Gov. Patrick declares state of emergency in Mass.
BOSTON (AP) -- Gov. Deval Patrick on Saturday declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts as Hurricane Sandy approached, threatening to combine with another storm from the west and cold air from Canada to bring heavy rains and damaging winds that could cause widespread power outages.
Patrick said 200 National Guard members were on standby and the number would rise to at least 1,000 by the time the storm hits the state, possibly Sunday night. It is expected to peak Monday and Tuesday, and could cause moderate to major coastal flooding and severe beach erosion.
"We are expecting damaging winds, strong enough for widespread power outages, there will be bands of heavy rain with potential for 5 inches or more over several days," Patrick said.
Hurricane Sandy, upgraded again Saturday just hours after forecasters said it had weakened to a tropical storm, was barreling north from the Caribbean and was expected to make landfall early Tuesday near the Delaware coast, then hit two winter weather systems as it moves inland, creating a hybrid monster storm.
Patrick said the declaration will help Massachusetts officials quickly secure necessary services, supplies and personnel ahead of the storm. National Guard members will prepare supply armories, fill sand bags and position them and other equipment throughout the state, he said. Once the storm hits, they will help with any evacuations, search-and-rescue operations, moving emergency workers and helping local officials with security and traffic control, the governor said.
Patrick said the state also has asked the federal government for a pre-landfall emergency declaration in an effort to ensure federal help is available as quickly as possible.
If needed, utility companies planned to deploy 10 percent more emergency crews on the ground than in previous storms, and contracted an additional 2,000 crews from around the country, said state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr.
"This is a full two days earlier than in previous events, so they've absolutely ramped up their response here," Sullivan said. "But the plans are one thing, the numbers are one thing -- but at the end of the day, the utilities are gonna be judged by the response on the ground."
Patrick also encouraged residents to have emergency cash on hand because widespread power outages will deny them access to ATM machines. In addition, he reminded property owners to remove dead or weakened tree limbs to minimize damage from strong winds and learn where gas pilots and water mains are located to safely shut off utilities.
"While we continue to hope for the best, we're preparing for the worst," Patrick said.