Hurricane Isabel may soon wreak havoc as it closes in on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but the storm is only a distant afterthought in the back of most Yale students’ minds after several days of beautiful weather.
A forecast by the National Hurricane Center at 5 p.m. Wednesday called for the Class 2 hurricane, which has stretched up to 230 miles wide and brought with it winds of 105 miles per hour, to crash into North Carolina during the day today, with tropical storm warnings extending from South Santee River, S.C., to Sandy Hook, N.J. Although forecasters do not expect the storm to hit New Haven directly, Yale, city and state authorities are preparing for the worst.
Sgt. J. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman, said Connecticut will be ready to implement its standard contingency plan for hurricanes should the need arise. While authorities expect no more than “tropical rains,” state public safety personnel will be ready to respond in the case of any hurricane-related catastrophes, Vance said.
“We have plans for these types of events, which we’ve pulled off the shelves,” Vance said. “We have personnel ready, we have equipment ready, we are ready to cancel leaves if necessary.”
Vance also said state police were prepared to aid in evacuation and traffic control, and are capable of ensuring the smooth flow of fuel supplies and health care to Connecticut residents in any foreseeable circumstances.
Locally, New Haven and Yale officials expressed cautious optimism that the city would escape without significant damage. New Haven Director of Environmental Health Paul Kowalski said the city would implement emergency plans — including opening New Haven’s Emergency Operations Center — if it appeared that Isabel was going to hit New Haven with destructive force. Kowalski said that for the moment the city was not doing much to prepare.
“We’re just monitoring” the hurricane, Kowalski said. “We have public safety announcements that are ready to be released, if necessary.”
Yale officials said the University had begun implementing its own emergency plans, even though New Haven does not currently appear to be threatened by the storm. Elan Gandsman, the University’s director of environmental health and safety, said even if Hurricane Isabel veers significantly off its expected course and heads for New Haven, the impact will probably still be small.
“The force of the winds will not be the same,” Gandsman said. “If [Hurricane Isabel] hits New Haven it will be much less [severe] than in North Carolina.”
Hurricanes typically decrease in strength as they move north, away from the tropics to the cooler water of the North Atlantic.
Gandsman said Yale has already made some important preparations for the storm, and is ready for any weather-related events.
“In the last couple of days we have advised [our] contractors that we might need some extra help, and to remove any loose materials from roofs,” Gandsman said.
He said Yale’s biggest potential concern would be a loss of power, which could negatively impact professors using freezers for ongoing experiments. But Gandsman said Yale’s backup generators would easily be able to pick up any slack before the 24-to-48 hours necessary for freezers to thaw.
Most Yale students did not express apprehension about the storm and had not taken significant measures to prepare for the possibility of Isabel hitting New Haven. Andrea McKenna ’06 said she did not expect the storm to cause significant problems.
“Since it’s a Category 2 storm, it probably won’t be that bad,” McKenna said.
But McKenna said she had bought extra food — and an umbrella — with the storm in mind.
New Haven has not been threatened by a hurricane since 1991, when Hurricane Bob, a Class 2 storm, came within 60 miles of the city.
According to the National Hurricane Center, there is an 18 percent chance the Connecticut coast will be within 100 miles of a named storm each year.