Gusts could hit 85 mph as Sandy slams Del., Jersey Shore, Philly

Hurricane Sandy is making a slow westward turn, cocking its damaging fist right at the New Jersey and Delaware shores. Landfall is expected along the shoreline this afternoon, with Philadelphia bracing for the storm’s full force this evening.

 

Complete Sandy Coverage

Up and down the Jersey shore, pounding surf is surging across beaches. Parts of the Atlantic City and Ocean City boardwalks have broken up, according to photos being posted on Twitter and Instagram.

In Belmar, WHYY correspondent Jana Shea talked to some hardy residents who have hung around to  to catch a glimpse of the storm’s effect while conditions are still safe.

Mary Lou Britton, of Spring Lake says she’s never seen anything like this before “and I’ve lived here my whole life!” Britton drove down just to witness the violent waves first-hand. She said she plans to ride out the storm.

A deserted city

The Philadephia region suspended normal life today to get ready.  Streets in the city of Philadelphia are eerily empty; the parking lots of suburban shopping centers are deserted.

All mass transit is shut down. So is Philadelphia International Airport.  All schools are closed.  Most people are staying home from work. Stores, even the few that are open, are out of milk, ice, batteries, all the usual storm staples.

The National Weather Service said this morning that Sandy will produce damaging wind gusts up to hurricane force across our region later today into early Tuesday.

“Sandy has intensified and will be powerful as it slams into the New Jersey Coast this evening with periods of widespread damaging wind gusts between 65 and 85 mph,” the weather service said. “Preparations must be completed by noon as conditions will worsen substantially this afternoon and evening.”

Gusts late this afternoon could get as high as 75 mph, the NWS said.  Winds in Philadelphia could be as strong this evening as Sandy heads west past Philadelphia.  Dangerous gusts are expected to continue until Tuesday morning, but the worst winds and damage will occur overnight around Philadelphia.  Power outages are expected to be widespread.

Michael Nutter, who declared a state of emergency Saturday, had a simple message Sunday for everyone who is not absolutely needed at their jobs Monday: “Please stay home.”

SEPTA shuts down

And people who take mass transit to work were out of luck anyway.

SEPTA shut down all trains, buses, subways and trolleys shortly after midnight.  So did NJ Transit and PATCO.

“It’s in the best interest of the safety of our customers and our employees and we want to protect our equipment as well so we can resume service hopefully sometime on Tuesday,” SEPTA’s Richard Maloney said. “Prediction of the storm is quite unusual. We are expecting it last longer than most tropical storms or hurricanes. We really can’t make an educated decision until Tuesday when we see the storm finally getting out of the area.”

The rush hour around Philadelphia was nonexistent, but an accident on Interstate 95 near Allegheny Avenue closed southbound lanes for a while this morning. The highway is open again.

Emergency declaration

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, saying he was anticipating power outages, flooding and water shortages, reported that he’s joined New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Delaware’s Jack Markell, along with other governors in the Mid-Atlantic and New England, in asking President Obama to declare the state a disaster areas.

Obama signed the declaration this morning.

“This declaration will provide federal funds so that the state and municipalities can take life-saving measures,” Corbett said.

Flooding is likely throughout the region; with the full moon, a tidal river such as the Delaware is already at a high level.

To check on flood status of rivers and creeks in the region, check out this federal Website: http://water.weather.gov/ahps/region.php?rfc=marfc

Flights grounded

The airport cancelled all flights for Monday.  Altogether, nearly 7,000 flights nationally have been cancelled as airlines seek to avoid having their aircraft stuck on the ground at East Coast hubs.

The Philadelphia public and Catholic schools are closed, as are a host of suburban schools.  For a full list of closings, check out our partner, WCAU-NBC10.

The Delaware River Port Authority said its bridges remain open for now, but the authority will monitor wind speeds carefully to assess the safety of keeping the spans open.

Shelters open

Below are the Red Cross shelters that opened Sunday night in Philadelphia, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties. Shelters in Bucks opened today. As of 9 a.m. today, about 250 people had already sought refuge in Red Cross shelters in and around Philadelphia.

Philadelphia:

West Philadelphia High School, 4901 Chestnut StreetRoxborough High School, 6498 Ridge AvenueSamuel Fels High School, 5500 Langdon Street

Montgomery County:Pottstown High School, 750 North Washington St., Pottstown 19464 Cheltenham High School, 500 Rices Mill Road, Wyncote 19095. This shelter will have a veterinarian on the premises. Norristown High School, 1900 Eagle Dr., Norristown 19403

Chester County:Avon Grove High School, 257 E. State Road, West Grove 19390 Lionville Middle School, 550 W. Uwchlan, Avenue Exton 19341

Delaware County:Showalter Science and Discovery School, 1100 West 10th St., Chester 19013Ridley Middle School, 400 Free Street, Ridley, 19078

Bucks County:

Palisades High School Pennsbury East High School Council Rock North High School

Oil refineries up and down the mid-Atlantic coast began to reduce or shut down production, fearing power outages that could damage equipment. Among them was the Philadephia Energy Solutions plant in Philadelphia, which was slowing production.

And you thought they didn’t have a heart … the Philadelphia Parking Authority has announced that parking at its metered and kiosk spaces will be free until Wednesday.

Worry in Delaware

Gov. Jack Markell said the next 24 hours will get “a whole lot worse”. So, as the wind and rain from Hurricane Sandy increase, Delaware has upped the emergency restrictions for state residents.

There is now a Level 2 driving ban. Under the new law passed last year that means “no person shall operate a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways other than essential personnel.”

“The most important thing right now is for people to use common sense. We didn’t want people out on the road going to work and not being able to get home again,” Markell said

Markell said there are thousand of emergency personnel in place. The Delaware National Guard is on standby and the seven shelters have taken in about 500 people overnight.

The biggest concern are the sustained winds that will keep utility crews from repairing power lines. He says the worse case scenario is that power could be out for a week. “Those crews can’t go up in the bucket trucks until the winds drop below 35 miles an hour.

Markell spent his morning getting out the message through CNN and CNBC in interviews that originated from WHYY’s Wilmington studio. Local radio and TV stations interviewed Markell as did BBC radio.

Events postponed

Hundreds of events slated for this week have been postponed or cancelled.

Here are a couple of postponements for events co-sponsored by WHYY:

The Philadelphia Speaker Series talk by author Jeanette Walls slated for Monday evening at the Kimmel Center has been postponed to 8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 5.

A debate for Delaware’s U.S. Senate candidates scheduled for Tuesday at Widener University Law School has been postponed, and may not happen.  The law school has announced it will be closed Monday and Tuesday. WHYY was to have been a co-sponsor of the debate and to broadcast it on television on a delayed basis.

Another WHYY event, a Tuesday evening member event with State Impact Pennsylvania reporters Susan Phillips and Scott Detrow has been postponed.

The Philadephia Hospitality Inc.’s Vision for Philadelphia Awards dinner, slated for tonight, has been cancelled.

 

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