53,000 of which was picked up by MEMA) to help stop tidal waters from the bay piling onto rainwater that was trying to empty the city streets through storm-water drains.

“They will help significantly,” said McGean. “Unfortunately, we don’t have them installed yet, but essentially, what they do is ensure that the stormwater flows off the streets, and the tidal bays don’t back up onto the streets.  In the past, the stormwater has nowhere to go because the bay is backing up through storm piping and causing an even bigger flooding problem.”

The backflow preventers will be installed bayside between South Division and 4th streets.

Glenn Irwin, executive director of the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC), believes the “preventers” will be effective, especially in helping strengthen the resort’s proverbial “Achilles heel” during storms.

“The older buildings in that part of the downtown are very prone to flooding during storms,” said Irwin, “but many of them have survived through all the major storms Ocean City has had over the past 100 years. OCDC has done over 170 façade improvements downtown and we manage three properties for the town that have flooded in the past.  It’s always a big concern.”

During Superstorm Sandy, Irwin says one of the buildings near Somerset Street that took in a significant amount of water has since been demolished and turned into an interim parking lot.

“Many newer buildings are already raised to meet FEMA standards, but few older buildings have been elevated since Sandy, so we are doing our best even though that part of downtown Ocean City has been known to flood even during a regular rainstorm,” said Irwin. “There’s nowhere for all that water to go.”


City On Weather Alert

In the meantime, town officials have sent out precautionary messages about the potential inclement weather Joaquin could create, but remain far from the proverbial panic button.

“We are watching the storm, and we do expect something from this storm as far as impact, but we don’t know how much yet,” said Ocean City Communications Manager Jessica Waters. “What people should do now is earmark the informational sites we run through the city, and know what zone and division you are in, because if we have flooding or worse, we’ll be sending messages about flooding and property damage to property owners by zone and division.”

Zones and divisions are determined by location and vulnerability to flooding.

For more information regarding storm preparedness, please visit: http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

Sign up for Town of Ocean City Wide Emergency Alerts by visiting: http://oceancitymd.gov/enews and subscribing to “City Wide Emergency Alerts.”

Systematic Closures

Underway At Assateague

By mid-week, Assateague Island National Seashore had already begun efforts to systematically close the park in advance of Hurricane Joaquin.

By 8 p.m. on Wednesday, AINS officials had already closed the Over-Sand Vehicle route and the OSV is scheduled to remain closed until the storm has passed. All Assateague Island National Seashore campgrounds were expected to be closed by noon on Friday. Campers with existing reservations were to be notified well in advance of the announced closures.

An island-wide closure is expected to be completed by noon on Sunday and the Assateague Island Visitor’s Center is expected to close by 4 p.m. on Sunday. The barrier island and the visitor’s center will remain closed until the threat of the storm has passed. Following Hurricane Sandy, when much of the barrier island was over-washed and many of the man-made structures were damaged or destroyed, Assateague Island National Seashore officials have been proactive in applying the lessons learned during that storm.

“All closures are subject to change as we follow the path of Hurricane Joaquin. Powerful hurricanes and coastal storms over the years have taught hard lessons at Assateague Island National Seashore and other coastal areas. Pre-storm preparation and planning for the protection of visitors, staff and island resources is key,” a statement from AINS released on Wednesday reads.

Offshore Boat Races,

Wine Event Cancelled

Another casualty of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Joaquin was the OPA Power Boat National Championships set for this weekend off the coast of Ocean City as well as the annual Wine on the Beach event held at the Inlet.

The national championship races would have represented the culmination of the OPA’s summer-long power boat race series all over the country.

“Unfortunately, the weather has changed our plans for this weekend. Due to the status of the storm upgraded to a Hurricane it must be cancelled. We are working with the Coast Guard, county and City to reschedule the Ocean City Nationals for the weekend of Oct. 16, 17 & 18,” race organizers said in a statement released on Wednesday.

Additionally, Wine on the Beach, the annual celebration featuring wine vendors and live music held in the Inlet Parking Lot, has been postponed. No date has been announced but it will not be next weekend, Oct. 9-11 because Cruisin’ has it reserved.

“We are very disappointed, as our 20th annual event was slated to be the biggest and best ever. However, there is no compromising on public safety. If the Town feels the site is at risk, we have to accept that,” said Wine on the Beach festival coordinator Chris Nokes.