By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor
PROVIDENCE – Residents, government offices and utilities throughout Rhode Island and Southern New England are taking steps to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, which is set to hit the East Coast late Sunday and peak on Monday and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Although the Weather Service downgraded the storm to a category 1 hurricane at 11 a.m. on Friday, people are taking no chances.
“At this point, at the risk of sounding cliché, we’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” R.I. Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Annemarie Beadsworth told Providence Business News, adding that there is still a wide range of where the storm will hit and what the impacts will be.
Depending on the path the storm takes in the next couple of days, New York, Pennsylvania and the Washington, D.C., metro area may take the brunt of the abuse, but Rhode Islanders could still feel the effects, including heavy rainfall, high winds and a dangerous storm surge.
The Emergency Management Agency has been following the development of Hurricane Sandy since Monday, offering updates and National Weather Service storm projections on its Facebook page.
“The exact track and impacts of this storm are not certain at this time. We do know that whatever track this storm takes, it will cause dangerous marine conditions over the open ocean,” said a RIEMA release, which suggested boaters take their craft out of the water.
“We’re preparing as if there is going to be a level 5 storm,” National Grid spokesperson Charlotte A. McCormack told Providence Business News, adding that the power utility is “taking every single preparation to put ourselves in the best possible situation to fix problems quickly and efficiently for our customers.”
More than a week ago, National Grid put out an alert to the outside contractors that usually provide storm support. “We’re working to bring those crews in,” said McCormack. “By Sunday they will be able to mobilize quickly to begin the potential restoration process.”
Both National Grid and RIEMA offered other tips for Rhode Island residents looking to prepare for the oncoming storm, including trimming overgrown tree branches, bringing outdoor furniture indoors or securing it, and clearing leaves and debris from gutters and storm drains.
Rhode Islanders should refresh their emergency management kits, replacing batteries and candles, ensuring supplies of fresh water and making sure they have a radio. “That often becomes the last option for a channel of communication [in an emergency],” said McCormack.
“We want to emphasize for our customers and residents … to be as safe as possible,” she said, reminding residents to never touch downed power lines, but report them to their local utility or emergency response organization.
The Warwick Sewer Authority issued a warning to the city’s residents with grinder pumps that in power outages, pumps can have limited capacity and customers should limit water usage. Without power, grinder pumps are unable to discharge into the main sewer line.