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State Official: How Mass. Residents Can Prepare For Sandy

BOSTON — Sandy is a hurricane again after an overnight downgrade to tropical storm status. The bulk of the dangerous storm is expected to hit the New Jersey shore late Monday. Massachusetts will get heavy rain and high winds as early as late Sunday night.

For an overview of how Massachusetts residents can prepare for the storm, WBUR’s Sharon Brody spoke with Peter Judge, of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Sharon Brody: You’re monitoring the efforts of local communities across the state. What are some of the major points of concern?

Peter Judge: There are three phases of this event across the state that we have to work on:

  • From a coastal perspective, we realize regardless of what this storm does in terms of increasing or decreasing, there is going to be some sort of at least moderate to major coastal impact relative to flooding, beach erosion, etc.
  • There is going to be some element of high winds, which would have an impact of power outages across the state.
  • Depending on the speed of the storm and the amount of water and the tropical nature of it, how much freshwater flooding inland are we going to have to deal with?

Right now you hate to say it’s still too early to tell, but from our perspective we’ve got to prepare for all three elements. So we have to work with local officials across the state to prepare for all those elements.

Our meteorologist Mark Rosenthal is predicting that the worst of the storm for the Boston area will be during the day on Monday. What is the state doing at this point in terms of urging businesses and school departments to take action?

Nothing specific other than monitor the storm at this point, because the timing on the storm has changed dramatically a number of times over the last few days. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but, on the other hand, we don’t want people to be asleep if, in fact, there are actions that have to be taken.

We’ve talked to many local communities regarding those types of scenarios. We’ve spoken to our private partners, as well, regarding keeping their workplaces open or closing or what sort of steps they should be taking now.

Right now we’re really just stressing the overall preparedness to deal with the event itself to ensure the streets stay open and clear and the lights stay on or get back as quickly as possible and there’s no long-term issues that we have to deal with.

What are the key things that individuals should do to prepare for the storm?

It depends on where you are and the spectrum of what we’re going to have to deal with.

But generally speaking, flooding ends up to be a major issue for most homeowners, for most individuals. So any steps people can take, whether it’s minimizing the impact on the homes by getting the leaves out of the gutters or making sure that the catch basins in front of their home are clear of leaves so therefore all of a sudden the neighborhood isn’t flooded with urban street flooding.

Obviously, there’s a wind factor, so we want to ask folks to remove things that are potential missiles out there in the backyard, whether it’s lawn furniture or hanging plants or kids’ toys.

And look at your home, particularly if it’s susceptible to some sort of basic flooding issues. Look down into your basement or cellar. Are there things that you can elevate right now, whether it’s furniture or cardboard boxes, things that could be impacted even with a minimal amount of flooding?

I think the most important thing right now is for people to monitor this storm. Because of the weekend, a lot of people tend not to watch and listen to the news and weather as they do during the normal work week.

We don’t want people to get caught off guard because the impacts of this storm continue to heighten and lower. And where things are going to occur — like a windshield wiper — kind of move back and forth, east to west. We want people to have the most knowledge they possibly can when and if this storm does arrive.

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