With a hurricane expected to make landfall just south of New Jersey, Cape May County emergency planners issued a mandatory evacuation order of the barrier islands starting Sunday.
"After conferring with state officials Friday morning, the county’s position and the state’s recommendation is that there will be voluntary evacuation of the barrier islands and Delaware Bay communities tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 27) and mandatory evacuation on Sunday (Oct. 28)," Cape May County Emergency Management Director Gerald Thornton said in a statement posted on the county's website Friday evening.
"However, if the storm direction intensifies or changes we will modify this directive," he said.
Other Jersey Shore communities such as Long Beach Island towns in Ocean County and Brigantine in Atlantic County issued similar evacuation orders.
With sustained winds of 75 mph on Friday afternoon, Hurricane Sandy continued on a predicted course toward the East Coast of the United States. The latest forecast (2 p.m. on Friday) suggests the storm could make landfall anywhere between Virginia and Long Island in the wee hours of Tuesday morning (Oct. 30) — with an area just south of Cape May at the center of possibilities.
The northern edge of the storm is expected to bring the strongest winds and the greatest potential for storm surge.
In a 10:30 a.m. briefing to emergency management officials throughout the region (see attached PDF), Gary Szatkowski of the NOAA’s National Weather Service Philadelphia/Mt. Holly Forecast Office warned of the possibility of record flooding in some scenarios and a three-day storm of major impact in any case.
"A hurricane or strong tropical storm will affect the Mid-Atlantic region late this weekend into early next week," Szatkowski said.
He said the storm will bring multiple dangers to our area:
- Strong damaging sustained winds up to or exceeding hurricane strength (74 mph) over a prolonged period of time (24 to 48 hours). Gusts will be higher.
- Extremely heavy rainfall.
- Major flooding along streams and rivers.
- Major coastal flooding. "The full moon on October 29 just makes things worse," he said.
"The eventual track of this storm will determine the area which is impacted. While Sandy could still track a little further to our north, or a little further to our south, we will be feeling her effects one way or the other starting late this weekend (Sunday), continuing into Tuesday of next week," Szatkowski said.
While Sandy is currently a Category 1 hurricane (with winds of 74-95 mph) with some further weakening possible, it is expected to remain a hurricane for the next several days, according to Szatkowski.
"Major coastal flooding is expected based on the current track forecast," he said. "Record coastal flooding is possible."
"A ten-foot storm tide (surge plus astronomical tide) is possible along the Atlantic Coast and in the Delaware Bay based on where the storm center comes ashore," he said. "This would result in record coastal flooding in some areas."
He said the storm will be slow-moving — worsening tidal flooding along the ocean and back bays as water builds up over multiple high-tide cycles. The slow- moving storm also worsens the potential for heavy rainfall inland.
High tides at the Ninth Street Bridge in Ocean City occur at 8:27 a.m. and 8:46 p.m. on Monday (Oct. 29) then at 9:02 a.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 30).
On Friday as residents scrambled to prepare for the storm, grocery and hardware stores were jammed, particularly on the mainland. Emergency planners have encouraged residents to be prepared for extensive and prolonged power outages, and water, battery and flashlight shelves were bare by mid-afternoon.
Public Works crews in Ocean City continued to move sand into piles at the dune cuts in an effort to slow the potential advance of storm surf.
Galloway Director of Public Works Kevin McDowell reminded residents to make sure leaves are not covering storm drains, and that heavy things are tied down.
“We’re getting our trucks fueled and our chainsaws sharpened,” McDowell said. “Our Emergency Management trucks are being filled with cones, we’re getting our large equipment ready. We’re filling our sandbags and just hoping for the best.”
In the morning, Ocean City school administrators anticipated the possibility of school closings on Monday and Tuesday, but that decision had not been made at the time.
The Galloway Township School District will not make any emergency plans until Sunday or Monday, and messages about closings will be reported via phone call or email home, its Facebook page, Twitter, local radio and TV stations, and news media outlets.
“This is a serious storm with the potential for heavy rain, coastal flooding, beach erosion and damaging winds over several days,” Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson warned on Friday. “I encourage everyone to make the most of this time by gathering several days worth of supplies, medications, non-perishable food, water, batteries, chargers, portable radios and flashlights and important documents and contact information. Should you need to evacuate, pack basic essentials as you would if you were going away.”
The Atlantic County Emergency hotline is available at 1-866-704-4636 to provide recorded updates throughout the storm, and individual municpalities’ hotlines are as follows:
Buena Vista Twp:
Egg Harbor City:
Egg Harbor Twp:
The U.S. Coast Guard in a Friday advisory urged people to:
- Anticipate bridge closings.
- Stay off the water.
- Evacuate as necessary.
- Secure your belongings.
- Be cautious of hazardous materials.
- Stay clear of beaches.
- Stay informed.
Let us know of any cancellations, closings or postponements in the comments section below.