Havre de Grace spared by Sandy; Business owners still concerned

Biz leaders say impact felt before, after storm

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - Brandon Bush and his family prepared for the electricity to go out during Hurricane Sandy .

Bush, who lives on the north side of a duplex on a quiet street in Havre de Grace, didn't prepare to go upstairs and find water pouring through the roof into a little-used guest room.

"Water was just gushing through the ceiling," he said. "We had buckets to catch the water, but we didn't realize it was coming through so fast the trash cans were filling with water."

Bush's troubles seem to be an anomaly for Havre de Grace, where most places seemed business as usual on Thursday afternoon.

Real estate in Havre de Grace doesn't get more waterfront than the Tidewater Grille, which is situated right on the lower banks of the Susquehanna in view of the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay. Previous storms have taught general manager Julie Newberry that it is best to be prepared for a flood.

"This weekend, we spent most of our time filling sandbags," she said. "Monday morning, we had our crew out here, putting plastic over the windows."

All the preparation was for naught, she said, adding the water came up on the lawn in front of the restaurant's deck, but no closer.

"Downtown Havre de Grace was definitely lucky," she said. "We never lost power and the water never touched our property."

While the restaurant is operating as usual, Newberry said the one thing she can't predict is what the seafood supply will be like in the coming weeks. The Conowingo Dam, which is upstream from the community, was opened Thursday to allow water to flow into the Chesapeake Bay .

Officials at the Department of Natural Resources have said that the opening of the Conowingo Dam brings more sediment into the Chesapeake Bay , which can affect the fisheries.

"We do use fresh, local seafood. I don't know if there will be some trickle down or if things will cost more than they do. We will have to see what happens in the coming weeks," she said.

Alex Lee, the general manager of MacGregor's Restaurant and Tavern, agreed that it was too early to tell.

"All of our ordering has been pushed back because of the storm," he said. "Usually those effects come about a week later when everyone is trying to push their product out. It will affect our costs coming out."

Lee said he didn't expect the opening of the dam to have much effect on the town. It didn't seem to affect the restaurant on Thursday afternoon. There was a brisk business in the bar and several patrons eating a late lunch in the back dining room.

"It's something we take into consideration, but it affects other areas more than it does us," he said. "But any time we have to deal with the water being higher, we are more cautious and aware."

Local resident Russell Windsor's Congress Avenue home looked like he really prepared for Sandy, but he admitted the plywood on the windows is to prepare the home for demolition. As he raked up leaves that littered his front lawn, Windsor said he knew he would be okay as far as flooding went - he lives on the second floor of the brick home.

"These trees out in front of the house are pretty sturdy," he said. "But we're so close to the inlet, that they closed everything down – the streets. The drains were backed up by leaves."

Around the corner from Windsor's home, it's one of the busiest times of year for the Tidewater Marina, with employees preparing boats for winter storage. In addition to that work, Superstorm Sandy forced the staff to haul out more than 80 boats in the weekend before the storm.

"We had a full schedule for haul-outs," said Jeff Andrews, general manager of the marina. "Most of (the employees) worked 12, 13 hour days."

Andrews said the storm really comes in three phases for the community. The first, he said, was the wind event that came Monday evening. It was followed by the storm surge on Tuesday morning.

"We were on the right side of the storm, if you can be on the right side of a storm," he said. "It helped us because we had minimal surge of a couple of feet."

The final phase, he said, will be what flows down river, but he said he isn't too concerned, especially because so many boaters were prepared this year.

"Everyone has iPhone and smart phones. They pay attention to the weather. They're making decisions earlier and that keeps everyone moving in the right direction."

James Gasper, who owns a rental home in Havre de Grace, said people had no idea what was going to happen and so they over-prepared for the most part.

"We were lucky. We've had thunderstorms that gave us more damage than Sandy," he said. "Luckily, this is still a quaint little town on the water."

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