Marylanders should prepare for a wet weekend as Hurricane Ian makes its way north after slamming into the Florida coast on Wednesday afternoon as a powerful Category 4 storm.
Rain is expected to begin late Friday to early Saturday, and last through Sunday or Monday, according to a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Baltimore/Washington, D.C., office.
Through Saturday evening, the weather service was forecasting between half an inch and an inch of rainfall in the Baltimore region, with heavier rains expected in southern Maryland, meteorologist Cody Ledbetter said.
The hurricane made landfall just west of Fort Myers in southwest Florida on Wednesday afternoon after leaving Cuba without power and ravaged by flooding. The storm was packing 150 mph winds and brought a wall of storm surge, the Associated Press reported, knocking out power to more than 1 million people in Florida. While Ian was starting to weaken as it crossed Florida, it was expected to leave behind catastrophic damage. About 2.5 million people had been ordered to evacuate before the storm hit, according to the AP.
According to a Wednesday update from the National Hurricane Center, parts of central Florida could continue to have “[w]idespread, life-threatening catastrophic flooding.” Other areas braced for significant flooding. Heavy rainfall was expected in portions of the southeastern United States later this week and through the weekend, according to the update.
In Maryland, the NWS was keeping an eye on the western coast along the Chesapeake Bay, where Ledbetter said there might be a potential for coastal floods, although it will have a better forecast later in the week. There also is a chance of minor flooding in the Inner Harbor this weekend in the evenings, according to another meteorologist.
Winds in Maryland may reach peak gusts of around 20 to 30 mph, Ledbetter said.
In the meantime, the Red Cross’ National Capital and Greater Chesapeake region was among the local agencies sending volunteers and supplies to the hardest-hit areas. Around a dozen volunteers from the region, which covers northern Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, mobilized to help with disaster relief, spokesperson Ashley Henyan said.
Some of those local volunteers, Henyan said, arrived on Sunday or Monday. They, along with Red Cross volunteers from across the country, worked to set up evacuation shelters with food, water and supplies. As of Tuesday night, Henyan said, around 13,000 people had stayed in Red Cross shelters.
There are hundreds more volunteers from the local Red Cross region on standby, she said, should they been needed.
“It’s just a waiting game now to see exactly where the storm hits, how much damage there is, and then what kind of help is needed,” Henyan said before Ian made landfall.
After the storm passes, Henyan said, volunteers who are usually deployed for around two weeks will continue to work in shelters, as well as move into Florida’s hardest-hit areas. Some may work on an emergency response vehicle, which drives into heavily-affected communities to provide food and supplies, such as shovels and rakes.
The Red Cross was moving O-negative blood into the area, Henyan said. After a large storm, it’s hard to have enough blood to meet community demand, and residents in affected areas likely won’t be thinking about going to a blood drive, she said.
“So, what’s important for the people of Baltimore and the people of Maryland to know is it’s a good time to donate blood,” she said.
After returning from Puerto Rico to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, Maryland Task Force One was also standing by, ready to help in Florida if needed, said Pete Piringer, spokesperson for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.