Calling Hurricane Sandy a historic storm that poses an “extraordinary risk for the state of Connecticut,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Saturday told leaders of southwestern shoreline towns they should start evacuating waterfront areas of their communities by Sunday morning.
Malloy made that recommendation during an afternoon conference call with municipal leaders on Saturday, shortly after he met with officials from the state’s utility departments and Connecticut emergency management officials.
During a press briefing later in the afternoon, Malloy said Hurricane Sandy has the potential to be a greater storm than the Hurricane of 1938 and far worse than last year’s Hurricane Irene, particularly along the state’s coastline because the storm could play out over 36 hours and four high tide cycles.
He urged anyone who rode out Hurricane Irene last year along the shoreline not to do so this time.
“Folks, this could be bad, really bad. It could impact us in several ways and the moment when you need the most help is often the moment when emergency personnel are least likely to be able to get to you.”
Malloy said he can’t order towns to evacuate residents, but that he has recommended that all shoreline residents from Greenwich to East Haven evacuate.
Malloy earlier today declared a state of emergency in Connecticut, a move he said would give him greater latitude in closing roads, calling up additional emergency personnel and taking other precautions.
He said he has also already called up 350 National Guard troops and will have 400 on the ready by tomorrow. He said they would be deployed throughout the state to help with recovery efforts.
The greatest concern about the storm, he added, is the surge it could bring in Long Island Sound. With the storm expected to last some 36 hours that means the surge could take place over four high tide cycles, 11:30 p.m., Monday, Sunday, 11:30 a.m., midnight Monday and Tuesday at noon. The worst of the surge, Malloy said, is expected Monday at midnight.
“We expect coastal flooding worse than Irene and the most severe impact will be from Greenwich to East Haven. We anticipate severe flooding, perhaps the worst we’ve seen in more than 75 years.”
He emphasized that many state residents may not realize the extent of the storm’s destructive power because of its long duration “not the 12 hours that Connecticut residents are typically used to.”
Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be in the state tomorrow to help prepare for assessing the damage and planning a federal response.
Leaders of CL&P and United Illuminating, the state’s two major power companies, said they are planning for a “moderate to severe storm.” A UI official said the company is anticipating that 50-70 percent of its customers will be without power at some point. A CL&P official said anywhere from a quarter to half of its customers could lose power during the storm, or 300,000 to 600,000 customers.
The company also is currently flying linemen into Connecticut from as far away as Seattle to help with the restoration of power after the storm.
Malloy said no utility crews will not be dispatched to restore electricity until the storm has passed.
Sandy’s winds are expected to being hitting the state as early as late Sunday afternoon and to intensify overnight and through the day on Monday. The storm will continue into Tuesday, with sustained winds of about 40 mph and gusts of more than 80 mph.
The exact track of the storm is still being carefully monitored by meteorologists, but landfall now is expected somewhere near the Jersey shore.
A hit farther south would lessen the impacts in Connecticut, but Malloy said the state is preparing for the worst.
“I hope it’s not as big a deal as everyone is making it, but I fear it is,” Malloy said.