Predictions for the hybrid storm bearing down on the Northeast keep worsening and the tone of the coverage is growing ever more strident, so it's no wonder the phone at Ice Cream World has been ringing off the hook.
No one's looking to stock up on ice cream. The South Whitehall Township ice cream parlor across from Dorney Park has long been a supplier of dry ice for power outage emergencies.
A block of the frozen compressed gas can preserve the food in a powerless refrigerator for days. And with the storm dubbed "Frankenstorm" predicted to rampage from Sunday to Wednesday with powerful winds and flooding rain, power outages are a virtual certainty.
"For years people have known we're one of the centers for dry ice," owner Kim MacIver said Friday. "We've had people show up, but we're asking them to wait."
"If you get it now, it will evaporate before the power goes out," MacIver explained, adding that the store had ample supplies of dry ice and will be open even if the power is out.
Forecasters have doubled down on the superlatives in describing the approaching storm, which is expected to be an unprecedented collision of a tropical system — Hurricane Sandy, or whatever is left of it — with a pre-winter storm coming from the west.
Throw in a blast of frigid northern air and you have three meteorological fuses approaching the same powder keg. It's four if you count the full moon that will have tides at their highest and exacerbate coastal flooding and erosion.
The hurricane killed at least 41 people across the Caribbean and was moving north. Federal forecasters said it may jog to the west at Delaware and combine with the wintry storm. But New York and New Jersey are also in the target area.
According to Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sandy will drop at least 10 inches of rain wherever it makes landfall. Areas not directly in the storm's path will get 4 to 8 inches of rain or more. Up to 2 feet of snow could fall in West Virginia, with smaller accumulations in Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
The weather in the Lehigh Valley is expected to start worsening late Sunday, with tropical storm conditions Monday and Tuesday. That means sustained winds of nearly 40 mph with much higher gusts and flooding rain.
On Friday afternoon, Gov. Tom Corbett declared a disaster emergency, which authorizes state agencies to use all available resources and personnel as necessary to cope with an emergency situation.
Glenn M. Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, urged people to prepare for two possibilities: riding out the storm at home or evacuating.
"This is the time to make sure everyone has an emergency kit in their home and car, and an emergency plan for taking care of each other in the event this storm brings its full destructive potential to our state," Cannon said in a statement.
Robert Mateff, director of Northampton County Emergency Management Services, said the agency is working with local utilities, the American Red Cross, public transportation and Lehigh County on its preparations.
"We've gotten good at it with all the storms over the last few years," he said. "It's all a matter of how much rain are we going to get, how fast does it fall, and how long is it here."
Mateff said the county and utilities have increased their partnership for response considerably since the last storms. Part of their focus has been on setting priorities for restoring services.
"If you have a senior assisted living facility where I can keep 100 residents in place if I get power back to them, versus taking them to a shelter, we're so much better off," he said.
Allentown has already rescheduled its Halloween parade to the planned rain date of 2 p.m. Nov. 4. And trick-or-treat schedules in many communities are in doubt, given that the weather may be poor through Halloween.
Ben Galiardo, deputy emergency management coordinator in Lower Macungie, predicted the storm could be worse than last year's Hurricane Irene, which brought flooding, downed trees and power outages. The township's emergency management team will meet Sunday to discuss the latest forecast and whether to activate an emergency operations center.
School districts also are gearing up for the system, which could disrupt transportation for three days if the storm persists through Wednesday, as some forecasts suggest.
Lehigh County's emergency management team asked Parkland School District's food services to provide meals to county shelters if necessary. The district is storing emergency food and water at the high school and its administrative Troxell Building, which will be opened to the community as a shelter if needed.
The East Penn School District on Friday released on its website emergency busing procedures that were created after last year's string of severe weather that included an October snowstorm, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The district was forced to close school last year for three days because of flooding problems and the snowstorm.
Northampton Borough set up auxiliary pumps around its wastewater treatment plant and put crews on standby in case the predicted 6 inches of rain flood the system, borough Manager Gene Zarayko said. The borough also has prepared a couple of plows and salt trucks in case the rain turns into snow.
In Catasauqua, the public works department was clearing storm drains, and employees were checking chain saws and other equipment to make sure they're in working order, emergency management coordinator Joe Carl said. Hellertown has asked residents to clear drains and store or secure garbage cans and other outdoor items that could pose a danger in high winds.
PPL Electric Utilities has canceled vacation time for operations personnel, requested help if necessary from another PPL Corp.-owned utility in Kentucky and asked its local contractors to be ready. The storm threatens to be the first major test of the initiatives PPL put in place after last year's October snowstorm, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
Those storms caused widespread and prolonged outages, leaving many customers frustrated and critical of the utility.
Since then, PPL has upgraded its customer service systems to handle increased call volume. It also has expanded tree-trimming efforts, since falling branches are the leading cause of outages. As during last October's storm, most trees in the region have only just begun to drop their leaves, so even a modest snow could lead to broken branches.
Reporters Patrick Lester, Bill Landauer, Sam Kennedy and Samantha Marcus contributed to this story.
Some basic emergency needs:
•Flashlights and extra batteries
•Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
•First aid kit
•Emergency food and water
•Non-electric can opener
•Cash, credit cards and important legal documents
•If evacuations are ordered, residents should take important documents with them, including checkbooks, driver's licenses, credit card information, birth certificates, Social Security cards and other forms and documents proving ownership/identity.
Source: Pennsylvania Emergency Management AgencyCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times