‘It will be uncomfortable’: Ocean City mayor, police chief on weekend pop-up car rally

Sunny, cool weather would normally make this a perfect weekend for an impromptu, offseason trip to Ocean City, Maryland — however, the resort’s mayor and police chief are warning against it.

Ocean City has declared a “Special Event Zone” through Sunday, Sept. 26, which reduces speed limits and increases fines and penalties for drivers.

“I know a lot of our residents are concerned about the pop-up car rally happening this weekend — we are concerned as well,” said Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, in a video posted online.

The unsanctioned car rally, called H2Oi, attracts thousands of car enthusiasts, particularly modified cars.

“In the past, this unofficial event has wreaked havoc in our community,” Meehan said. “Laws were broken, and local residents and businesses were disrespected — this is just unacceptable.”

In prior years, the H2Oi weekend spawned social media posts of drag racing, drivers doing donuts and an instance in which a driver doing a burnout hit a child and an adult with their car.

Some Ocean City businesses are choosing to close this weekend. On the town’s website FAQ page, the town acknowledges declaring a special events zone will reduce money spent by visitors.

“The City Council is aware of the economic impact of the Pop-Up Rally event. The Pop-Up Rally also costs our community more than just money,” according to the town’s website.

“This year, the Special Events Zone has been expanded to all of Worcester County,” said Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro, in a separate video. “Our residents and visitors can expect to see law enforcement in great number, working throughout the pop-up rally weekend.”

The special events declaration, which took effect Tuesday, lowers the speed limit, and increases fines for violations.

During the special events weekend, the speed limit on Coastal Highway — the main drag through Ocean City — has been reduced from 40 to 30 miles per hour, in North Ocean City. In the more densely-built downtown area, the speed limit is also reduced.

With the increased enforcement, Buzzuro said: “There will be major obstructions to traffic and it will be uncomfortable.”

Maryland State Police will be stepping-up enforcement on state roads, heading toward the beach as well.

While stopping short of saying stay-away from the popular resort town, the mayor and police chief said they are focusing on the safety of residents, businesses, and visitors: “If you don’t have any business in town, or a need to drive in town, then don’t,” Buzzuro said.

“Ocean City has a long history of welcoming all visitors to our resort town, but we do expect everyone to be courteous, and obey our laws,” Meehan said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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