By Alan Burke Staff writer
The Salem News
---- — If you’re good at following directions, you’re reading this at home.
In preparation for the arrival of a potentially deadly storm, Gov. Deval Patrick has ordered the closure of all schools and all state offices. The governor has also urged private businesses to give employees permission to stay home.
Ahead of Patrick’s order yesterday, a number of schools on the North Shore had already canceled today’s classes. Salem has also canceled a number of Haunted Happenings events.
Boston Harbor Cruises has suspended all ferry service from Boston and Hingham to Salem today, tomorrow and Wednesday.
The MBTA said on its website that it is planning to operate on a normal schedule this morning, as long as it is safe to do so. Updates can be found at mbta.com.
The storm, dubbed Sandy, began to be felt yesterday. Today, it is promising sustained strong winds, rain and, with a full moon, abnormally high tides.
Meanwhile, preparations locally include everything from the Salem Fire Department making certain that all its vehicles are topped off with fuel to Beverly Fire checking all of its equipment, including pumps, to ensure they’ll be functioning optimally. The Danvers police have adjusted officer duty shifts in order to have extra patrols during the storm.
“We’ve put on extra shifts,” Beverly Patrolman Brian Long said. “The tree companies are prepared. The DPW is prepared. The harbormaster is on. We’ve done this before. We just have to roll with whatever comes in.”
Because extraordinarily heavy rains are not expected in Peabody, a community often plagued by flooding, police will wait for the need to arise before putting extra officers on duty.
In general, cities experienced with flooding have cleared culverts, and residents have been advised to make sure nearby catch basins are cleaned, allowing water to flow through.
The worst of the weather is predicted for areas south of Boston, but no one is taking its impact here lightly.
“This is something we need to keep our eyes on,” said Salem State University meteorologist Arthur Francis.
Of course, we’ve all been through this before only to see the feared storm blow itself out before it gets here. Francis acknowledges that possibility.
Yet he adds, “This one is more likely to be as they’ve predicted. ... It’s certainly going to be a mind-boggler.”
The wind and the pull of the full moon on the tides working in combination, are reasons for worry, Francis said.
“We are going to have strong winds with gusts of up to 60 miles per hour,” he said. “And they won’t be letting up for many hours. ... The trees, with this happening hour after hour, down they’ll come.”
With high tides at noon and midnight, the sustained winds could play havoc with seaside communities, Francis said. “In Marblehead and Plum Island, all along the coast. ... When the moon is full, we get a tide that is high anyway. This time, there’s going to be water coming over.”
In Marblehead, for example, he predicts that the direction of the wind could result in water breaching the causeway and perhaps flooding on Front Street. In Salem, he warns, there’s a reason that Canal Street has that name. In the past, it has seen flooding, as has Jefferson Avenue.
Although snow is not expected here, the storm is not dissimilar to the famed Blizzard of ’78, which caused massive flooding and sent a few South Shore houses plunging onto the beach.
With falling trees and flooding, the state has predicted power outages. In response to the possibility that some people will be driven from their homes, the Red Cross has established shelters, including one at Newbury Elementary School. That facility opened at 8 last night.
The Red Cross also offers common-sense advice for those preparing for the storm — get cash, make a plan, buy water, have medications on hand and turn down the temperature in the refrigerator. A free Hurricane App is available for the tech-savvy at RedCross.org/mobileapps. Others can call 800-REDCROSS if in distress or to volunteer or make a donation for disaster relief.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.