In the days leading up to Halloween, Hurricane Sandy is set to strike the Elm City.
Sandy, which has already claimed the lives of 58 people in the Caribbean, is expected to make landfall early Tuesday morning in New Jersey and severe weather is projected to hit Connecticut Monday. In a Sunday afternoon press conference, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. called for a state of emergency in the city, ordering an evacuation of flood-prone regions, opening an Emergency Operations Center and announcing plans to close New Haven public schools and senior centers on Monday and Tuesday. The state will also see some closures, as Gov. Dannel Malloy announced a Declaration of Emergency on Saturday and ordered all non-essential state employees not to report to work Monday after consultation with state agency officials.
“Residents should take this storm very seriously,” DeStefano said. “We cannot mandate anyone to evacuate, but I strongly encourage all residents in flood-prone regions to do so. Failure to evacuate will place residents in danger as well as any personnel who might have to respond in the event of an emergency.”
According to meteorologists, wind speeds could reach sustained levels of over 75 mph, rainfall could total nearly 6 inches in areas and New Haven stands nearly a 50 percent chance of seeing at least a 5-foot storm surge, potentially reaching up to 11 feet under certain conditions. The storm’s intensity is expected to peak Monday afternoon and evening, meteorologists predict.
DeStefano’s evacuation order will take effect on Monday at 8:30 a.m. and last until noon high tide Tuesday. With predicted storm surges more than double those of Hurricane Irene in 2011, which knocked out power to over half the state and killed a total of 56, DeStefano warned citizens to avoid driving if possible. Career High School will serve as an emergency shelter, with the Red Cross providing food, blankets, pillows and cots.
Malloy, who called Sandy “the largest threat to human life that our state has experienced in anyone’s lifetime,” said coastal areas in Connecticut can expect to see the worst flooding in 70 years and power outages could last for an extended period of time. Malloy signed an executive order Sunday night that extended the deadline for voter registration from Oct 30. to Nov. 1 in anticipation of the storm, and added that he will hold three media briefings Monday at the state Emergency Operations Center to keep Connecticut residents updated about the impact of the storm.
In addition, Malloy requested that President Barack Obama declare a pre-landfall emergency in Connecticut, which Obama approved Sunday night. The designation allows the state to request funding and other assistance to help mitigate the effects of Sandy. He said Sandy poses a “real warning of possible death as a result of drowning” to those living in coastal regions, adding that emergency crews will likely not be able to rescue those swept away by Sandy while the storm is at its peak.
“When I spoke with President Obama this afternoon, it was clear that he and other federal emergency management officials are taking this threat as seriously as we are,” Malloy said. “As the hours go by, we are more and more certain that Hurricane Sandy will have a substantial impact on our state and I do not want to wait to get this process going.”
Dubbed “Frankenstorm” due to proximity to Halloween, the storm could be the worst the U.S. has ever faced, weather experts have said. The collision of Sandy, a late summer hurricane, with two inland winter weather systems during a full moon and high tides has led officials to predict it will exceed the $16 billion of damages caused by Hurricane Irene last year.
Yale Police Department Assistant Chief of Police Steven D. Woznyk said the city and Yale have been working together to ensure campus safety.
“Yale and New Haven have been making the necessary preparations for the impending storm,” Woznyk said. “Yale’s emergency operations team is taking the necessary precautions to keep the campus safe and running smoothly throughout the storm.”
While Hurricane Irene caused relatively little damage to Yale last year, meteorologists forecast Sandy will be worse in its storm surge, wind speed, location and angle of approach. And while Irene was downgraded to the category of tropical storm before it reached New Haven, Sandy will continue to grow after the storm makes landfall.
But Rudi-Ann Miller ’16 said she feels reassured that Yale is well prepared to face the storm.
“As a Jamaican who’s grown up and experienced many different hurricanes of more significant strength, I feel pretty safe,” she said. “I think Yale has done a really great job of coordinating their emergency efforts, so I feel like there’s nothing to worry about really.”
After the National Weather Service rated Sandy’s surge potential at 5.7 on a 6.0 scale, New York shut down its mass transit and regional rail service at 7 p.m. Sunday.