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Madison And Connecticut Prepare For Possibility Of Sandy; You Should Too

Town officials check generators, begin preparations for emergency operations center, consider whether to call state of emergency in advance of storm. State officials talking with CL&P. Both say residents should be prepared.

 

Editor's note: Everything you need to know about Sandy, the track of the storm, preparations at the town and state level, and what you need to do, is all in one place on our Sandy 2012 page. Bookmark it so you can check back for new developments: http://madison-ct.patch.com/topics/sandy

Madison officials and state officials are saying that residents should start planning for the possibility that Hurricane Sandy could hit locally. That means households should have their own emergency management plan that includes a place to go if residents plan to leave, or enough supplies to hunker down if there is an extended emergency.

Madison Emergency Management Director John Bowers and Deputy Emergency Management Director Ed Brunt have been monitoring the storm's progress for several days.

Brunt said the track and evolution of the storm could change but that, as of mid-day Thursday, town officials are planning for the possibility that the town could start feeling the effects late Monday night through early Tuesday. He said that could change and that he and other town officials will continue to monitor the progress of the storm.

Track still uncertain but if it does hit, it could be a big one

The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook for Madison and the surrounding area. And some forecasters are saying that, if the storm does hit, it could be a big one, reminiscent of the so-called Perfect Storm that hit in 1991.

The most extensive damage occurred in New England where federal disaster areas were declared for seven counties in Massachusetts, five in Maine, and one in New Hampshire. Off Staten Island, two men were drowned when their boat capsized. Other fatalities occurred when a man fishing from a bridge was either blown or swept off in New York and a fisherman was swept off the rocks at Narrangansett, RI by heavy surf. Offshore, six lives were lost when the Andrea Gail, a swordfishing boat, sank. Total damage in the Halloween Storm, as it came to be known because of its date, was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are still some forecast models that indicate the possibility of Sandy veering west and heading out to see, but town and state officials say the trend in the forecasts is making them more concerned about a potential impact, rather than less.

"We're getting everything ready"

"The predictions keep getting worse for us, so we're getting everything ready," Brunt said. 

Bowers said individual households should do the same. He said town officials, including First Selectman Fillmore McPherson are trying to determine whether they should declare a state of emergency Friday, to be sure that everything is in place in the event that the storm speeds up and hits before Monday night.

If a state of emergency was declared, town officials would have the authority to close roads and to order evacuations of susceptible parts of town.

If you do nothing else today, do this: Register with ctalert.gov

Brunt said the first thing everyone should do is to go online and register their cell phones for emergency alerts. You can do this at ctalert.gov or go to madisonct.org and scroll down the page until you see the CTALERT icon on the left hand side of the page. Brunt noted that people who have phone service through their cable companies will not have phone service when the power is out, so it's particularly important for them to register their cell phones and make sure they are charged.

People who have service through AT&T, and have an old-fashioned phone that plugs into the wall, one that does not require electricity to operate, may retain phone service if Irene is any guide. There were people on Middle Beach Road who got hammered by the storm, but never lost phone service during Irene because they had AT&T and an old-fashioned phone. Still, as a back-up, it's a good idea for everyone to register with ctalert.gov.

State officials also said households should begin preparations now.

"We need to be prepared"

“Although hurricanes are unpredictable, this storm has the potential to impact Connecticut and we need to be prepared,” said state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Deputy Commissioner William P. Shea, in a prepared release. “Because a shift in the track of the hurricane of just a few miles can have a significant impact on the state, it is important to stay informed by listening to TV and radio and heed the warnings of public safety officials.”

The state offered the following preparedness tips:

Basic Emergency Supply Kit

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • A whistle to signal for help
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger.

Family Emergency Plan

  • Identify an out-of town contact.  It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
  • Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins, or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact.  If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know.  Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
  • Teach family members how to use text messaging.  Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
  • Subscribe to alert services.  Many communities/states now have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about severe weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. In Connecticut, go to www.ct.gov/ctalert to register for alerts.

Bowers said the town is going through its emergency management checklist, and getting everything ready.

Town generators checked and fueled up

He said generators have been checked and are being fueled up. The town now has generators at town hall, the police station, the public works garage and the ambulance center. Bowers said the town is considering the possibility of again putting an older generator at a gas station downtown, to make sure the town has a ready supply of gasoline for vehicles and generators.

If the storm does hit and there is a widespread use of power, Bowers said the public will be able to come to town hall and to the gym at Town Campus, off of Duck Hole Road, just north of the Hammonasset Connector.

Bowers said the town is sharing information with employees as to what their roles will be if the storm hits, and is staying in contact with state officials.

Declaration of state of emergency in Madison under consideration

"At this point, it looks like the storm is not likely to come until next week sometime. Fillmore is considering declaring a state of emergency on Friday afternoon, perhaps effective Monday," Bowers said.

Bowers said the town would order evacuations in the case of a big storm, particularly in vulnerable neighborhoods south of the Boston Post Road, but that town officials could not force individuals to leave their homes. He said one good thing about the timing of the possible storm is that many seasonal residents have left for the season, unlike Tropical Storm Irene last year, which hit at the end of August.

Bowers said that if the town does decide to open an emergency shelter, it may seek volunteers to help run it.

Town officials will meet again Friday afternoon to make additional decisions

Brunt said that town officials will continue to confer and likely will meet Friday afternoon to make additional decisions about how to prepare over the weekend and early next week, after more is known about the storm's track.

As of 11 a.m., the storm was moving north near 16 mph, and was expected to take a turn for the north-northwest and decrease somewhat in forward speed through Thursday night.

"On the forecast track, the center of Sandy will move through the central Bahamas later [Thursday and Thursday night] and move near northwestern Bahamas on Friday," the National Hurricane Center said. "Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter Aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds remain near 105 mph, with higher gusts. Sandy is a Category Two hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale."

Some weakening expected, but Sandy likely to remain a hurricane

Some weakening is expected during the next 48 hours, the National Hurricane Center said, "but Sandy is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves t hrough the Bahamas. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles."

A story in the Washington Post Thursday said Sandy became unexpectedly larger overnight:

Although the size and intensity of hurricanes aren’t well correlated, not only has Sandy intensified over the past day, it has also grown and is now an enormous circulation with a diameter of about 1500 miles. In other words, locations as far as 700-800 miles away from the center are measuring Sandy-related pressure drops, seeing Sandy-related clouds, and feeling Sandy-related winds. The storm has already claimed two lives: one in Haiti and one in Jamaica, both related to flash flooding.

Meteorologist Paul Douglas says in the Huffington Post that the similarities between the 1991 storm and Sandy are "striking."

As Hurricane Sandy drifts north it may lose some of its hurricane characteristics, morphing into a violent Nor'easter as it passes the Outer Banks of North Carolina, most likely being pulled inland by an approaching trough of low pressure late Sunday and Monday. Although the precise path is still in doubt, there's little question that Sandy will impact a wide swath of the east coast, and residents from Miami to Boston need to stay up on the forecast, discuss contingency plans, and be ready to take measures to lower the risk to life and property ... The odds of Hurricane Sandy, or a hybrid hurricane/Nor'easter reaching the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic coastline early next week has increased overnight. There is now a 70% probability that a powerful, damaging storm will come ashore, most likely Monday of next week. A majority of weather models bring Sandy inland, but there is still a wide divergence of forecast tracks.

Jim Cisco, a meteorologist the the National NOAA/ National Weather Service Hydrometeorological Prediction Center said it could be a "Frankenstorm:"

The lion's share of guidance indicates that the circulation associated with Hurricane Sandy will pass close enough to the amplifying polar trough over the eastern United States to become incorporated into a hybrid vortext over the mid-Atlantic and northeast next Tuesday. The high degree of blocking from eastern North America across the entire Atlantic Basin is expected to allow this unusual merger to take place, and once the combined gyre materializes, it should settle back toward the interior Northeast through Halloween, inviting, perhaps, a ghoulish nickname for the cyclone along the lines of 'Frankenstorm,' an allusion to Mary Shelley's Gothic creature of synthesized elements.

 

***

CL&P provided the following information:

With Hurricane Sandy strengthening in the Caribbean and forecasted to impact Connecticut early next week, Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) has activated its emergency response plan, opened its Emergency Operations Center, and is making preparations for storm damage and restoration.    

"We’re closely monitoring weather forecasts and preparing for high winds and heavy rain that can devastate the electric system and cause power outages,” said Bill Quinlan, CL&P Senior Vice President of Emergency Preparedness.  "The past year has been all about improving storm response, and we stand ready to respond as quickly and safely as possible.  While we hope for the best, we all need to prepare for the worst.”  

Customers can prepare by assembling a storm kit and making arrangements to look out for their families, friends and neighbors.

CL&P’s "Shopping for a Storm Kit" video on YouTube (http://youtu.be/X8Y_M4SO5oE) highlights the contents of a storm kit, including:
·        Flashlights with spare batteries
·        A battery-operated radio or TV
·        First-aid kit and medications
·        Canned, freeze-dried or dehydrated foods
·        A manual can opener
·        Bottled water
·        Baby or pet supplies (if needed)
·        Important phone numbers

Customers who are dependent on electricity for critical medical needs are urged to make preparations now to switch to a backup source or move to an alternate location if necessary.

STAYING INFORMED
CL&P will continue to be in close contact with town, state, and emergency management officials over the next few days to make sure all of our efforts are coordinated for a community-wide response.

For information on statewide response, please visit Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security at www.ct.gov/demhs.  The Connecticut American Red Cross, one of CL&P’s partners in emergency preparedness, provides helpful information and resources at www.ctredcross.org.  For tips and updates from CL&P, follow us on Twitter @CTLightandPower and like us on Facebook at facebook.com/ctlightandpower.

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