James Nye and Beth Stebner
Fri, 26 Oct 2012 16:27 CDT
New York has just been declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Sandy which is expected to hit the East Coast late on Sunday, with the possibility it will halt subways and ground planes. Governor Cuomo said the declaration allows the 62 counties to help localities better prepare for the storm with access to federal funding and the national guard.
Hurricane Sandy is looking more and more ominous as it makes its way towards the East Coast, and local authorities are preparing for the worst, predicting at least $1billion in damage and the possibility and up to 375,000 New Yorkers could be evacuated. Meteorologists expect a natural horror show of high wind, heavy rain, extreme tides and maybe even snow on higher ground beginning early on Sunday.
© AFP/Getty Images
This NASA TV frame grab shows Hurricane Sandy from the International Space Station as it barrels up the Atlantic Coast of the United States
The National Weather Service is predicting sustained winds of up to 80mph for at least a 24-hour period and said it has the potential to be one of the worst in the city’s history with major flooding.
Experts say the tempest has a 90 per cent chance of making landfall with the potential to wreak havoc with heavy winds, rain, flooding, and downed trees and power lines.
In fact, longtime weatherman Chad Myers, who works for the NOAA, wrote: ‘After 26 years in TV weather and two years with NOAA, Sandy may pose the greatest risk to human life that I have seen.’
State Division of Homeland Security commissioner Jerome Hauer said: ‘They’re saying it’s a worst case. It certainly has a possibility of being one of the worst. We’re at a point of time where people need to take precautions now.’
He warned that New York could face even more devastating storm surge flooding than was anticipated during Hurricane Irene last year when large swaths of the city were evacuated.
Officials will decide by Saturday whether evacuations will again be needed this week, according to the New York Daily News.
The MTA, which shut down all buses and subways ahead of Irene’s blast last year, is considering its second subway shutdown in history.
The transportation authority’s hurricane plan ‘calls for an orderly shutdown of service before the arrival of sustained winds of 39 mph or higher’ in the elevated portions of the subway system and the agency’s railroad.
Parts of the subway that are below sea level are particularly susceptible to flooding.
Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said the city’s agencies were meeting today to decide what action to take.
He said: ‘Obviously, this is a very strong storm and there are a lot of different weather patterns that could come into play as it makes its way up the coast. It’s already done damage in the places that it’s been and so we’re taking it very seriously.’
Mayor Bloomberg advised New Yorkers to be ready for Sandy with a ‘go kit’ that includes bottled water, a flashlight, first aid kit and other emergency supplies.
‘Our city is very likely to feel its effects in the form high tides, high winds and heavy rainfall lasting for several days,’ the mayor said.
‘We are taking all the steps that we need to take. But the storm is moving at a rate that we’re still not going to have a good sense of when and where it’s going to hit land.
‘It’s better to be safe than sorry but at the moment we do not think it is necessary to make the decision to evacuate just yet.’
He also requested that hospitals and nursing homes in the most flood-prone parts of the city release patients that can be discharged safely and cancel elective hospital stays.
Local forecaster’s in Philadelphia have warned that the storm could directly hit the City of Brotherly Love and residents in South Jersey have begun stocking up on bottled water and batteries to prepare.
One sixth of the U.S. population or 50 million people are directly in the path of the storm and the general consensus is that the super-storm will make a direct hit on Monday or Tuesday somewhere from Virginia to New England.
Some U.S. airlines are giving travelers a way out if they want to scrap their plans due to Hurricane Sandy.
JetBlue, US Airways and Spirit Airlines are offering waivers to customers who wish to reschedule their flights without paying the typical fee of up to $150. The offers cover passengers flying just about anywhere from Latin America to New Hampshire.
Most other airlines are monitoring the storm and plan to update passengers later Friday. The airlines have only canceled a handful of flights so far, nearly all of them in and out of Florida and the Caribbean.
Hurricane Sandy has already cut a swathe through the Caribbean, leaving 21 dead as it left the area over the Bahamas and passed into the Atlantic.
Utilities are lining up out-of-state work crews and canceling employees’ days off to deal with expected power outages. From county disaster chiefs to the federal government, emergency officials are warning the public to be prepared. And President Barack Obama was briefed aboard Air Force One.
‘It’s looking like a very serious storm that could be historic,’ said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground. ‘Mother Nature is not saying, ‘Trick or treat.’ It’s just going to give tricks.’
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco, who coined the nickname Frankenstorm, said: ‘We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting.’
Government forecasters said there is a 90 percent chance – up from 60 percent two days earlier – that the East will get pounded.
Coastal areas from Florida to Maine will feel some effects, but the storm is expected to vent the worst of its fury on New Jersey and the New York City area, which could see around five inches of rain and gale-force winds close to 40 mph. Eastern Ohio, southwestern Pennsylvania and western Virginia could get snow.
And the storm will take its time leaving. The weather may not start clearing in the mid-Atlantic until the day after Halloween and November 2 in the upper Northeast, Cisco said.
‘It’s almost a weeklong, five-day, six-day event,’ he said from a NOAA forecast center in College Park, Md. ‘It’s going to be a widespread, serious storm.’
It is likely to hit during a full moon, when tides are near their highest, increasing the risk of coastal flooding. And because many trees still have their leaves, they are more likely to topple in the event of wind and snow, meaning there could be widespread power outages lasting to Election Day.
Eastern states that saw outages that lasted for days after last year’s freak Halloween snowstorm and Hurricane Irene in late August 2011 are already pressuring power companies to be more ready this time.
Asked if he expected utilities to be more prepared, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick responded: ‘They’d better be.’
Jersey Central Power & Light, which was criticized for its response to Irene, notified employees to be ready for extended shifts. In Pennsylvania, PPL Corp. spokesman Michael Wood said, “We’re in a much better place this year.”
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