The National Weather Service issued a hurricane watch and tropical storm watch for southern New England on Friday morning. Hurricane Irene, now a Category 2 storm, is expected to bring strong winds, heavy rainfall and possible coastal flooding when it hits Massachusetts Sunday.
At the Connelly Hardware store in Brookline, Brendan Kenney said Thursday was one of his busiest days in years. He had orders out to his suppliers to re-stock him with more flashlights, candles and batteries — top-selling items as Boston residents prepare for the storm.
“People know that the hurricane's going to come, and all the predictions are that it won't miss us, and people start to panic," he said.
But panicking is exactly what emergency officials are asking Massachusetts residents not to do. They do want people to be prepared for the storm, though.
Peter Judge of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said now is the time to make sure each family has a plan for what to do in a worst-case scenario. He wants people to ask themselves a few questions and assess their own readiness:
“What happens if you're going to lose your power for a three-to-five day period? Do you have enough flashlights, extra batteries, a portable radio, as well as obviously the essentials of a first aid kit, certainly some non-perishable foods and water?" he asked.
Carolyn Rodgers of Watertown checks a few things off her list at Connelly Hardware, buying a flashlight and extra batteries. Rodgers said she already has some supplies at home, including coolers and ice packs to store perishable food if she loses electricity for her refrigerator. She also planned to get her home ready.
"We were advised by a friend of ours in Florida who's lived through many hurricanes to get anything that could become an airborne projectile off of the porches and out of the yard,” she said.
Rodgers planned to spend Thursday evening removing shovels, brooms and other items from her porch.
Pet owners have to make additional preparations. Emergency veterinarian Kiko Bracker works at the Angel Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain, and said it’s important to keep animals indoors and as calm as possible if there is a hurricane or tropical storm.
"It's essentially like a really bad thunderstorm, with high winds and thunder and noises, and animals can be scared of that."
Bracker said pet owners also need to make sure their evacuation plans include their pets, since not all hotels or shelters allow them, as well as to have medical records and any pet prescriptions on hand.
Another concern for many homeowners and local officials is the risk of damage from falling trees or branches in a storm. Several local tree pruning and removal companies were swamped with phone calls as the weather forecast starting looking worse.
Brendan Kenny at Connelly Hardware is hoping and praying the trees near his home hold up in the coming storm.
But perhaps fate is on his side. He's mildly amused that this hurricane happens to be named "Irene." That was the name of his grandmother, who helped start Connelly Hardware almost 60 years ago with Kenny's grandfather, John Connolly.
"He was the nice guy,” he said. “She was the muscle, so [that’s] probably appropriate here."
Hurricane Irene is expected to hit Boston sometime on Sunday.
This program aired on August 26, 2011.