Return to story
Beachgoers check out the waves whipped up by Hurricane Sandy from the pier at Pleasure Island, N.C., south of Wilmington.
Baltimore Gas & Electric workers load plastic bags to be filled with sand to prepare for flooding at its facilities.
BY KATIE THISDELL
Power crews are preparing for widespread outages that could last days, depending on the track of the slow-moving Hurricane Sandy along the East Coast.
Government and power company officials advise residents in the Fredericksburg region to monitor weather reports, and update emergency kits and plans.
"We will do our best, we will get lights back on as quickly and as safely as we can, but people will also need to be prepared because there may be multi-day outages," said Le-Ha Anderson, a Dominion Virginia Power spokeswoman. "Looking at what this weather system is like, we are braced for a very, very serious storm."
Weather models show a cold front merging with the tropical storm system, creating conditions for sustained severe weather and a significant temperature drop.
The region could see the storm hit Sunday night, and hang around through at least Tuesday.
Nicknamed "Frankenstorm" because of its timing close to Halloween, Hurricane Sandy could bring strong winds, heavy rain and flooding, forecasters say. Coastal areas may see more flooding because of the full moon, and areas to the west could see snowfall, according to officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Kevin Dillard, administrative chief of Chancellor Volunteer Fire & Rescue, said that it's important to prepare ahead of the storm.
"First of all, check your emergency supplies and gather items that would be needed if a power outage should last for several days," he said. "Being well-prepared for Mother Nature's wild side brings peace of mind."
Stephanie Bledsoe of King George County wasn't taking any chances on the severity of the storm.
"I'm thinking better safe than sorry," Bledsoe said around noon Friday, while stocking up on storm-related supplies at the Ferry Farm Walmart in southern Stafford County.
Like many shoppers in the store, the mother of two young children had filled her cart with gallon jugs of water, a case of water bottles, along with plenty of nonperishables, such as toaster pastries and crackers. She planned to pick up candles and flashlights, too.
Bledsoe, whose husband deploys with the military to the Philippines today, is worried about Sandy's strength.
"I'm scared it's going to ruin Halloween, but I'm really scared a tree is going to fall on my house," she said, noting that she lives in a heavily wooded area.
She plans to make room in her basement to sleep Sunday. If the power is out for days, she has talked to friends who have generators.
Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency Friday in advance of Hurricane Sandy's arrival. The announcement makes state resources available sooner for emergency situations, such as mobilizing FEMA and National Guard teams.
McDonnell cautioned residents that, unlike many hurricanes, this one is expected to last several days.
"There's going to be widespread impacts around the Commonwealth of Virginia for a sustained amount of time, for three or four days," McDonnell said. "Shopping now, today, tomorrow, to be ready for the event, is absolutely critical."
Many local governments and power companies, along with the Virginia Department of Transportation, issued press releases yesterday, urging people to be prepared and outlining what resources would be available.
VDOT workers will be on the roads around the clock, clearing debris and closing roads that aren't safe.
Officials recommend everyone stock up on candles, batteries, flashlights, water and nonperishable food.
Anyone needing electricity for medical reasons is urged to make appropriate plans.
Shelters may open throughout the region if necessary. For example, Stafford has tentative plans to open Gayle Middle School and North Stafford High School if there are widespread power outages. A county spokeswoman advised residents to keep an eye on communications coming from local governments.
In Culpeper, light and power employees are on standby status beginning Sunday and crews will begin clearing any trees or limbs that hit electric lines as soon as they are reported.
Sandy, currently a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph sustained winds, will change structure as it parallels the coast over the weekend, explained James Franklin, branch chief of NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami, on a conference call.
It'll lose its tropical nature, and become an extratropical cyclone, meaning that the storm picks up energy from temperature differences rather than from the ocean, Franklin said.
Because the storm is so large, Sandy could have an impact on the eastern third of the United States.
But Friday afternoon, Franklin said it was too soon to say which cities would be hit hardest.
Hurricane season continues until Nov. 30.
The region's last big storm was the June 29 "derecho," which came up with practically no advance warning. It took up to a week to fully restore power in the region. For many people, the effects were worse because of extreme summer temperatures.
This time around, temperatures are moderate, and households know the storm is coming, with plenty of time to prepare. But Dominion's Anderson said that if the storm is as severe as it has been forecast, it could still take days to restore all power.
Local hardware stores were ordering extra generators for the weekend.
"People are freaked out about it," said Cory Cheek, a sales representative at Fredericksburg Motor Sports off State Route 3 in Stafford. The store had sold six or seven generators already Friday afternoon, and about a dozen should be there today in an emergency shipment.
Cheek said people should take advantage of the advance notice of the storm. "That's what's making this more manageable," he said.
Earl's True Value, on Chatham Heights Road, sold its nine in-stock generators within an hour Friday morning. More than 50 more should be delivered from Atlanta on Sunday, employees said.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975
If you lose power because of the storm system, call your provider as soon as you can.
"Never assume we know you're without power," said Le-Ha Anderson, a Dominion Virginia Power spokeswoman. "The more calls we get, the easier it
Stay away from any downed lines, and assume they are
Dominion Virginia Power: 866/DOM-HELP (866/366-4357)
Northern Neck Electric
Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative: 703/335-0500 or toll-free 888/335-0500