Patty Bashaw, Michael Blaise and Don Jaquish listen during a conference call Oct. 26 in preparation of the approaching "Frankenstorm," a combination of Hurricane Sandy and an arctic front that could hit the area late Monday evening into Tuesday.
Members of the Essex County Office of Emergency Management spent the morning talking to agencies from throughout the region and state Oct. 26, preparing for Frankenstorm.
“Frankenstorm,” the name given to a potential early week combination of an arctic front with the approaching Hurricane Sandy, has led emergency officials in the county to start planning for the worse one year and two months after Tropical Storm Irene slammed into the region.
“We really started ramping up yesterday (Oct. 25),” Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish said. “On its current path, we are expecting high winds, power outages and minor flooding. If it stays on the predicted path, we will open the Emergency Operations Center Monday at 7 p.m. and expect the highest winds and most damage around midnight and into Tuesday morning.”
The current path has the bulk of the storm making landfall in southern to central New Jersey and running through Pennsylvania, although other models have the storm taking a similar path to the one Irene made in August of 2011, hitting shore in northern New Jersey and making its way up the Hudson River Valley and into the North Country.
“This dog-leg that is predicted in highly unusual, and we are still being very cautious and preparing for a storm that may be coming more toward us,” Jaquish said. “Right now, we are looking at between one to three inches of rain, but if the storm shifts we could get between five to seven inches, and then we would have major flooding.”
Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas, who also chairs the Essex County Board of Supervisors, said he is preparing for a direct impact event.
“We have been on conference calls and I have been working with Black Brook and Keene to be prepared for the potential of flooding,” Douglas said. “We are loading sandbags, making sure that our generators are up and running, preparing the shelter at the Jay Community Center and working with the school in case we need even more space for shelter and services.”
Douglas said that, because of the amount of warning, the county and town will be as prepared as possible this time around.
“Last time the threat was there but I think a lot of it was not realizing the impact that the storm could have on us until it was almost here,” Douglas said about Irene. “This time we are well prepared. We are coming at this as if we are going to take a direct impact.”
Keene Supervisor William Ferebee is also working to prepare a town that was hit hard by Irene last year.
“I put out an alert to my constituents advising them of the potential of the storm with high winds and possible flood conditions,” Ferebee said. “We are advising that those on the flood plane should prepare to evacuate property now instead of later. We have made sure all of our generators are full of fuel and that they start. The highway trucks are prepared and they have all of the barricades and cones in a central location, and there is sand at the transfer station for those who want to fill bags.”
Ferebee shared the same hopeful yet cautious approach to the storm.
“We are hoping and praying that it does not, but preparing in case it does,” he said. “We’re talking it up and making sure that everyone is on board.”
Jaquish said that with more warning, Essex County is putting more resources in place before the storm hits, including preparing the Emergency Operations Center, which will be run by Patty Bashaw.
“We have a list of who was here last time and we have already touched base with them,” Bashaw said. “We will have the key players in place and we will be ready to ramp it up to whatever level we need to be at in order to respond.”
Deputy Emergency Services Director Michael Blaise said he had been in touch with local fire departments and EMS squads.
“We have been talking with departments and will have conference calls to discuss the plans and issues they may have,” Blaise said.
Jaquish added that he is very confident in the team assembled to deal with the potential severe weather situation.
“They had 18 days of on-the-job training last year,” he said.