High winds, heavy rain, widespread power outages, shore flooding expected in Massachusetts
BOSTON — Massachusetts officials advised some coastal residents to leave their homes Monday and prepared to shut down public transportation in the Boston area as the state began to feel the fury of a massive storm that will bring high winds, heavy rain, widespread power outages and flooding to the shore.
Even though Hurricane Sandy was expected to make landfall in New Jersey later Monday, Massachusetts was bracing for a heavy impact.
Gov. Deval Patrick said there were high seas and storm surges over 6 feet along the coast Monday morning, and there was concern about the midday high tide.
Voluntary evacuations were advised in sections of New Bedford, Scituate, Lynn and Plum Island, the governor said. No one was being forced to leave home, but he said people should take the storm very seriously.
“Caution is advised right now,” he told reporters at the state’s emergency management headquarters in Framingham. “The weather is hard to predict. We are doing the best we can to stay ahead of it, but it can be dangerous especially with winds at this velocity.”
The National Weather Service is forecasting sustained winds of 35 to 45 mph with gusts of up to 75 mph in coastal areas, and slightly lower inland. The brunt of the storm was expected after 2 p.m. in Massachusetts.
Patrick, who declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, said 1,300 National Guard troops have been deployed and several hundred more are on standby if needed.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced that it would shut down the system at 2 p.m. Monday because of the expectation of damaging winds. The order applied to subways, buses and commuter trains.
Richard Davey, the state’s transportation secretary, said the MBTA made the announcement several hours in advance to give people who had taken public transit into the city enough time to get home.
“The worst thing would be to strand folks in the city,” he said.
Davey added that ridership had been down significantly in the morning as most people heeded advice to stay home and many businesses allowed employees to take the day off or work at home.
Along the coast, residents hoped for the best but prepared for the worst.
In Scituate, a coastal town about 30 miles south of Boston, officials issued a voluntary evacuation for about 200 to 300 residents in areas prone to flooding, but as of 11 a.m., only one person was in a shelter set up at the town’s high school.
“We’ve just started to see some street flooding,” said Joe Norton, chairman of the town’s board of selectmen. “If the power goes out, that’s when people leave their homes.”
At Quincy’s Wollaston Beach, waves were coming over the seawall at 10 a.m. Some people tried to keep up with morning routines like dog-walking or jogging, but most of the dozens who gathered there came to watch the storm.
Eight-year-old Emma Chenette of Braintree yelped for joy as waves hit her on the sidewalk as she ran back and forth in the froth.
“It’s horrible,” she said with a smile. “I like the water, but it just comes flying at me.”
Emma’s dog was too scared to get out of the family’s Jeep.
The state’s utilities have crews, some from out of state, poised to restore power. Scattered outages already have been reported.
Most schools and colleges canceled classes. State trial courts were to close at noon Monday and stay closed until noon Tuesday.
Boston’s Logan International Airport remained open, but cancellations were mounting and ticket agents seemed to outnumber passengers in Terminal A.
“I was supposed to fly out today and head home, but Hurricane Sandy had other ideas for me,” said Shawn Hartman, 41, of San Antonio.
Hartman, a truck driver, dropped off a load of new trucks at a local dealership, then hopped a bus and train to get to Logan, only to find out his flight was canceled.
“I’m just resigned (to the wait),” he said. “They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do to keep everybody safe. I’d rather be here on the ground than, going down, you know?”
He added, “I’ll get some good seafood in me.”