In the calm before the storm -- as state and local officials tracked deadly Hurricane Sandy -- Bridgeport, Fairfield and Westport on Saturday organized evacuations of low-lying areas and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned of an epic, three-day storm.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch ordered thousands of residents, from Black Rock to the East End along the city's coast, to move to one of three school shelters by noon on Sunday.

Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the voluntary departure of beach-area residents and pets on Sunday morning would become mandatory at noon, when the emergency shelter opens at Ludlowe High School.

Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff asked shoreline dwellers to evacuate by Sunday night. Long Lots Elementary School on Hyde Lane will open at 3 p.m. for residents and their pets.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy cautioned Connecticut to expect the worst when Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 58 people in the Caribbean, lashes us with gusts of up to 80 miles-per-hour, heavy rain and possibly historic flooding in Long Island Sound communities from Greenwich to East Haven.

"Folks, this could be bad. Really bad," he told reporters during a 20-minute afternoon news conference in the State Armory.

"It could impact us in several ways and for a long period of time," he said. "We are talking about the potential for a high number of power outages and for an extended period of time. We're talking about severe flooding, perhaps the worst we've seen in more than 70 years, back to 1938."

Malloy predicted that unlike most 12-hour hurricane events, Sandy will arrive with high winds Sunday night and could linger for 36 hours, with four tide changes during a full-moon phase, hampering the state's ability to recover from the collision between the tropical cyclone and a cold front from the west.

"Connecticut citizens are not used to storms of this duration," Malloy said, noting that local towns and cities will make their own decisions Sunday on ordering residents to shelters. "That's why any evacuation needs to occur Sunday during daytime hours, for everyone's safety."

Malloy's announcement came after an hour-long conference call with local public safety and chief elected officials from throughout the state. Malloy said that Federal Emergency Management Agency officials were arriving on Sunday morning.

"I hope this is not as big a deal as everyone's making it, but I fear it is and therefore we have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Malloy said.

The governor warned of the eventuality of local and interstate road closures and railroad service suspensions. He declared that as of noon Sunday, state parks and beaches will be closed.

In a statement from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a final decision on Metro-North, subway and bus service will be made on Sunday. If service is halted, it would begin at 7 p.m., according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood watch for the Connecticut shoreline from Sunday evening through Tuesday. Major beach erosion and widespread damage is possible along the southwestern Connecticut coast. High tides on Monday are around 11:30 a.m. and midnight; and Tuesday will occur around noon, depending on locations along the Sound.

Four hundred members of the National Guard drilling over the weekend in Groton, Niantic and Middletown have been attached to local armories throughout the state to help with local cleanups. State Police will have extra dispatchers on duty and 43 recruits will deploy with veteran state troopers.

Executives from the Connecticut Light & Power Co. and the United Illuminating Co. said they are "leaning into the storm" by positioning hundreds of employees and thousands of outside contractors before the storm begins to affect the state with rising winds on Sunday night.

William Quinlan, senior vice president for CL&P, said that 340 company line workers will be joined by as many as 2,000 outside contractors, with a total of 5,000 people available.

James Torgerson, president of UI Holdings, said the company is planning on power outages for between 300,000 and 600,000 of the 1.2 million customers in the 17-town service area, including Bridgeport and New Haven.

Bridgeport has ordered evacuations starting at noon on Sunday for areas of Black Rock, the East End, East Side, South End, West End and West Side. Three schools will be opened as shelters: Jettie Tisdale, located at 275 Hollister Ave.; Geraldine Johnson, at 475 Lexington Ave.; and the Cesar Batalla School, at 606 Howard Ave. A complete list of affected evacuation areas can be found at

Mayor Finch closed all city parks at dusk on Saturday, but said that Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo would be open on Sunday.

In Fairfield, Tetreau warned town residents to prepare to be without power for an extended period.

"We need to complete evacuations before nightfall when wind and rain begin to strengthen," he said. "Be prepared to stay away from the area for several days."

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