After almost a week of ominous forecasts, the weather system born of a giant hurricane, a winter storm and an arctic air mass is upon us. And it's not going anywhere fast.
Across the Lehigh Valley, residents and government officials worked through the weekend to protect lives and property as
Although Sandy, which remained a Category 1 hurricane, was not expected to make landfall on the New Jersey coast until late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, the storm's effects have been felt since Sunday evening. Ahead of Sandy's landfall, every school district in the Lehigh Valley canceled Monday's classes. Some colleges closed through Tuesday.
The worst of the weather will persist throughout the day Monday, with sustained winds from 35 to 45 mph and gusts up to 55 mph. That will bring down tree limbs and small trees causing power outages and property damage.
"This is not a typical storm," Corbett said, "It could be historic. This is a hurricane wrapped in a nor'easter."
Up to five inches of rain is forecast to fall in the Lehigh Valley, with more to the south, causing small streams and urban areas with poor drainage to flood by Monday morning.
Currently, the Lehigh River and Delaware River are not forecast to flood, but those in flood zones should monitor river levels later in the week, the National Weather Service advised. The rain should taper off to showers during the day Tuesday, weather service meteorologist Valerie Meola said. But gusty winds will continue to be a problem through the day Tuesday.
"It will still be breezy through Thursday," Meola said.
Corbett said the best case scenario is for Sandy to sweep through the state and move north.
"We do not want it to settle over the Susquehanna Valley," Corbett said.
Sandy's winds are expected to cause more damage than those of Hurricane Irene and
PPL repeated that message to customers Sunday, saying that power outages could last up to a week. The electric company has prepared by bringing in additional workers from outside the area and telling employees to cancel time off.
Northampton and Lehigh counties will be teaming up with the
"It's going to be a big storm," said Tom Nervine, the
Mateff said Northampton County school officials were meeting Sunday to discuss whether to open or close on Monday. By Sunday night, all districts in the Valley decided to cancel Monday classes.
"I don't believe getting into school tomorrow at all will be a problem," Mateff said. "The issue becomes what happens during the day."
That uncertainty had Charlene Brennan, executive director of Colonial Intermediate Unit 20, leaning toward closing her regional education bureau, which serves special education students in Northampton and Monroe counties.
"As the day goes on, it is supposed to get real, real bad," Brennan said. "If we take people in the morning, I don't want them on the road in the afternoon."
The American Red Cross of the Greater Lehigh Valley will run the City Line Road shelter in conjunction with and Lehigh and Northampton counties, spokeswoman Janice Osbourne said.
Should the site fill up, satellite shelters will be manned and announced, Osbourne said.
As clouds gathered and winds stirred Sunday afternoon, Valley residents used the final day of calm to finish preparations. At Albright's Hardware on Walbert Avenue in South Whitehall, the phones were ringing off the hook Sunday afternoon and the message for each caller was the same: The store was sold out of generators.
Salesman Harrison Litzenberger said the independent hardware store has moved nearly 30 generators since Thursday, when Sandy's impact on the Lehigh Valley began to look inevitable.
The run included everything from lantern batteries and kerosene to chains and padlocks to secure new generators. Litzenberger predicts Albrights will sell out of chainsaws next.
"This is worth more than gold," he said, wheeling the last
Whitehall Township resident Tom Krause said he considered himself lucky to find it.
"I want to be able to run a few important things like the sump pump and the fridge," Krause said.
With last fall's severe weather, a one-two punch from Hurricane Isabel and Tropical Storm Lee followed by a knock out punch from a freak October snowstorm, Lehigh Valley residents said they're more wary of Sandy.
"After last October, the October surprise, this time we're a little better prepared," said Mike Shermansky, who also had purchased a generator and was picking out a heavy duty extension cord.
Others, with a higher tolerance for Mother Nature's ordeals, said they'd believe in Sandy's fury when they saw it. On Adams Island, a leafy enclave on the Lehigh River in east
"When it gets high enough that I can't walk off, that's when I leave," said Lynn Romig, who has only run from a flood once in her 20 years on the island.
Next door, Marshall Peifer and Joe Martin were moving boats to higher ground.
"If we get six to eight inches of rain, all this will be underwater," Martin said, motioning to Peifer's riverfront yard.
Martin, who is caretaker of the Frick Boat Club, rattled off a half-dozen times he could remember the island being inundated.
"The rest of the time when it's nice down here, it's worth it," Martin said. "It makes up for the little bit of hassle."
Northampton County Emergency Management
Lehigh County Emergency Management
Pennsylvania state government:
Make a survival kit
If waiting out the storm at home, prepare a kit that includes: flashlights and extra batteries; portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries;
If ordered to evacuate, be prepared to take with you: checkbooks; driver's license; credit card information; birth certificates; Social Security cards; and other documents proving ownership and identity.
More info: http://www.readypa.org; 888-973-2397
Source: Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency
South Whitehall Township: Parkland School District's Troxell Building, 2219 North Cedar Crest Blvd.