Local schools closed; strong winds forecast

Posted: October 29, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Batten down the hatches. Sandy is coming to town.

As of Sunday evening, the Category 1 hurricane was expected to bring damaging winds and heavy rain to the area this morning and last into Wednesday morning.

The public school systems in the City of Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties all announced Sunday that school is canceled today.

The wind and the rain will likely form a destructive combination to take down branches and trees, Kevin Witt, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sterling, said Sunday night.

The rain is expected to weigh down leaves and soften the ground while powerful northwest winds snap limbs and possibly entire trees.

The National Weather Service Sunday issued a high wind warning and a flood watch for Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties.

The wind warning is in effect from 8 a.m. today until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

From 9 a.m until noon today, a steady wind of 30 to 40 mph is expected, with gusts up to 50 mph, and the wind will strengthen after noon with sustained winds of 35 to 50 mph and gusts up to 65 mph, Witt said.

The winds are expected to begin to weaken Tuesday afternoon, he said.

Area residents should be prepared for extended power and communication outages, the National Weather Service advised Sunday evening.

A flood watch began at 2 a.m. today and extends until Tuesday evening.

Witt said up to 1.5 inches are expected from mid-morning today until noon. Another one to two inches — and possibly as many as four inches in some local areas— is expected to fall between 6 p.m. today to 6 a.m. Tuesday. Visibility during that time will be poor.

Depending on the amount of rain, area creeks and streams could see flooding, Witt said.

As bad as it sounds, the Winchester area may be spared the worst of the storm, while areas to the north draw the brunt of Sandy’s wrath.

The hurricane is expected make landfall tonight somewhere along the New Jersey shore and then move across Pennsylvania through Tuesday night.

“Still, it’s going to be pretty bad [locally],” Witt said.

Area residents weren’t taking any chances over weekend, filing into grocery and retail stores to stock up on necessities in case of a prolonged power outage.

Batteries, water and flashlights were the hot commodities over the weekend at the Legge Boulevard Target just east of South Pleasant Valley Road, said Kristin Tresidder, the store’s manager.

By Sunday night, the store was running out of some brands of the products, she said.

Oil to refill lamps was in high demand at Michaels on South Pleasant Valley, night shift manager Angel Mullin said Sunday evening.

Arts and crafts were also a popular purchase.

“People want something to do in case they’re snowed in or the power goes out for a long time,” she said.

Both Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) have additional personnel on standby to respond to possible power outages.

Both cooperatives strongly advise that residents make no attempt to clear trees or debris from downed power lines.

SVEC members who lose power should contact 800-234-7832. REC members should call 800-552-3904.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is recommending that drivers delay travel until unsafe weather conditions have passed.

Road conditions can be checked by calling 511 or visiting 511virginia.org.

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com