New Hampshire prepares for Hurricane Sandy
A satellite image of Hurricane Sandy is shown on a computer screen at the National Hurricane Center in Miami on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. Sandy left 21 people dead as it moved through the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm and reach the U.S. East Coast as a super-storm next week. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
A map indicates Hurricane Sandy's position moving through the Bahamas off the east coast of Florida on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Hurricane Sandy left 21 people dead as it moved through the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm and reach the U.S. East Coast as a super-storm next week. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
With heavy rain and wind from Hurricane Sandy expected to hit New Hampshire today, emergency personnel and utility companies are advising residents to stay indoors and prepare for possible power outages.
The Concord area will see “a steady ramp-up” of rain today, according to Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. Curtis said the storm is expected to be most severe in New Hampshire between 2 p.m. today and 2 a.m. tomorrow, she said, with 40 mph winds and gusts as strong as 60 mph.
A high wind warning and flood watch will be in effect for Merrimack County beginning this afternoon and lasting until 8 p.m. tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service.
Gov. John Lynch announced yesterday that the New Hampshire National Guard will have 100 soldiers on active duty by 10 a.m. today to assist with the state’s emergency response. Concord fire Chief Dan Andrus said the city will open an emergency operations center today.
“We’ll be reminding people to stay indoors as much as possible,” Andrus said.
The center of the hurricane is expected to reach land early tomorrow morning over New Jersey and move inland “somewhere between Long Island (N.Y.) and Delaware,” Curtis said. While the storm’s center is not headed for New Hampshire, she said, “the tropical storm-force winds extend almost 500 miles from the center.”
Schools across the state - including the Concord School District and the University of New Hampshire - canceled classes today in anticipation of the storm.
Utility companies are preparing for the storm to cause widespread power outages as Hurricane Sandy collides with a cold weather front. Public Service of New Hampshire requested an additional 450 crews for assistance. Backup crews traveled from Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, the company said yesterday in a press release.
Unitil warned that outages may continue after the heaviest rain and wind have passed through New Hampshire.
“Because the merged storm is forecasted to impact the area for a long period time, this could be a scenario where there are multiple outage peaks over the course of the event,” Unitil spokesman Alec O’Meara said in a release. “People could have power restored, then lose power again before the storm has passed completely.”
State officials urged residents to secure outdoor objects, including Halloween decorations, before strong wind gusts begin today. Christopher Pope, the state’s Homeland Security and emergency management director, said in a press release that residents should stay away from flooded roadways and downed utility wires.
Four state campgrounds are closed today due to the storm: Crawford Notch State Park at Hart’s Location; Lafayette Campground in Franconia Notch State Park; Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin; and Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey.
The campgrounds will re-open later in the week as weather permits, said Philip Bryce, director of the state Division of Parks and Recreation, in a press release. He warned hikers and hunters to stay inside during the storm.
“Trails are susceptible to damage in the weather that is being forecasted,” Bryce said in a press release. “Pay attention to the weather and plan to be safe.”
Just eight days before the Nov. 6 election, the storm has halted presidential campaigning in New Hampshire, where both political parties had planned to hold rallies this week.
Ann Romney canceled visits to Derry and Manchester today. The campaign also canceled Mitt Romney’s visit to Milford tomorrow night, where he was supposed to hold a rally in the Dome. The Romney campaign said in a release that its bus would be used for storm relief efforts along the East Coast.
The Obama campaign also canceled events in New Hampshire. Vice President Joe Biden flew to Manchester yesterday afternoon but canceled his campaign stop in Keene scheduled for today. The campaign said he would fly last night from Manchester to Ohio, where he will campaign today.
First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to Durham tomorrow for a rally at the University of New Hampshire was also canceled ahead of the storm. The Obama campaign said its schedule changes are “being taken out of an abundance of caution to ensure that all local law enforcement and emergency management resources can stay focused on ensuring the safety of people who might be impacted by the storm.”
The 1st Congressional District debate between Carol Shea-Porter and Frank Guinta scheduled for tonight was postponed. WMUR said it will now broadcast the live debate at 7 p.m. Friday.
Compared with last year’s Hurricane Irene, Curtis said Hurricane Sandy is expected to bring more wind to New England.
“In Irene, we saw a lot of heavy rains in Vermont and New Hampshire, and not as much wind,” she said. “Here, we’ll be seeing more wind but not as much of the flooding.”
During the day today, Curtis suggested residents “not plan on traveling anywhere.”
Rain is expected to continue throughout the week, Curtis said, but by Thursday “we’ll be looking at a normal rainy day.”
(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)