Sandy speeds toward New Jersey coast in destructive surge

Published 2:57 pm Monday, October 29, 2012

By Frank Kummer and Jonathan Lai,The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

PHILADELPHIA — Hurricane Sandy, almost 1,000 miles in girth, and bearing down with 90 mph winds is speeding up its hit on the New Jersey coast.

Sandy, shaping up to be epic in its scope, is now expected to land by dinner time Monday and bring historic flooding. Heavy rain and advancing wind gusts have already caused severe problems hours before landfall.

Forecasters say unprecedented damage is likely, especially at the Jersey Shore.

Sandy started to make a left-turn toward New Jersey about 5 a.m. EDT, churning in a massive sweep straight toward Atlantic or Cape May counties in meteorologists say should be a storm of historical proportions.

By 11 a.m., it was 205 miles southeast of Atlantic City, but was already battering the region, having dumped more than three inches of rain in some parts.

By noon, Sandy was on a direct collision course with the Garden State. And it had increased in intensity, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, chugging across the Atlantic Ocean t 18 mph.

At 2 p.m., estimates of its landfall were pushed up by hours.

The preceding surge all day long has been so powerful that it knocked out parts of Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk at the northern end. Major flooding was recorded in Ocean City and the Wildwoods.

President Barack Obama returned to the White House to oversee storm preparations and held a news conference about 12:30 p.m.

“This is going to be a big storm, this is going to be a difficult time,” Obama cautioned, saying multiple agencies across multiple states were being coordinated.

The president, who already made an emergency declaration, said he expects widespread transportation delays.

“The public should anticipate there’s going to be a lot of power outages, and it may take some time for that power to come back on,” Obama said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said 35,000 utility customers were without power as of noon, and was warning residents along the coast to get out.

“This is not a time to be a show-off,” Christie said. “This is not a time to be stupid … tonight is going to be significantly worse on the barrier islands.”

The governor said that, at some point, emergency responders will no longer be able to carry out rescues. Helicopters are already grounded.

And Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said residents should be prepared for loss of powers, “for days, not hours.”

“We are prepared and we will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to keep out citizens safe,” Corbett said, noting 1,600 National Guard Troops have been deployed.

Dean Iovino, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Monday morning that the northern part of the New Jersey coast will bear the brunt when it makes landfall Monday night because of the counter-clockwise rotation of the storm.

But all of the Jersey Shore will be battered as the storm barrels in just after high tide. The surge is already flooding the coast. Rain has been steady. Winds are expected to increase through the evening with gusts reaching 60 mph around 9 p.m. Gusts have been in the 30 to 40 mph range throughout the day.

“It looks like we’re not only going to exceed record levels, but exceed them substantially,” Iovino said of flooding, “especially at the North Jersey shore — which is not to say that there’s not going to be bad flooding south of that.

“They might experience something we haven’t seen before, perhaps in recorded time.”

Worse, is the timing that will coincide with high tide. Officials were attempting to get Shore residents to take the storm seriously, but about 70 percent of Brigantine’s 9,500 residents have remained on the island, police said.

Emergency officials in Ventnor, N.J., said people were clamoring to get out.

A range of 5 to 10 inches of rain is expected to fall through Tuesday, coupled with high winds — a combination that has utility companies expecting downed trees and power lines, plunging thousands into darkness, and swamping basements with water.

Though winds were still weak, trees began toppling early in the morning. In Cherry Hill, N.J., a tree fell on a car earlier on southbound Interstate 295. And, in Delaware County, Pa., outside Philadelphia a tree fell on a house in Upper Darby. The impact damaged a room where an infant was sleeping.

The baby was transported to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, according to Ed Truitt, emergency Services Director for Delaware County. He did not know the extent of the baby’s injuries.


People rushed to prepare as the forecast continued to worsen.

At 6 a.m. Monady morning, about 15 people waited in line at the Home Depot in Cherry Hill, N.J.

“I’m looking for a generator,” Mark Tomafsky, 39, of Maple Shade, N.J., said. “I have five kids at home.”

Indeed, all those in line they were looking for generators. But the store had none — a scene played out throughout big box hardware centers in the region.

Tomafsky has five children, including eight-month-old twin boys, up through an 11-year old. He fears a loss of power and not being able to feed his family. And, he fears his battery-backup sump won’t last long if he loses power for more than eight hours.

Omar Lopez, an assistant manager at the store, said he has not seen anything like the demand for supplies — even with Hurricane Irene.

“This is way bigger, and it’s been like this for four days,” Lopez said.


(Staff writers Mari A. Schaefer and Peter Mucha also contributed to this report.)