Sandy has arrived
Northeast residents squeezed in last minute shopping on Monday morning in preparation for Hurricane Sandy.
Northeast Philadelphia prepared Monday for major flooding along two big creeks, the Poquessing and the Pennypack, and some residents who lived in those flood-prone areas left their homes to stay with families or at a city shelter as the monster storm called Hurricane Sandy pounded its way up the East Coast.
The Category One hurricane — dubbed a Frankenstorm — was expected to cover hundreds of miles and linger longer than the last big storm, Hurricane Irene, which struck in 2011.
The rain started as sprinkles in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon and by Monday it had brought heavy rains to the city. High winds expected Monday afternoon were expected to bring down tree limbs and cause widespread power outages. A high tide on Monday was expected to intensify flooding, and the Delaware and Schuylkill were likely to flood.
Mayor Michael Nutter issued a declaration of emergency in Philadelphia that went into effect at 4 p.m. Sunday, activated the city’s emergency operations center and opened three shelters, including one at Samuel Fels High School in Northeast Philadelphia.
On Friday, Nutter held a press conference to tell residents to take the storm seriously, and prepare for it over the weekend by stocking food and water and buying batteries and candles. Some people were shopping as late as Monday in their local supermarkets.
“I’m buying my last cooking meal for tonight,” said Jack Thackrah, while pointing to a package of shrimp in his shopping cart at Pathmark in Franklin Mills. “I’m buying things that my kids and my wife will eat that we can just open up and eat. I bought two LED Lanterns at Big Lots and left the rest for everybody else.
“My wife is preparing for the end of the world,” he added with a laugh. “I’m more laid back about it. If the storm hits, it hits. We’re as prepared as we can be.”
Storm shopping was widespread.
“We’ve been selling out of a lot of batteries, candles and water, but we’re staying open,” said Erica Miller, a Northeast resident who works at the Pathmark.
“Most people are looking for the basic stuff, like water,” explained Milton DuPrey, a general manager at Walmart of Franklin Mills Mall. “We sold out of things like flashlights and D batteries.”
By early Monday afternoon, however, two state agencies were urging motorists to stay off the roadways in the eastern part of the state.
“PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission are strongly urging motorists to avoid all unnecessary travel in eastern Pennsylvania including the area from Harrisburg north to the New York border, east to the New Jersey border and south to the Maryland border,” the agencies said in a joint news release.
By noon Monday, the state was considering banning all travel with the exception of emergency vehicles if wind speeds continue to increase.
Philadelphia schools, government offices, airports and businesses were closed Monday in anticipation of the large, slow-moving storm’s arrival. Events throughout the region were cancelled, and SEPTA scrubbed all its services by 2 a.m. Monday. Speed restrictions were posted on the state’s major highways.
Winds were expected to pick up Monday afternoon. The strongest gusts of up to 80 mph were expected between 4 p.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday.
As of Monday morning as the Northeast Times was getting ready to go to press, the Delaware Valley was wet, but still awaiting the worst of the “Frankenstorm.”
The mayor on Friday had warned residents who live in flood-prone areas to evacuate by midafternoon Sunday. In the Northeast, he said, anyone who lives near the Pennypack Creek should get ready to leave. As of midmorning Monday, the creek was not overflowing. A spokesman for the city’s 311 call center said there were no reports of flooding along the Pennypack. Updates, the spokesman said, would be posted on the Philly511 travel info. Web site, www.511pa.com.
Philadelphia’s public, Catholic and charter schools did not reopen Monday. City offices remained closed, too, and only public safety and emergency service personnel were expected to report to work.
“This is all about public safety,” Nutter said at a Sunday news conference. “We do not what our children out in hurricane-dangerous winds, trees and possibly tree limbs falling, power lines on the ground and flood waters rising.
“Children as well as adults should not be out in those conditions,” the mayor said.
The Holmesburg Civic Association asked members to look in on elderly or invalid neighbors and to curtail water use.
Utility companies mobilized over the weekend to get ready to deal with expected power outages. Local power companies brought in crews and equipment from other utilities as far away as New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. PECO has mobilized more than 3,000 employees, contractors and out-of-state crews to respond to the devastating effects of this potentially record-breaking storm. This massive effort includes more than 1,500 field personnel from utilities as far away as Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as field personnel from PECO’s Chicago-based sister utility ComEd.
The Red Cross had set up shelters throughout the area. As of Monday morning, 46 people and 11 pets already were in the shelter at Samuel Fels High School, according to spokesman Dave Shrader. Ninety-six people and five pets were at West Philadelphia High School and 21 people and two pets were at Roxborough High.
If you had been planning on heading to any kind of event Monday or Tuesday, chances are it was scratched.
All of Holy Family University’s locations and all Community College of Philadelphia campuses were closed Monday and Tuesday. Franklin Mills was closed Monday. State liquor stores didn’t reopen Monday. The Free Library of Philadelphia also did not open. Mayfair Town Watch canceled its Monday night session.
Training for police recruits was scheduled to start Monday, but was postponed until later this week.
One Far Northeast man who had been planning to go to one of Atlantic City’s casinos decided it would be better to stay home instead. Getting coffee and newspapers at the Wawa at Philmont and Byberry on Monday, the man said he changed his mind when he saw a TV report that Sandy was going to hit the shore hard.
“I like to gamble,” said Al, who wouldn’t give his last name, “but I thought the trip would be too much of a risk.”
The casinos weren’t gambling either. They closed Sunday afternoon.
John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mikala Jamison and Melissa Yerkov contributed to this report.
Sandy by the Numbers
911 only to report crime, fire and other emergencies
311 for city services
511 for Pennsylvania roadways information
Motorists can check road conditions on more than 2,900 miles of state roads by calling 5-1-1 or by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, average traffic speeds on urban interstates and access to more than 670 traffic cameras.
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
Philadelphia Emergency Management:
Weather channel Sandy updates:
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.