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Tri-State braces for Sandy's arrival

emergency shelters open

October 29, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE and DAVE McMILLION
  • A worker with the Williamsport Streets Department clears leaves away from the aide of Artizan Street on Monday morning to prevent clogged drains from expected heavy rainfall from Hurricane Sandyd.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

 • Hurricane Sandy  2 p.m. update from National Hurricane Center

Weather-related cancelletions, postponements

For up-to-date local forecasts, go to the Herald-Mail.com Weather Page.

The Tri-State area was preparing for what could be days of severe weather as Hurricane Sandy neared the East Coast on Monday.

The heavy winds predicted for late morning by the Natrional Weather Service in Sterling, Va., had yet to arrive by early afternoon, but meteorologist Jared Klein said they will get here and when they do, the period of strong winds will last from 12 to 18 hours.

“It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be strong winds this afternoon,” Klein said at 1:30 p.m., noting that Hurricane Sandy was still well off the New Jersey Coast.

Those winds, in the range of 30 to 40 mph with gusts of 60 mph or more are expected late this afternoon and will last well into Tuesday morning before starting Technician Trina Heiser said.

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The weather service has issued a flood watch through Tuesday evening and a high wind warning to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

More than 2 inches of rain had fallen in Hagerstown since late Sunday, according to local weather observer Greg Keefer’s website, but winds were 16 mph with a high gust of 33 mph at 1:59 p.m.. However, the barometer was falling rapidly.

Kevin Lewis, Washington County Emergency Services director, said at 11:30 a.m. Monday that the storm could affect the area for the next 48 to 72 hours.

As of 11:30 a.m., there were no road closures or scheduled evacuations in Washington County, Lewis said.

The American Red Cross was to open shelters at North Hagerstown High School and the Hancock fire hall at 2 p.m. Monday for people who feel the need to leave their home because of power outages or other issues, county spokeswoman Sarah Lankford Sprecher said.

People who use oxygen tanks, and lose their power, can go to one of the shelters or call their local fire department, Sprecher said. The fire departments are in communication with the county’s emergency operations center and can help those residents get to a shelter, she said.

People who live in low-lying areas that have a history of flooding should be prepared to relocate as condiitons warrant, Lewis aid.

The county's emergency operations center off Elliott Parkway became fully operational at 9 a.m. Monday, according to Lewis. Residents can phone the center at 240-313-4600 for updated information.

Area residents should expect rainfall in the range of 4 to 8 inches and heavy winds through Wednesday, when Sandy should run its course locally, according to the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

There is a flood watch in effect through Tuesday evening for Washington County and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. There is also a high wind warning in effect until 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to the weather service.

While the Tri-State area is bracing for Sandy, the weather service said the local area is not forecasted to get snow — an element that led to thousands being without power for days during a freakish snowstorm a year ago Monday.

Still, a combination of sustained high winds and heavy rains could lead to extended power outages, according to FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers and the National Weather Service’s website.

Hurricane Sandy is different from the October 2011 snowstorm because it will feature a combination of heavy winds and bad weather from the West, Meyers said.

“We could be wading into uncharted territory with this one,” Meyers said.

The heaviest periods for rain and wind are expected to be overnight Monday into Tuesday, with gusts of up to 65 mph expected, said Trina Heiser, a meteorologist technician with the National Weather Service.

Into Tuesday afternoon, the rain should start to slacken to showers, but rain showers are expected to continue into Wednesday, Heiser said.

High winds and flooding will be the major concerns for Washington County when the area is hit by the hurricane, according to emergency officials.

Much of the rapid stream flooding could occur between Monday afternoon and Tuesday around 6 p.m., said Kevin Witt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in Sterling, Va.

The Potomac River could get a “pretty good rise” by Tuesday, Witt said Sunday night. High levels on the Potomac River could extend into Friday, although the weather service will have a better idea what might happen on the river once the expected heavy rain starts to move in, Witt said.

Gearing up

While only light, intermittent rain was falling in the Hagerstown area Sunday afternoon, people already were getting jittery.

Katharyn Rentzell said she was looking for D-size batteries for her son’s nebulizer to treat his asthma. Rentzell, of Hagerstown, said she needed the batteries to provide a backup power source for the machine in case she loses power during the storm.

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