As Hurricane Sandy continued to batter the East Coast and mid-Atlantic states, county officials in central Pennsylvania moved Monday to enact emergency disaster declarations ahead of the storm's expected turn toward the area.
Bedford, Blair, Centre and Huntingdon counties issued emergency disaster declarations, and other Pennsylvania counties are expected to follow suit.
The declarations mean emergency management officials and first responders have greater access to resources necessary for relief efforts without the "red tape" of soliciting bids or other typical government procedures, Bedford County Director of Emergency Services Dave Cubbison said.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Lowe’s employees Corey Fellinger (left) and Brian Stump were working almost nonstop Monday loading newly purchased generators into vehicles. By noon Monday, the store had about 40 generators left from a Sunday night shipment of 144. Russ Beamsderfler of Atlantic City, N.J., watches his new generator being loaded into his truck. He was staying with relatives in Altoona to escape the storm.
"We're definitely going to have water," Cubbison said.
Flash flooding is expected to affect the entire county through today, he said.
Flooding in local streams has the potential to wash out roadways and flood residential basements.
Hurricane Sandy forecast
Today: Occasional rain before noon, then rain and snow. High near 44. Windy, with a north winds 31 to 36 mph decreasing to 24 to 29 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 47 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100 percent. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Tonight: Rain showers. Low around 38. Breezy, with a south winds 15 to 23 mph becoming northwest in the evening. Winds could gust as high as 33 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.
Wednesday: Showers likely. Cloudy, with a high near 45. West winds 13 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent. New precipitation amounts between a 10th and quarter of an inch possible.
A deluge of water coupled with 40 to 50 mph winds could bring down utility poles and hazardous live wires, Cubbison said.
"Stay out of water; stay away from downed wires," Cubbison said. "Report it and call it in."
Drivers should avoid standing water on roadways and stay indoors, he added. With high winds expected throughout the day, any objects could easily become damaging projectiles, he added.
Shelters in various areas of the county will be opened on a needed basis, he said.
"Are you going to have road flooding? Yes, it's inevitable," Blair County Emergency Management Director Dan Boyles said..
Boyles said officials are most concerned with potential flash-floods, which could overwhelm area streams and cause additional damage.
"My biggest concern would be flash flooding, if we had a torrential downpour for 45 minutes to an hour," he said. "The only other issue I'm concerned with at this point is power outages."
County officials planned to activate the emergency operations center today to relieve the 911 service from an expected heavy volume of calls. Residents should only contact 911 in the event of an emergency and should report other problems such as power outages to the utility companies, Boyles said.
Power outages are the main concern for first responders in Cambria County, Emergency Services Coordinator Ron Springer said.
Sustained winds lasting 24 to 36 hours could knock out power across the area, and utility company crews will likely be unable to restore power during the storm.
"Restoration could be days, if not the better part of the week, depending on how hard we get hit," Springer said.
Cambria officials did not plan to issue an emergency disaster declaration as of Monday evening, Springer said.
But the county will not hesitate to declare the declaration if the storm increases, and shelters could potentially be opened to accommodate families displaced only by severe flooding and not power outages, he said.
In Clearfield County, Department of Emergency Management officials are working with the Red Cross to establish emergency shelters in different areas of the county, Acting Emergency Management Coordinator Joseph Bigar said.
Shelters will be available at DuBois Area Senior High School, the Moshannon Valley YMCA in Philipsburg and other locations, pending assistance from the American Red Cross, Bigar said.
Bigar said residents should check to ensure their emergency kits are complete and take shelter from the storm, which could bring flooding to the area.
"Basically, we have a general concern with the amount of water, wind and leaves" which could potentially wash out roadways, Bigar said.
Flash-flooding events could tie up first responders, so residents should on call 911 only when "absolutely necessary," he said.
In the event residents lose power, they should first call their utility company before calling 911, Centre County Administrator Tim Boyd said.
The county signed an emergency disaster declaration Monday morning as a preventive measure to ensure first responders have the necessary resources ahead of any significant emergency, Boyd said.
Flash flooding and high winds could compromise power and cellphone service in the area, he said. The county is also prepared in the event of possible snowfall and officials urged residents to "take all of the usual precautions."
"Don't drive through flooded areas; stay away from downed power lines," Boyd added. "We encourage people to not drive unless they really need to."
Boyd said residents should be aware of the details in the event of an emergency. Generators should be run in a well-ventilated area to prevent a potentially hazardous buildup of carbon monoxide. Residents should also have enough food and water to last multiple days.
Residents should also charge their cellphones and make sure electric appliances - such as electric can openers, can easily be replaced with low-tech options.
"We anticipate there's going to be widespread power outages," Boyd said.
Anyone dependent upon medical support such as oxygen concentrators or other equipment should "at least be cognitive of where the shelters are" in the event of a power outage, he added.
The area has experienced emergency situations before, despite the unusual combination of a Nor'easter and tropical storm merging, Boyd said. County officials and local municipalities are prepared to handle three to four days of storms and the necessary cleanup afterwards.