ANNAPOLIS – When Hurricane Fran swept through Maryland in 1996, Ego Alley in Annapolis Harbor stayed open in an impromptu hurricane party for the 30 to 40 patrons who braved swelling waters to throw back a few at the bar.
One man arrived by kayak, tied it to a parking meter outside and came in for a cold one.
With the pending arrival of Hurricane Isabel, Ego Alley owner Ken Knief is not boarding up windows – he’s bracing for another party.
“We’ll stay open as long as possible,” said Knief.
However, most people are taking the storm more seriously, said Ed McDonough, the deputy public information officer for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
Both MEMA and the Maryland State Police warn the public to exercise extreme caution and to stay off the roads when the storm hits.
“Do not try and cross running water,” said McDonough, who added that 60 percent of hurricane fatalities are a result of flooding, many from crossing high water improperly.
Although Isabel could cause power outages, he said, the major concern statewide is flooding, since most streams are at or above normal flow.
“We can’t undo what Mother Nature has already done in terms of rain over the summer,” said McDonough. “We’re are pretty powerful, but not that powerful.”
Maryland, at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, has received more than 11 inches more rain than it usually does by this time of the year, according to the National Weather Service.
Annapolis city workers are filling sandbags, and they should be available to businesses by Wednesday, said the mayor’s office.
Phillips Annapolis Harbor Restaurant will be getting sandbags from another source as it prepares for the storm.
People driving through the harbor area should be careful not to create wakes that could flow over the sandbags, said Ric Dahlgren, harbormaster.
Other store owners are anticipating the arrival of the sandbags and said beyond that there is not much they can do.
“I’m just going to let nature take its course,” said Gary Amoth, president of the Hard Bean Coffee and BookSellers on Market Space.
Marge Stevens, owner of Stevens True Value Hardware, said she hopes the sandbags arrive soon, but said sump pumps have been effective in the past in preventing serious damage to the store.
Other establishments are confident history will repeat itself and the waters will not reach them.
“We’ve been fortunate . . . the water has not crossed the street, not in the last 10 years,” said Linda Shellem, office manager at Middleton Tavern.
Ego Alley will be sandbagging again, Knief said, but regulars won’t let a little water stop their fun.
During Hurricane Fran, the bar was strongly advised to close around 9 p.m., when about six inches of water covered its floor and two-and-a-half feet sloshed outside, kept back by sandbags.
To get to Ego Alley then, customers had to navigate around city barricades, negotiate the closed Dock Street, step over sandbags and duck their heads to clear the doorway.
“As long as we keep the water at bay,” Knief said, “we’ll stay open . . . unless I’m told to close.”