The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 28, 2012

Area may be spared the worst

— It’s being hailed as “the storm of the year” and an “historic” weather system. The Category 1 hurricane “Frankenstorm” – formally Sandy – has spurred mass evacuations across the East Coast and is set to blow through the area by late today or early Tuesday, according to AccuWeather.

Weather outlets predicted up to a foot of rain in some areas, but AccuWeather’s latest forecast for the Johnstown/Altoona region is much less dreadful.

“We’re going to get a lot of rain, that's a given. It’s just a matter of where we’re going to see the higher totals,” said Dave Dombek, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.com.

States east of Pennsylvania – New York, New Jersey and West Virginia – will see the worst side of Sandy over the few days. But Dombrek said this area could receive as little as three inches during the event.

“I don't think flooding is going to be real widespread and serious.

“The good thing is that the fall has been drier than normal,” he said. “I think we can easily handle 3-4 inches of rain.”

But what about snow?

“I certainly think that's a viable possibility, at least in the highest elevations above 2,500 feet,” he said. The bulk of it is predicted to land on the West Virginia mountains.

PennDOT spokesman Steve Chizmar said on Friday that there are currently 2,250 vehicles that can be fitted and dispatched as plows and salt trucks. But when coupled with 50-to-60 mph winds in higher elevations – 40 mph for those living in the valley – thick, wet snow is a recipe for widespread power outages.

For safety, Johnstown fire Chief Anthony Kovacic urged the public against approaching power lines felled by trees or heavy snow and should instead call 911. The public can also report downed power lines to Penelec at 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877).

Maj. Edward Shank of the Pennsylvania National Guard said Sunday that 1,525 guardsmen will be activated across Pennsylvania today, with 16,000 Guardsmen total being readied for deployment. Rescue choppers will also be available on Tuesday.

Though experts said the time for preparation is over, Dombrek advised fueling vehicles as soon as possible and stocking up on dry goods and water.

Assorted canned vegetables that were on sale at Giant Eagle along Scalp Avenue are all gone, but the store reports plenty of water in stock. Valu King in Westmont reported to have water and canned goods in stock.

Dombrek also advised seeking out an emergency generator at any hardware store. However, reports find that local stores are already picked over. He also suggested coolers filled with ice for perishable goods and an alternative heat source  such as a woodburner.

“You could even cook on a wood stove if you had to,” he said.

And while it may seem Pennsylvania will escape some punishment at the hands of “Frankenstorm,” Dombrek said Sandy’s devastating potential is not to be taken lightly.

“It will be a lot worse in other places,” he said.

No local school closings were reported Sunday evening, but some other districts, mainly to the south and east, called off classes for today, Tuesday or both.

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