Hurricane Sandy’s raged through the Caribbean today as it was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane earlier this morning. Forecasters say the storm could morph into a monstrously powerful whirlwind, wreaking havoc, and possibly slamming into the U.S. East Coast by next week. Its powerful winds tore through through Jamaica on its way toward Cuba and the Bahamas, and could hit Connecticut sometime between Sunday and Tuesday of next week according to meteorologists.
Sandy is presently packing 80 mph winds, which could cause tropical storm conditions along the coast of Florida by Friday morning as it heads North. It’s too early to tell whether the storm will head out to sea, or turn back toward the Northeast, forecasters say — but there is potential for a damaging storm to hit Connecticut and surrounding states.
“The realm of possibilities continues to range from Sandy escaping out to sea, with nothing more than blustery, much cooler air sweeping in, to a dynamic storm turning inland packing coastal flooding, flooding rainfall, high winds, downed trees, power outages, travel mayhem …,” said meteorologist Alex Sosnowski in an article on Accuweather.com.
“It’s way too early to tell,” Bill Jacquemin, chief meteorologist with the Connecticut Weather Center in Danbury said. “It’s nearly a week away.”
The worry is this: Should Sandy veer toward land and head up the Eastern seaboard, it could be a powerhouse, akin to the October, 1991 “Perfect Storm” of book and movie fame.
State and local officials spent a week this summer preparing for a hurricane strike, and are now putting those lessons — including those learned during Tropical Storm Irene last August — into place.
The state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security has started to send briefings to municipalities, updating them on the latest developments in the storm’s forecast.
“As of right now, they’re not able to give any indication as to where it may specifically hit in the Northeast,” Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei said Wednesday night. “What they are giving us is that there will be some form of a weather event. Tomorrow we are going to begin looking at more up to date information.”
Tesei said the town will start ramping up preparations a bit on Thursday, making sure its departments have resources “in good working order.”
The town will begin mobilizing resources into certain locations, such as generators for the pump stations at its waste-water treatment plan, in case of flooding, which can “cause havoc on the system.” The town will also start to request sandbags from the state, if the flooding threat proves to be real.
Tesei said as it gets closer to the storm, the town will send out alerts using its reverse 911 system to notify residents of information. But they don’t want to start doing that too soon.
“We don’t like to over-alarm people or overutilize system,” Tesei said.
The alerts will continue during and after the storm, if needed.
The storm comes almost a year after a rare winter nor’easter crippled the state with heavy snowfall that knocked down trees and power lines, leaving thousands in the dark for days.
Mitch Gross, spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power Co. — the utility harshly criticized for its handling of Tropical Storm Irene and the October noreaster in 2011 — said the company is monitoring Sandy closely.
“As we do with every storm,” Gross said. “(We) will be making preliminary storm response preparations, if need be, in the coming days.”
The town will also remain in contact with the utilities leading up to and during a potential storm.
Tesei said there were lessons learned during last year’s two major storms.
“I think every time you have a storm, folks on the ground do learn something, but unless you’re one of those people, it is easy for those of us in our homes to sit back and critique those individuals,” Tesei said. “They do a very good job, securing the community and making sure people remain safe and making sure that we don’t have any serious injuries or fatalities.”
Tesei said protection of life, including the safety of the town’s first responders and public works employees, is first and foremost, with the protection of property, both public and private, also important.
Jacquemin said that on Wednesday, the computer models of Sandy’s path showed it taking several different courses. Western winds could keep it offshore, he said. Southern winds could pull it into the Atlantic coastline.
Jacquemin said he was favoring the out-to-sea models, as of Wednesday.
But, he said, if Sandy does come ashore, it will do so during the astronomical high tide — there’s a full moon on Sunday, Oct. 29. That means if it does hit land, there will be serious coastal flooding.
Rain will be in the state Sunday and Monday anyway because of a storm moving east out of the Great Lakes, the meteorologist said.
Whether Sandy makes that rain into something more severe will get played out over Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas in the next few days.