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Hurricane Sandy on course for Westport, region?

Published 6:24 am, Thursday, October 25, 2012
  • A snowplow clears the front of the War Memorial in Danbury, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. The Danbury area had a major snowstorm last year, just before Halloween. Photo: Michael Duffy
    A snowplow clears the front of the War Memorial in Danbury, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. The Danbury area had a major snowstorm last year, just before Halloween. Photo: Michael Duffy

 

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A Category 1 hurricane that whipped through Jamaica on Wednesday as it headed toward Cuba and the Bahamas could hit Connecticut at some point between Sunday and Tuesday, meteorologists say.

Hurricane Sandy, upgraded in strength Wednesday and packing 80 mph winds, could cause tropical storm conditions along the coast of Florida by Friday morning as it heads north. It's too early to tell whether the storm will head out to sea or turn back toward the Northeast, forecasters say -- but there is potential for a damaging storm to hit Connecticut and neighboring states.

"The realm of possibilities continues to range from Sandy escaping out to sea, with nothing more than blustery, much cooler air sweeping in, to a dynamic storm turning inland packing coastal flooding, flooding rainfall, high winds, downed trees, power outages, travel mayhem ...," said meteorologist Alex Sosnowski in an article on Accuweather.com.

"It's way too early to tell," said Bill Jacquemin, chief meteorologist with the Connecticut Weather Center in Danbury. "It's nearly a week away."

The worry is this: Should Sandy veer toward land and head up the Eastern seaboard, it could be a powerhouse, akin to the October 1991 "Perfect Storm" of book and movie fame.

It would smash into the coastline early next week.

Or maybe it will just stay out to sea.

State and local officials spent a week this summer preparing for a hurricane strike, and are now putting those lessons -- including those learned during Tropical Storm Irene last August -- into place.

The state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security has started to send briefings to municipalities, updating them on the latest developments in the storm's forecast.

Bridgeport officials will meet Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at the city's Emergency Operations Center on North Washington Avenue to discuss storm preparedness, said Elaine Ficarra, spokeswoman for Mayor Bill Finch. The meeting will include representatives from the police, fire, public works, emergency operations and health departments.

In Fairfield, Fire Chief Richard Felner, who is in charge of the town's emergency management department, said officials are prepared.

"We're ready," said Felner, who met with Police Chief Gary MacNamara and other officials Wednesday and plans to continue to hold those meetings as the storm approaches. "We will continue to monitor the forecasts and any information we can get on the storm."

Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei said the town will start ramping up preparations Thursday, making sure its departments have resources "in good working order."

The town will begin mobilizing resources into certain locations, such as generators for the pump stations at its wastewater treatment plan, in case of flooding, which can "cause havoc on the system."

Tesei said as the storm gets closer, the town will send out alerts using its Reverse 911 system to notify residents. That will continue during and after the storm, if necessary.

The storm comes almost a year after a nor'easter crippled the state with heavy snowfall that knocked down trees and power lines, leaving thousands in the dark for days.

Mitch Gross, spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power Co. -- the utility harshly criticized for its handling of Tropical Storm Irene and the October nor'easter in 2011 -- said the company is monitoring Sandy closely.

"As we do with every storm," Gross said, CL&P "will be making preliminary storm response preparations, if need be, in the coming days."

United Illuminating is also tracking the storm and will begin making preparations if necessary.

"We are monitoring the weather and making internal preparations," UI spokesman Michael West said. "We are also initiating and beginning to outline our plans for external support in case Sandy takes a turn toward Connecticut."

Jacquemin said that as of Wednesday the computer models of Sandy's path showed it taking several different courses. Western winds could keep it offshore, he said. Southern winds could pull it into the Atlantic coastline.

Jacquemin said he was favoring the out-to-sea models, as of Wednesday.

But, he said, if Sandy does come ashore, it will do so during the astronomical high tide -- there's a full moon on Monday. That means if it does hit land, there could be serious coastal flooding.

Rain will fall in the state Sunday and Monday anyway because of a storm moving east out of the Great Lakes, Jacquemin said.

Whether Sandy makes that rain into something more severe will depend in part on what happens over Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas in the next few days.

"The best advice is be aware,'' Jacquemin said.