Sandy strengthens as conditions are felt in Greenwich

Hurricane Sandy, now off the coast of North Carolina, strengthened overnight and its center is still on course with making landfall in New Jersey and bringing devastating winds to southwest Connecticut as it shifts from a hurricane into a hybrid super storm that could last for two days. And the edges of the potentially historic storm have already reached Connecticut, where wind gusts have reached 38 mph at Sikorsky Memorial Airport and strong gusts are evident in Greenwich.

Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) reports that of Monday morning at 8 a.m. there are 342 customers without service. If you do lose power, you are urged to report the outage to CL&P by calling 1-800-286-2000. There is also a web page set up by the utility as a resource at cl-p.com/StormCenter.

There is a high wind warning in effect through Tuesday afternoon for the area. And while Sandy won’t technically be a hurricane when it gets here, residents have been told to treat it like a hurricane warning. Winds from are expected to be 30 to 50 mph with gusts up to 85 mph, according to the National Weather Service. There is also a flood watch inland and along the coast where the weather service says waves are expected to build to 6 to 12 feet within Long Island Sound.

 

“Think of the worst occurrence you’ve ever seen in your area, and assume it’s going to be worse than that,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said during a press conference Sunday morning.

The winds have been steadily picking up here overnight, increasing to a steady wind more than 20 mph with gusts nearing 40 mph.

The winds could pose “a significant threat to life and property,” according to the weather service.

“Damaging winds are expected,” the service added. “Winds will be capable of downing trees and snapping off large tree branches. Power outages could be widespread and last at least several days. Debris will block some roads. Most poorly anchored mobile homes will be damaged. Other homes may have damage to shingles, siding, gutters and windows — especially if these items are not properly secured. Loose outdoor items will become airborne, causing additional damage and possible injury. Windows in high-rise buildings could be broken by flying debris.”

Dangerous conditions will occur today and tonight, according to the weather service’s Monday morning warning.

“Everyone should be moving to a place of safety. Once inside, ensure all windows and doors are secured before dangerous winds arrive,” the weather service said.

If you aren’t already, be sure to have cell phones charged — as you never know when you are going to lose power. Greenwich Library, which has been used in past storm events by people without power to charge their electronics is closed for the day on Monday and a decision will be made later today about Tuesday. The town has opened two emergency shelters, one at Eastern Middle School and one at the Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center, for people to charge their electronics if need to.

“Keep cell phone and Internet communications as open as possible for emergencies,” the weather service said. Using text messages instead of calls can help save your battery — and also is less stress on the network, Mr. Malloy said Sunday. On Sunday night, town Emergency Management Director Daniel Warzoha said that they anticipate cell service eroding throughout the day due to heavy usage and potential damage to the towers through wind and power outages.

Hurricane-force winds are expected from Virginia to Massachusetts and storm surges in Long Island Sound could top 10 feet, according to forecasters.

The destructive waves, on top of the storm surge, will cause over-washes and significant damage to coastal structures nearest to sea level.

“This is especially true for low-lying areas… and historically vulnerable locations along Long Island Sound,” according to the weather service.

The town of Greenwich has ordered a mandatory evacuation of all low lying, coastal and flood areas. Residents in those areas have been contacted and are being told to not stay in their homes because once the storm and flooding hits, emergency personnel could have extremely difficult times reaching them.

At 5 a.m., Hurricane Sandy was off the coast of North Carolina, moving north at 15 mph. It is expected to make a turn toward the northwest Monday and then a turn toward the west-northwest Monday night, according to the National Hurricane Center. The center of the giant storm is supposed move over the coast of New Jersey Monday evening or night.

According to Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft, Sandy’s maximum-sustained winds have increased to 85 mph that extend 175 miles from the center of the storm. Tropical force winds extend 485 miles.

“Sandy is expected to transition into a frontal or wintertime low pressure system prior to landfall,” according to the hurricane center. “However, this transition will not be accompanied by a weakening of the system — and in fact — a little strengthening is possible during this process. Sandy is expected to weaken after moving inland.”

The storm is expected to bring two to four inches of rain in this area — with isolated amounts up to five inches — with the worst of the rain being to the west. Two to three feet of snow is forecast for the mountains of West Virginia from the storm and 12 to 18 inches of snow in parts of Virginia and Kentucky.

On Sunday night, President Barack Obama approved a request from Mr. Malloy to declare an emergency for the state. This means Connecticut can receive immediate federal assistance for the costs of evacuation, sheltering, water, food and blankets and debris removal.

After the president’s emergency declaration late Sunday night, Mr. Malloy issued a news release saying, “I would like to thank President Obama for understanding the necessity of declaring an emergency in our state in advance of the storm. As each forecast has come in, it’s become more and more clear that this storm will have a major impact on Connecticut.”

Mr. Malloy said the state could not wait until after the storm hit to begin the process of seeking emergency assistance.

With the declaration, FEMA can identify, mobilize, and provide equipment and resources as needed. “State emergency management personnel under my direction have already been working with the FEMA team assigned to Connecticut to coordinate these efforts, understanding the urgency our residents are facing,” Mr. Malloy said.

President Obama has also approved emergency declarations for New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

The town of Greenwich will hold a briefing on the storm at 11 a.m. in the Public Safety Complex.

Check back to Greenwich-post.com and twitter.com/greenwichpost for more information.

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