Residents already feeling Sandy’s impacts

Gazette-Journal staff - Posted on Oct 28, 2012 - 12:57 PM

Photo: Ralph Valdrighi, owner of Seabreeze Restaurant on Gwynn's Island, surveys Milford Haven at high tide Sunday morning. Hurricane Isabel in 2003 washed the building and the business away, and Tropical Storm Ernesto in 2006 flooded the reconstructed building. This time, Valdrighi said,

Ralph Valdrighi, owner of Seabreeze Restaurant on Gwynn's Island, surveys Milford Haven at high tide Sunday morning. Hurricane Isabel in 2003 washed the building and the business away, and Tropical Storm Ernesto in 2006 flooded the reconstructed building. This time, Valdrighi said, "we're trying something a little different" with sandbags placed around the water edge and entrances. On Sunday, staff removed foods to take to freezers elsewhere. Photo by Elsa Cooke Verbyla

The Middle Peninsula was feeling the impacts of Hurricane Sandy early Sunday as tides began to rise, rain began to fall and winds started to pick up. Residents throughout the area were preparing for the storm by filling up gas cans and stocking their cupboards, leaving some store shelves bare.

Mathews County opened its emergency shelter at Thomas Hunter Middle School at 8 a.m. Sunday and emergency officials in the county issued a mandatory evacuation for low-lying areas.

No shelter had been opened in Gloucester as of mid-day Sunday, however county officials are closely monitoring the storm and will issue emergency announcements and recommend preventative action as needed. The county’s Emergency Operations Center was opened Sunday morning.

Photo: Many store shelves, such as this one in the Gloucester Food Lion, were bare Sunday morning, as residents stocked up on essential items such as bread and water early on. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

Many store shelves, such as this one in the Gloucester Food Lion, were bare Sunday morning, as residents stocked up on essential items such as bread and water early on. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

School superintendents in both Gloucester and Mathews made the decision early-on to close schools Monday due to the expected weather conditions.

Services were cancelled Sunday at a number of churches, while other congregations met as usual.

VDOT officials are closely monitoring the conditions at the Coleman Bridge for storm impacts. In the event the bridge can no longer operate safely, it may be closed to motorists until the storm has passed and is deemed safe for travel.

A number of businesses in Mathews Court House barricaded their doorways with sandbags, as a precaution against flooding. The village has been flood-prone in recent years, not only from tidal surges associated with storms, but also in times of heavy rainfalls.

Photo: A combination of heavy rains and high tide Sunday morning left portions of Callis Wharf Road in Mathews covered with water. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

A combination of heavy rains and high tide Sunday morning left portions of Callis Wharf Road in Mathews covered with water. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

The worst part of the storm is expected to impact the area late Sunday night and continue through Tuesday morning, bringing higher than normal tides, high winds and power outages will be likely.

Wallace Twigg of Mathews, regional coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, was on the road Sunday surveying local conditions.

Twigg said he has been informed that the highest tides, Sunday night and Monday morning, are not expected to be as high as those of Hurricane Isabel.

While the eye of the hurricane is expected to come ashore well north of the Middle Peninsula, Twigg said the size of Sandy, which is 1,000 miles across, means that the Middle Peninsula will experience profound effects for a long time.

Twigg said the National Weather Service has used a word he never heard before: A blowout. This refers to the action of the tides on Tuesday.

He said the tides will not go out very much due to one, northeast winds; two, a storm surge and three, a full moon. He explained that when winds go around to the northwest as the storm passes, the tide may drop rapidly, possibly as much as 9.5 feet in two hours, leaving exposed long stretches of areas usually under water. This is the "blowout" he refers to.