By Jason Cato
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012, 11:32 p.m.
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012
Communities delayed trick-or-treat days, residents were asked to check storm basins and the governor urged Pennsylvanians to prepare emergency kits as people throughout the state got ready to deal with Hurricane Sandy.
“We’re really just in a monitoring mode right now,” said Amie Downs, a spokeswoman for Allegheny County, which is prepared for the possibility of strong winds, heavy rain and snow.
The National Weather Service issued flood and high wind warnings for Western Pennsylvania through Tuesday night, following Sandy’s projected landfall somewhere along the Mid-Atlantic coast from Virginia to New York.
Sustained winds here could reach up to 35 mph, with gusts possibly reaching 60 mph, the weather service forecasts. Rain is expected to continue for days, with several inches possible in some areas.
Westmoreland County officials are making sure police, fire and water rescue units based there are ready to respond over the long haul, Emergency Management spokesman Dan Stevens said.
“It’s not going to be a short-term thing,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday that we’re going to have to deal with this, because it’s going to be a very slow-moving storm.”
Gov. Tom Corbett said on Sunday that the entire state should be ready for high winds and potential power outages, with counties in central and western parts of the state on the ready for snow and rain Monday night into Tuesday. Eastern portions of the state could see as much as 10 inches of rain and severe flooding exacerbated by a full moon and high tide.
Sandy’s potential left turn from the Atlantic Ocean into the Eastern Seaboard would be unprecedented, Corbett said.
“That could be hard on us when it gets here,” he said.
Duquesne Light Co. is coordinating with power companies across the state and tracking Sandy’s progress, spokesman Joey Vallarian said.
“We will make further determinations as the forecast models become more clear,” he said.
Several local municipalities rescheduled official Halloween events because of the storm.
Instead of having trick-or-treat nights on Wednesday, several moved their events to Saturday. Those include East McKeesport, East Pittsburgh, North Braddock, North Versailles, Ross, Swissvale, Turtle Creek, Wilmerding, Forest Hills and Heidelberg. West View canceled the Halloween parade it had scheduled for Monday.
“The unpredictably of this storm is why everyone just decided to go ahead and change it,” Swissvale Mayor Deneen Swartzwelder said. “I believe others will follow suit.”
Pittsburgh officials could not be reached on Sunday.
Hurricane preparations for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority include loading trucks with extra materials and street barricades as well as checking catch basins in low-lying areas such as Washington Boulevard in the Negley Run Watershed and Saline Street in the Four Mile Run Watershed.
Residents are asked to check catch basins near their homes and remove any leaves or debris, if possible, before the rains start.
Extra crew members will be on hand at the water treatment plant to monitor pump stations and prepare for power outages.
The Army Corps of Engineers on Saturday discovered several faulty dam gates on the Ohio River near Aliquippa that could be problematic should heavy flooding occur. The corps found four of the 10 gates at the Montgomery Locks and Dam were too deteriorated to work reliably. Further analysis will be conducted this week, the corps said.
The Red Cross in Western Pennsylvania is identifying potential shelter locations, gathering relief supplies and stocking emergency response vehicles, officials announced last week.
The organization is looking for disaster volunteers to help locally as well as in deployments to other areas. They cautioned Western Pennsylvania residents to keep informed about Sandy’s path and be prepared.
Corbett has requested a federal disaster relief declaration to help secure money for emergency operations should they be needed and plans to hold a cabinet meeting Monday in Harrisburg to finalize response plans.
Like the Red Cross, he urged residents to be prepared with adequate water, food and other supplies, including medicine and baby supplies.
“It would be nice if the hurricane would make a right turn (and stay out to sea),” Corbett said. “But we prepare for the worst and pray for the best.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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