The first evacuation warning for the pending arrival of Hurricane Sandy comes from the University of Delaware, which has suspended classes through at least Monday.
The category one hurricane is expected to hook left making landfall on the East Coast sometime between Sunday or Monday. Officials expect heavy rain and high winds to cause damage.
Governor Jack Markell said the state is taking the storm very seriously and is working closely with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency to put pre-emptive plans in place.
“They’ve already requested that FEMA personnel be there so we have clear line of communication with the federal government,” said Markell. “DenReck? Is shoring up some dunes and DelDot is preparing for some road and bridge closures. The National Guard is opening its operations center. We’re working with Red Cross for the possibility of opening some shelters. A lot’s going on and people ought to be prepared to leave if they’re in areas that tend to flood. People throughout the state ought to be securing their homes against wind and flooding and they ought to be prepared to be in their homes for a few days without power.”
The Delaware National Guard is moving extra resources and and equipment to the low lying areas of the state but said the whole region should take precautions.
“As with all storms, they’re completely unpredictable,” said Major General Frank Vavala, adjutant general for the Delaware National Guard. “It could be a catastrophic event for Delaware, it depends on the model you’re looking at. We’re not sure, but we’re prepared for the worst. I think the entire state should be prepared. One model shows it coming up the Delaware Bay. If that’s the case, then obviously the entire state is going to be effected. We’re preparing resources for the entire state.”
The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center is following the storm conditions and preparing for excessive water and flooding.
“Forecasters believe Hurricane Sandy’s current predicted track will come close enough to give Sussex County some of the strongest effects of the storm, with moderate to severe tidal flooding likely in low-lying areas, particularly along the oceanfront and the Delaware Bay shoreline,” according to a Sussex County EOC press release. “Forecasters say a full moon Monday will cause higher-than-normal astronomical high tides, and as much as 5 to 7 inches of rain could lead to flooding elsewhere in the county.”
As the state prepares for the hurricane, DEMA is warning residents to also take precautions now.
“People should look around the yard secure any loose items, put things away that have been out there for the summer,” said Gary Laing, community relations officer for DEMA. “Now is the time to put things away and secure things.”
He also advised homeowners to look for loose tree branches hanging over the house, garage and driveway.
“You might want to take care of those now if you thing they could be a problem,” he said.
Another thing residents can do is come up with an evacuation plan and decide what items to take if an evacuation order is issued.
“People need to sit down today, look at their situation and prepare,” said Laing. “What are they going to do if told to evacuate and what are they going to take with them.”
Upstate residents should take note of nearby streams, creeks and rivers and watch for flooding due to heavy rainfall.
“There are rivers and creeks and things of that nature all over Delaware. The state is laced with waterways,” said Laing. “With the drought conditions over the past few years, sometimes we don’t think of water in certain areas but you might see water where you’re not used to seeing it. You might see areas flood that you’re not used to seeing flood.”
If you see water in a roadway, Laing said to turn around and not try to drive through it.
“Don’t ever drive into standing water,” he said. “It doesn’t take much water for a vehicle to begin to float or it gets in there and stalls out.”
Some events also may be canceled due to the inclement weather. The city of Newark canceled their annual Halloween Parade and Trick-or-Treat on Main Street, which was scheduled for Sunday, October 28.
The University of Delaware evacuation notice is not the first time a hurricane has impacted the Newark campus. When Irene hit Delaware in August 2011 the start of the school year was postponed 3 days.
Delaware’s Emergency Management Agency has created a Twitter hashtag, #SandyDE, for the public to keep track of the latest storm information on the social media site.
To register your mobile phone for DEMA’s emergency notifications, including evacuation routes and preparation measures, visit DEMA’s alert registration page or call 1-866-484-3264.
Governor Markell said that anyone who stays in their homes should prepare to live several days without power.
Delmarva Power has put out its check list for home owners to follow as the storm approaches:
Have adequate prescription medicines or infant supplies on hand.
If you or someone you know uses life-support equipment that requires electricity to operate, identify a location with emergency power capabilities and make plans to go there during a prolonged outage.
Assemble an emergency storm kit. Include a battery-powered radio or television, flashlight, a first-aid kit, battery-powered or windup clock, extra batteries, special needs items, an insulated cooler and a list of important and emergency phone numbers.
Keep at least a three-day supply of non-perishable foods and bottled water and have a hand-operated can opener available.
Have a telephone with a cord or cell phone to use as a backup. Cordless telephones require electricity to operate, and won’t work if there is an outage.
Protect your electronic equipment. Unplug sensitive electronics or plug computers and other sensitive equipment into surge suppressors, and consider a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for temporary battery backup power.
Turn off power to flood-prone basement appliances if it is safe to do so. However, if you have an electrically operated sump pump, you should not turn off your power.
Fill your gas tank so you can run your automobile to charge mobile devices. Be sure to open the garage doors to run the vehicle safely.
Tune in to local news broadcasts for the latest weather and emergency information.
Follow the advice of your local emergency management officials.
Take cover if necessary.
Stay away from downed wires. Assume any downed wire is energized.
Customers should report power outages or downed wires by calling:
Delaware: New Castle County – 1-800-898-8042; Kent and Sussex counties – 1-800-898-8045
Maryland: Cecil and Harford counties – 1-800-898-8042; Eastern Shore – 1-800-898-8045
To report a Delmarva Power natural gas emergency in New Castle County, Del.: 302-454-0317