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MEMA Update: 800,000 Without Power, Nearly 4,000 in Shelters

Gov. Martin O'Malley said 823,000 are without power, 200 roads are closed, almost 4,000 residents in shelters and two reported deaths. BWI is open.

(Updated 1 p.m., Aug. 28)
More than 800,000 Maryland residents were without power Sunday, almost 4,000 fled to shelters and two people were killed in a lashing overnight by Hurricane Irene, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency said.

Crisfield, in Somerset County, has been issued a mandatory evacuation. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said National Guard, Department of Natural Resources and Maryland State Police were aiding in the evacuation.

“It’s not life-threatening, but because of rising tides we consider it a precautionary measure,” he said.

Ocean City is open as of noon.

Nearly 2,000 students who were part of a foreign exchange program that were evacuated will be returning today, Brown said in the latest update for reporters. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, was also at MEMA headquarters.

Aerial assessments of Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County, including Annapolis, have been conducted and local teams were assessing damage on the ground statewide.

BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, the Port of Baltimore and interstate highways were open, as the state regrouped in the wake of the Category 1 storm.

Flooding was reported in St. Mary's County and Annapolis, and a tornado sighting on the Eastern Shore remained unconfirmed. About 200 roads were closed.

Gov. Martin O’Malley said the top priority was restoring electricity to Maryland's 823,000 residents without power.

“That will require a lot of hard work, a lot of coordination,” he said from MEMA’s Reisterstown headquarters. “Some of these require intricate work and even clearing roads is difficult if the trees are tangled up in power lines.”

The number of those without power is far beyond the 300,000 that were without power during 2010’s “snowmageddon,” officials noted.

Two deaths have been reported in the state, one in an Owings Mills apartment complex and another in Queen Anne’s County in which a tree fell on a woman’s house, causing her chimney to collapse.

The Port of Baltimore had closed around 6 p.m. Saturday. The boats had to run their engines all night and sit a half-mile apart from each other and eight miles from the Bay Bridge, MEMA director Richard Muth said.

The state’s light rail and bus systems were slowly getting up and running because of debris on roads and tracks and employees having difficulty getting to work, O’Malley said.

A Maryland State Police officer reported seeing a tornado Saturday night around 8 p.m. on the Worcester-Wicomico County line. Tornados are typically recognized by the National Weather Service, but officials have not confirmed the sighting.

The St. Mary’s Lake dam overflowed and there is some minor flooding reported in the area, as well as in Annapolis.

The Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant underwent a preventative shutdown of its No. 1 reactor because of flying debris during the storm. No danger was posed by the shutdown, the governor said.

The governor got positive information from Ocean City officials.

“The boardwalk is in good shape. The beach is in good shape,” he said. “Ocean City’s reopening in a couple of places and will be open again by noon today.”

A fire was reported on Deal Island, which was believed to have been started by candles, O’Malley said.

There will likely be some school closures Monday, depending on electric outages.

A total of 3,991 people were housed in 20 local shelters and three state shelters, with 1,669 at local shelters and 2,322 at state shelters, according to the Maryland Department of Human Resources.

The governor cautioned Marylanders using grills and generators to make sure those devices are well-ventilated and out of doors, not in homes or garages.

Muth and other officials will begin aerial assessments later Sunday.

Editor's note: This story was updated to insert information in the second through sixth paragraphs to include the latest from a MEMA news conference.

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