Monster storm may hit Monday

Posted: October 27, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The weather event meteorologists are calling “Frankenstorm” has state and local officials warning residents to prepare for the worst.

As Hurricane Sandy churned northward along the East Coast Friday, Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency for Virginia.

A Category 1 hurricane, Sandy is expected to blend with a winter storm from the Midwest.

“Since we are 72 hours out, the path is still uncertain,” Heather Sheffield, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sterling, said in a Friday phone interview.

Despite the uncertainty, forecasts call for the storm to have a significant impact on the state, according to a Friday media release from McDonnell.

Sheffield said the hurricane is on track to make landfall early Monday between the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Connecticut.

Locally, she said, residents could start seeing effects from the storm as early as Sunday.

The cold front moving from the Midwest is expected to blow through the area Saturday and stick around long enough to become engulfed with Sandy — creating cooler temperatures next week and the possibility of snow in higher elevations.

“It’s a large, significant storm,” she said.

Forecasts for Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties call for heavy rain, possible flooding and wind gusts of at least 39 mph, Sheffield said .

She expects the storm to live up to the hype surrounding it, and noted that residents should be aware of the potential for power outages.

“It doesn’t take that much wind to knock down power lines,” she said.

Locally, the Shenandoah Valley and Rappahannock electric cooperatives sent media releases Friday indicating that they are prepared for widespread outages.

“SVEC has extra support staff on standby, ready to respond, should the situation require additional assistance,” its release states. “SVEC continues to monitor the progression of the storm and is in regular contact with the National Weather Service.”

A media release from Frederick County Fire and Rescue states that it is encouraging residents to prepare for widespread power outages, flooding and property damage due to heavy rain and high winds.

“As with any severe weather, we encourage the citizens of Frederick County to have an emergency plan and kit to include food, water, medicine, emergency contact numbers and a weather radio,” the release states. “Emergency kits should have enough supplies to sustain your family for up to three days, including batteries and first aid supplies.”

City of Winchester human resources director Joel Davis said local agencies, for the moment, are monitoring the storm, and that staff members have been alerted to its potential effects.

Echoing that, Clarke County Administrator David Ash said officials there are watching the storm closely and that the maintenance department’s chainsaws are gassed up and ready to go.

McDonnell said eastern Virginia residents who live in low-lying areas should be ready to evacuate ahead of the storm and he encouraged everyone to listen to local TV and radio stations for instructions, such as an evacuation order for specific areas, details about evacuation routes and locations of evacuation shelters.

“Now is the time for all Virginians to prepare . . . ,” he said.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com