The hurricane's back end continued to hover over the East Coast Tuesday, dropping more rain onto ground already saturated by the five to eight inches of rain that has fallen in the past 48 hours. The storm pushed into the Midwest and New England, blanketing Michigan and Vermont with wind warnings. Much of Maine was under a flood watch.
"We all dodged a bullet on this one," Anne Arundel County Fire Battalion Chief Steve Thompson said Tuesday from the county's emergency operations center. "If that storm would have wiggled a little bit south, with those winds, it would have been a doozie."
A flood warning remains effect until Tuesday afternoon for nearly all of Maryland. As the rains continued to fall, creeks and streams were expected to begin rising, according to Kevin Witt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Flooding in major rivers will peak on Wednesday, he added, with the Potomac expected to crest at 30 feet — nearly twice its normal level. Witt also said severe rains and winds would last through Tuesday but would likely taper toward normal by late morning Wednesday. Wind advisories were still in effect Tuesday morning for much of the state as well.
A blizzard warning is active until early this evening for all of Garrett County and half of Allegany County, as far east as Cumberland. Total snow accumulations in higher elevations may be has great as two feet, according to the National Weather Service. Four-to-eight inches are expected today.
"This really wasn't that bad at all," said Fells Point resident Mike McDaniel, who was walking his dog Tuesday morning. After Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003, which hit Baltimore's lowlands hard, residents became more aware of potential storms dangers and took extra precautions this time, McDaniel said. The city began distributing sandbags to residents several days ago.
McDaniel felt the storm was not as bad as anticipated for the area, noting minor flooding along South Wolfe Street, between Thames and Aliceanna streets. He said his home was not damaged during the storm.
"This was a serious storm," she Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at a news conference Tuesday morning. "Our police, fire, EMS were all out in full force last night and we responded to every single 911 call and our police were highly visible," throughout the city, she said.
Rawlings-Blake said that there emergency incidents were easier to control overnight in part because of a road-use restriction that was instituted Monday at 6 p.m. and lifted at noon Tuesday.
At least 230 trees have fallen throughout the city; about half are in streets. The city has 35 crews out working to remove them, the mayor said. Among the trees that topped into roadways was a Osage Orange tree along Greenspring Avenue that was estimated to be at least 400 years old, according to the Friends of Druid Hill Park.
About 138,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers without power at 5 p.m. Tuesday, about 12,000 of those customers are in Baltimore. Baltimore County had the most outages in the region — about 41,900. Still, that was fewer than officials expected and under the number of outages caused by Hurricane Irene last year.
Rawlings-Blake had asked to ask people to stay off Baltimore's roads until noon so that emergency and electrical repair crews could reach trouble spots, said Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake.
Although early reports make it appear that Baltimore has escaped the worst, reports of damage, downed trees and dangerous wires are likely to increase as the city's residents assess their yards and streets, he cautioned.
"Public safety is priority number one," said O'Doherty. Residents should report downed trees to 311 and downed power lines to BGE, he said. BGE is encouraging all customers whose power goes out — even customers with Smart Meters — to call 877-778-2222 to report the outage.
Personnel from the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management were "pre-staged" across the city to assist as calls came in to 311 and 911, backed by 15 emergency officials visiting from Indiana.
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said her cell phone is fully charged, but she hasn't been inundated with calls from those in the city's North Central 14th district.
"I don't have a lot of input right now," she said. "I take that as a very good sign."
Clarke added that she's thankful that Baltimore seemed largely spared: "It's a true, true blessing. I think we all prayed."
Second District Councilman Brandon M. Scott agreed. "We dodged it," Scott said. "You can let out a breath." Sandy's impact was only a fraction of the effect of this summer's derecho that blackened every traffic light on Bel Air Road throughout the 2nd District.
Baltimore's Department of Public Works has suspended trash and recycling collection Tuesday and rescheduled it for Saturday. The department will focus on debris removal Tuesday and street sweeping will not be conducted.