By Charles Layton
Forecasters were taking Hurricane Sandy extremely seriously on Friday.
Although it remains uncertain exactly where the storm will have its most powerful impact, it is almost 300 miles wide, which raises the odds of it striking our area hard. Where it has already struck land, in the Caribbean islands, it is said to have dropped up to a foot of rain.
Bloomberg News said Friday this storm “may become the worst to hit the U.S. Northeast in 100 years if current forecasts are correct.” It is predicted to come ashore full-force in New Jersey on Tuesday, although we could begin feeling its effects as early as Sunday.
The Washington Post said it “has the makings of a rare breed of storm … over a densely populated swath of America that may never have seen weather arrive with quite the same force or threaten to linger so long.”
Closer to home, Neptune Township Clerk Rick Cuttrell wrote on his website of “the real possibility of major damage or complete destruction of boardwalks, pavilions, piers, or any structure right along the coastline. Beachfront and bayfront homes are also at risk of significant damage. Coastal lakes will not be able to discharge rain water and will likely be inundated with salt water flooding from the ocean. The ocean and back bays could reach levels beyond what has been seen in recorded history.”
A major reason this hurricane is thought to have such potential is that it is on track to collide with another large storm, a northeaster, that is threatening New England and the Mid-Atlantic. The collision may cause the hurricane to stall, thus delivering wind and rain for a much longer period of time than most storms do.
Forecasters liken this confluence of storms to the so-called “perfect storm” that raged in the North Atlantic 21 years ago and became the subject of a book and a movie. This time, however, the storm won’t expend its energy over open water; it will probably smack right into heavily populated coastal areas, including New Jersey.
All of the forecasters note that hurricane tracking is an inexact business. As of early Friday no one could say with absolute certainty where this one will strike its hardest blows.
“We are in preparedness mode,” Neptune Township’s director of engineering, Leanne Hoffman, said on Thursday, meaning that the Township is preparing generators, sandbags and all the other supplies and materials a major storm would require.
Neptune officials were on the phone with residents’ groups, assisted living facilities, Jersey Shore Medical Center and other key organizations. Francis Asbury Manor in Ocean Grove was making preparations to move its residents farther inland in advance of the storm.
FirstEnergy, the parent company of Jersey Central Power & Light, said it was mobilizing crews, beefing up staffing at its call centers and making other emergency preparations over a wide portion of the area it serves. The company asks customers to report power failures, downed lines and other such problems by calling 1-888-LIGHTS (1-888-544-4877). Such problems should also be reported to the local police.
Neptune Township has posted a mass of information on its website dealing with preparations and precautions the public can take — click here for that. You can also expect more news and advisories from the Township, and from Blogfinger, heading into the weekend.
When Hurricane Sandy hits, we may expect to see heavy rain, strong winds and tides, power outages and flooding. But even if the worst of the hurricane spares us, officials expect serious coastal flooding. The National Weather Service said a 10-foot storm tide is possible along our coast; this would cause record coastal flooding in some areas.
In Ocean Grove, of course, the residents in the flood-prone area of Broadway would be most vulnerable. On Friday some of those residents were lining their property with sand bags.
For our readers who wish to follow the hurricane’s approach, we suggest these online sources:
– Weather.com, which is The Weather Channel. It has graphics, video and up-to-the-minute news. Go here.
– Tri-State Storm Watch, which is a website run by Rick Cuttrell, the Neptune Township Clerk. It concentrates on the local situation. Go here.
– Jersey Shore Hurricane News, a Facebook page run by Justin Auciello, a guy in South Seaside Park. He invites lots of reader participation, which can be quite informative during severe weather, severe traffic tie-ups and the like. Check it out here.
– The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management website contains much helpful information. Go here.
–National Hurricane Center website issues advisories and posts maps. Go here.
For the duration of the storm, you might want to bookmark all these links.