Emergency personnel evacuates a resident of the Somers Cove Apartments Tuesday after Hurricane Sandy knocked out power and water to the town. / Joey Gardner photo
CRISFIELD, Md. (The Daily Times) - City residents who spent a frightening night trapped in their homes by rising flood waters were moved to safety Tuesday morning during a door-to-door search and rescue operation manned by local firefighters, police and Maryland National Guard troops.
Even with advance warnings from the National Weather Service about the size and strength of Hurricane Sandy, its ferocity still took people by surprise in Crisfield, a city that has learned to roll with the occasional punches from hurricanes.
"This is the storm of the century," said Mayor Percy Purnell. "Nobody expected it."
The situation was made worse when the power went out and then the pumps on the public water system failed.
The rescue operation began Monday afternoon shortly after high tide when water from Tangier Sound was pushed by Sandy into Crisfield's streets where it reached depths of 5 feet in some places, said Somerset County Administrator Doug Taylor. The search was suspended at dark, then resumed early Tuesday morning.
All morning long, residents in flooded houses were picked up by National Guard trucks, then transferred to school buses and driven to the shelter at Washington High School in Princess Anne. A few with health problems or injuries were taken to the hospital.
There were no deaths reported.
"We're doing our best to get people out," said City Councilwoman LaVerne Johnson. "A lot of people were really scared last night. I've been here my whole life and I've never seen it this bad."
County officials said Gov. Martin O'Malley planned to visit Crisfield this morning to see the damage firsthand.
Throughout the night, 911 operators were swamped with calls for help from Crisfield and other waterfront areas of Somerset County, including water rescues from houses and stranded vehicles, trees that had fallen on houses and at least three house fires.
Property damage was visible all over Crisfield on Tuesday morning after the water began to recede and the sun came up. The Crisfield Police Department lost its roof halfway through the storm, and the City Dock received significant damage.