Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter warned city residents who live in areas that are historically prone to flooding to leave those places by 2 p.m. Sunday, ahead of Hurricane Sandy that is heading up the East Coast.
During a news conference outside City hall on Friday afternoon, he said that though no one was sure how hard the storm was going to hit the city, residents should be prepared for a storm that could be as bad as the August 2011 Hurricane Irene – or worse.
Along the Delaware River and near the Pennypack Creek are two areas prone to flooding that Nutter mentioned. Hurricane Sandy is expected to be windier than Irene and last longer, said Samantha Phillips, the city’s emergency management director. Irene dumped almost 6 inches of rain in one weekend in 2011.
“It’s a slow-moving storm,” the mayor said. “This is going to go on for a while.”
The mayor said Philadelphia has rivers, streams and creaks that could flood, and there are many scenarios that could unfold as the storm tracks north.
“Our hope is that Sandy will stay far out to sea,” he said, “but we can not depend on that.”
People should know they might be inside for days, he said, and be prepared for power outages. Have plenty of food and water, flashlights and batteries, the mayor advised.
“We encourage you to take this very seriously,” Phillips said.
The rain is expected to start Sunday evening, but the storm’s force will pick up early Monday morning as winds gust up to 60 mph and rain intensifies. Sandy is expected to linger here on Tuesday.
The hurricane’s speed moving up the coast is giving people time to prepare to relocate or prepare themselves and secure their properties, he said.
“Don’t wait; make plans now,” Nutter urged.
The mayor said there are no plans yet to open emergency shelters, but if that decision is made over the weekend, those shelters will be at West Philadelphia High School and Roxborough High School.
He said the city also is working with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army to make ready any shelters that could be needed.
The Department of Streets was at work Friday cleaning debris from around the city’s more than 77,000 storm drains. Nutter said residents could prevent flooding in their neighborhoods by cleaning out drains and picking up leaves.
Nutter, surrounded by several aides, said the city’s 311 call center will be open all weekend.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said extra police will be working during the storm. He urged residents to use the 911 system only to report crimes, fires and other emergencies.
The state has crews out cleaning highway storm drains, too, said Eugene Blaum, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman.
By Friday afternoon, a few Northeast events were cancelled in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy:
— The Russian Heritage Festival that was scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 28, at Congregation Shaare Shamayim on Verree Road has been rescheduled to Nov. 25
— A ceremony to herald the official opening of Russo Park, Torresdale and Cottman avenues, on Monday, Oct. 29, has been postponed. No new date has been set.
— Free Library patrons should check with their neighborhood branches to learn if any programs have been cancelled. People can also call the Extension Division Office that manages all of the neighborhood libraries at 215-686-5310.
If any weather-related emergency prompts Library closures, they will be posted on the website. A systemwide shutdown is indicated on the library’s home page, freelibrary.org. Individual neighborhood library notices are posted under “find a location.” http://libwww.freelibrary.org/branches/brnlist.cfm.
The Northeast Times will be publishing frequent updates on the storm, beginning Monday, on
www.northeasttimes.com To reach the newsroom to report damage from the storm, call 215-354-3025.
Hurricane Sandy by the numbers:
911 only to report crime, fire and other emergencies
311 for city services
511 for Pennsylvania roadways information
PECO 1 800 494-4000
PECO hot line 215 841-4141
PGW, to report a gas leak, 215-235-1212
Philadelphia Water Department, 215-685-6300
Weather channel Sandy updates:
Philadelphia Emergency Management:
Channel 64, the city’s government access channel
All major broadcasters will be airing storm coverage
Make sure you have supplies of food, water and medicines for your family and pets. Make sure you have a manual can opener.
Make sure you have a battery-powered radio, flashlights and batteries.
Save your computer data on a flash drive or on CD disk. Make sure you have an operating surge protector for your electronic equipment like computers.
Get emergency numbers and insurance policy numbers ready and on your cell phones.
Charge all cell phones and keep them charged.
Gas up all your cars sooner, not later.
Take down outside decorations and put away anything that can be put indoors.
Do not enter flooded basements because you run the risk of electrocution.