On a National Hurricane Center map posted Friday afternoon, a black line representing Hurricane Sandy's projected path meanders past the Bahamas and up the Atlantic coastline.
Its final point, marked "8 a.m. Wednesday," sits ominously atop Altoona, an attached note indicating wind speeds up to 73 mph.
"We have a high confidence that we're in the impact zone," John LaCorte, a local National Weather Service forecaster, said Friday of the Halloween hurricane dubbed "Frankenstorm."
There's nothing funny about the storm's possible effects, however: Having already caused deaths throughout the Caribbean, Sandy's expected arrival has led some area emergency groups to issue advance warnings.
"It is likely to be historic in scope and magnitude," the regional American Red Cross said in a news release Friday.
But in Altoona, flooding and wind fears haven't caused the shopping panics sometimes seen before major storms strike, retail managers said.
- Keep a flashlight and extra batteries handy. Use care when burning candles.
- Gather extra blankets or a sleeping bag for each person. Do not use gas stoves, kerosene heaters or other open-flame heat sources to prevent carbon monoxide gas.
- Keep a battery-powered radio with extra batteries on hand. Tune in to a local radio station for current storm information.
- If you have a water well and pump, keep an emergency supply of bottled water and/or fill your bathtub with fresh water.
- Stock an emergency supply of convenience foods that do not require cooking.
- Have a hard-wired telephone or a charged cellphone handy in the event you need to report your electricity is out.
Sources: Penelec, West Penn Power
At the Giant Eagle in Logan Town Centre, consumers appeared at least as interested in today's Penn State-Ohio State football game as in the approaching hurricane, Manager Marc McKillop said.
And at Helsel True Value Hardware on Plank Road, the limited - or possibly nonexistent - snow forecast hasn't drawn nearly the kind of crowds seen before massive winter snowstorms, owner Roy Leister said.
"If it was January or February, it would be a different story," Leister said Friday.
Forecasters confirmed earlier predictions of heavy rain and high winds from late Monday through Tuesday. Rainfall not directly related to the "Frankenstorm" could begin as early as Sunday, LaCorte said.
Accuweather Meteorologist Brian Edwards said the unrelated western front could bring a "steady, cool rain" as early as Saturday night and continuing into Sandy's arrival.
Precipitation forecasts from the National Weather Service indicate a tapering rainfall likelihood over Wednesday and Thursday, though Edwards said those living at 2,500 feet or higher - particularly in the Laurel Highlands - could see several inches' accumulated snow.
In a news release issued Friday, the Red Cross urged central Pennsylvanians to keep bottled water, nonperishable food, first-aid kits and flashlights handy in case winds and rain knock out utilities.