By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star
---- — High winds and heavy rains may topple trees and cause power outages as the result of Hurricane Sandy, authorities said Sunday.
Area emergency services officials will meet today to review weather forecasts and possible storm-damage scenarios.
Flood watch and high-wind warnings are effective through Tuesday, the National Weather Service in Binghamton and Albany said, along with forecasts for spells of heavy rains.
Meanwhile, utility companies have been deploying resources to repair any damages, and American Red Cross officials have been urging residents to be prepared for possible power outages by having supplies on hand.
On Sunday night, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that President Barack Obama granted his request for a federal emergency declaration. The declaration will enable the federal government to provide assistance and resources to state and local governments to support activities related to evacuation, sheltering and other protective measures.
In the village of Sidney, Delaware County, preparations for facing the storm have been under way since late last week. Village officials have been meeting, issuing notices and reaching out to residents with weather updates and ways to stay safe during whatever factors the storm delivers, including power outages, the mayor said Sunday.
“We’re trying get residents prepared,’’ Mayor Andrew Matviak said Sunday afternoon. “We’re better to be safe than sorry.’’
Matviak said minor flooding may develop in creeks and streams but as of Sunday no major flooding was predicted from the Susquehanna River because of the pending storm. The village’s committee for disaster preparedness has been meeting for several days and will meet again at 1 p.m. today, he said.
At Amphenol, which last year closed for about a month because of flooding after Tropical Storm Lee, has taken pro-active steps by building a dike around the west end of its plant in Sidney, to prevent or minimize flooding, a union official said.
“We’re just basically holding our breath,’’ said Bruce J. Hodges, president of Local Lodge 1529 of the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers, said Sunday. Amphenol has about 800 hourly workers and 250 to 300 salaried employees, he said.
Devastating floods last year and in 2006 have been demoralizing for plant works and residents, some of whom were left without jobs or homes, Hodges said, and a plant closure would be costly in the current economy. Construction of the dike has been going on around-the-clock since Friday, he said.
The hope is that the storm from Hurricane Sandy will leave “a glancing blow instead of a direct hit,’’ Hodges said. “I can’t believe we’re going through this again.’’
Amphenol plans to move to another site in Sidney on higher ground, and Hodges said completion of the facility probably is a year away.
The NWS said heavy rainfall could cause some rivers to rise to minor or moderate flood levels by mid-week.
In the Oneonta area, rain is likely after 3 p.m. today with heavy spells and wind-gusts of up to 47 mph and up to 65 mph later tonight, the NWS in Binghamton said. And rainfall, including as much as ¾ inch overnight, could be up to 1¾ inches total today and Tuesday. Daytime high temperatures both days will be about 55 degrees.
On Friday, Cuomo declared a state of emergency in New York in preparation for the potential impact of Hurricane Sandy. A state of emergency mobilizes resources to local governments that otherwise are restricted to state use only.
On Sunday, Cuomo directed the Army and Air National Guard to mobilize in response to Hurricane Sandy, including about 200 soldiers from the Army National Guard’s 204th Engineer Battalion who will go on duty today at armories in Binghamton, Walton and Horseheads to respond to incidents in the Southern Tier.
Also Sunday, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrats from New York, wrote to the president and to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to request the federal government to be prepared for the state to submit a full emergency disaster declaration after the storm hits and for its immediate approval.
The federal declaration approved by the president will provide the state with free technical assistance from any federal agency in response to Hurricane Sandy, such as debris management, logistics management and electric power generation. Additional designations may be made later.
New York State Electric and Gas Corp. in a media release Friday said that front line and support personnel across the state were on heightened alert and materials are on hand to repair any damage to the companies’ energy delivery systems.
NYSEG also warned people to stay away from any downed power lines; to run emergency generators outdoors and according to manufacturer’s instructions; and to stay out of flooded basements because energized wiring or outlets below a water line may pose a hazard.
In a message to customers, Time Warner Cable said it has deployed technical resources including generators, fuel, fiber-optic cable and specialized tools to sites near the potential path of the storm to respond to any weather-related damages.
Schoharie County officials were briefed Sunday about possible damaging wind gusts, minor and flash flooding, an Emergency Management Office notice online said, with possible impacts including roads blocked by downed trees and power lines and widespread power outages.
The National Weather Service in Albany issued a high-wind warning from 6 a.m. today until 11 a.m. Tuesday, the notice said, and a flood watch continues from today through late Tuesday night.
In case of evacuations in Schoharie County, shelters have been set up at Cobleskill School (Golding/Ryder Building); Middleburgh Elementary School; Schoharie school (designated animal sheltering on site); Jefferson Central School; Sharon Springs school; Conesville Fire Department; and West Fulton Fire Department.
Preparations in Schoharie County for the possibility of extreme weather from Hurricane Sandy will be highlighted at a news conference this morning at the New York Power Authority’s Blenheim-Gilboa Visitors Center in North Blenheim, a media release from the governor’s office said Sunday.
Officials from Schoharie County Emergency Management Office, the Schoharie County Planning and Development Agency, NYPA, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection will highlight efforts to safeguard the public and protect property in the event of high water and flood conditions. Area elected officials are also expected to participate in the briefing, which will include safety advice for the public.