Hurricane Irene: Ocean City, Md., starts feeling hurricane

A message is sprawled onto plywood along an empty Ocean City street. (Photo: Jay Korff/ WJLA)

Ocean City, Md. will likely begin feeling the effects of Hurricane Irene by Saturday morning. On Friday, the city felt like a ghost town as residents and visitors heeded evacuation orders and left the area.

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Officials announced a mandatory evacuation of Ocean City Thursday.

During a press briefing Friday, Emergency Management Director Joe Theobald said based on the latest tracking information tropical storm winds will start at 10 a.m. Saturday.

He said by 5 p.m., hurricane force winds will begin and continue for several more hours.

He is confident there will be damage and flooding. Based on the speed of the storm he believes the area could get 6 to 15 inches of rain. The storm is expected to push an ocean surge of 6 to 8 feet.

Usually, the resort town is packed with people on late summer vacations at this time of year.

The area he's most concerned about is the downtown, which starts at 17th Street and stretches south to the inlet.

He said that entire area is the most vulnerable and will be hit first and hardest with considerable flooding.

But he and Mayor Rick Meehan are also concerned about the wind and the storm surge, which they fear could be six to eight feet.

The public transportation system shut down at 5 p.m. Friday.

The wastewater treatment plant will be taken off line at 6 p.m. Saturday. Interstate 90 East has been closed to traffic and the Route 50 bridge closed at 5 p.m.

Officials have gone door to door to alert residents to evacuate. The mayor estimates at least 90 percent of the city’s residents will be gone by Saturday afternoon.

Jay Hager is among the few residents who plan to ride out Irene, along with Lyndsey Kanski.

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