Western NC sees snow, while Northeastern states brace for hurricane
OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — Floodwaters inundated seaboard communities in Maryland and Delaware as Hurricane Sandy raced nearer to the mid-Atlantic coast, and residents feared the worst was yet to come as the huge, violent storm was expected to park itself over the region.
By this afternoon, parts of Ocean City in Maryland and Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach in Delaware — three of the region’s most popular coastal destinations — were under water. Officials were predicting that Sandy would cause damage equal to or greater than two of the worst tropical storms in the region’s history: Gloria in 1985 and Agnes in 1972.
In North Carolina, the cold part of Hurricane Sandy could bring a foot or more of snow to the mountains of western North Carolina, potentially allowing the region’s ski resorts to open weeks early.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the mountains of western North Carolina until 6 a.m. Wednesday.
A wind advisory is in effect for the Piedmont, including Rowan County.
Much colder weather is also moving in tonight, which the low forecast in
the upper 30s in Salisbury. The chance for snow is by tomorrow morning
is also mentioned in the local forecast.
Watauga County Emergency Management Director Steve Sudderth said this morning that a wet, heavy snow began falling in Boone but the ground was warm enough to keep it from sticking to the roads. Sudderth said the snow was primarily accumulating at elevations above 4,000 feet and that local residents are very used to dealing with such weather. Boone averages nearly 3 feet of snowfall each winter.
Forecasters say up to 5 inches of snow was possible tonight and up to 8 inches of snow was possible Tuesday in higher elevations.
Winds of 25 mph to 35 mph were expected to bring down power lines. Gusts of up to 65 mph are possible.
The early snowfall will be a boon for the area’s ski resorts, which have sometimes struggled to keep their slopes open amid a warming climate.
Kim Jochl at Sugar Mountain said they had already received a couple inches of natural snow and that snow makers had been running since Sunday night.
The resort plans to open Wednesday for Halloween, the earliest Sugar has ever been able to open in more than 40 years of operation. Jochl said the earliest prior date the resort had opened for the season was Nov. 6, 1976.
“It’s unprecedented,” she said.
In the Northeast, officials implored residents to stay off the roads while imposing evacuation orders that affected thousands of residents in low-lying coastal communities, primarily in Delaware. The storm was expected to make landfall this evening in Delaware or south New Jersey.
In Washington, the federal and local governments closed along with the courts, public schools and the Metro system that serves about 1.2 million weekday customers. Most flights in and out of the three airports serving the region were canceled Monday, and widespread cancellations were expected Tuesday. Tourist attractions such as the Smithsonian museums were off-limits, and shelters opened to help hundreds.
Carrying sustained winds of up to 90 mph, Sandy sped toward a landfall that would impact Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Utilities warned power outages could affect millions and last for a week as the vast storm system meets a wintry storm and cold Arctic air. As of 3 p.m. — with the strongest winds still well offshore — more than 48,000 customers were without power in Maryland, Northern Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia.
No part of the region appeared safe from Sandy’s impact. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said his state was “right in the crosshairs” of the storm and urged people to stay off the roads at least until Tuesday night. Flooding was likely in communities along the Chesapeake Bay, he said.
“The days ahead are going to be very difficult,” O’Malley said. “There will be people who die and are killed in this storm.”
The Bay Bridge, which links Maryland’s Eastern Shore with the rest of the state, was closed because of high winds. Federal offices in the Washington area were to remain closed Tuesday, along with school systems and local governments.
In mountainous western Maryland, a blizzard warning was issued for sections of Garrett County for Monday night into Tuesday morning.
With the storm still far off, parts of coastal towns in southern Delaware already were under water by midday. Wind-driven high tides swamped streets in Lewes east of the Lewes-Rehoboth canal, and police blocked off a bridge over the canal. The wind and water toppled light poles near the Lightship Overfalls, a National Historic Landmark.
Farther south in Dewey Beach, water from Rehoboth Bay inundated streets on the west side of Route 1, the major coastal highway, and crept up onto the highway itself. Authorities blocked off Route 1 at southern the edge of town because of dune breaches farther south near the Indian River Inlet bridge, which also was closed.
“We really have not seen, ourselves, the brunt of this yet,” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said Monday afternoon. “It’s going to get worse and worse.”
The stormy Atlantic Ocean covered the beach in Ocean City, where a pier was battered and badly damaged. Tracy Lind, a front desk worker at a Holiday Inn & Suites, said the pier was part of the fabric of the resort town, frequented by fishermen and visited by tourists and locals seeking a close-up look at the ocean.
“It’s kind of like an icon in Ocean City. It’s the closest people can get to the ocean without getting in,” Lind said. “I always thought that it would withstand anything.”
Delaware hit hard
In Delaware, Markell ordered the evacuation of about 50,000 people in coastal communities. Thousands more were evacuated in parts of Wilmington, the state’s largest city, and Delaware City, a working-class community that’s home to a massive oil refinery.
William Warren, a 76-year-old retired general laborer, said he wasn’t planning to leave.
“Where else am I going to go?” Warren said Monday morning, sitting in his car outside the mobile home where he rents a room.
At high tide around midday Monday, dark gray waves rolled and crashed along Delaware City’s 10-foot seawall, occasionally spraying over the top. The tide was near the city’s 8.5-foot record. The next high tide, overnight, was forecast to surpass it.
Delaware City Police Chief Dan Tjaden said it’s been hard persuading many of the approximately 700 people in the evacuation zone that there’s a threat because Hurricane Irene did only modest damage in the area last year. He said authorities have marked the doors of those who refused to evacuate by stretching bright yellow police tape across their front door frames.
“If they need us, they call us,” Tjaden said. “I give them my cellphone number, they give me their cellphone numbers and we just go from there and we hope for the best.”
On Fenwick Island, bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and by Assawoman Bay on the other, Mayor Audrey Serio said she woke up with six inches of water on the ground floor of her home. Neighbors’ homes were also flooded. Al Daisey stood outside his home, warily observing the bay, normally at the end of his street, creeping several feet into his yard.
In the Washington area, winds started picking up Monday afternoon, and snowflakes could be seen mixed in with the raindrops falling downtown. Fire departments began responding to trees falling on homes, although no injuries were reported.
Although Arlington National Cemetery was closed to tourists, the Army’s Third U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as The Old Guard, continued to stand guard over the Tomb of the Unknowns. Soldiers in combat uniforms were guarding the tomb from a small enclosure covered by a green awning about 20 feet away, said Maj. John Miller, a spokesman for the regiment.
The Metro transit system in Washington closed for the first time since Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Officials weren’t expected to decide on restoring service until Monday evening and first needed assurances from utility companies that they would be able to maintain electricity.
With relatively light winds in Washington Monday morning, some were having fun with the storm. A shirtless man wearing a horse’s-head mask was shown on WRC-TV cameras jogging, an image that quickly went viral.
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