Maine will likely avoid the worst of Hurricane Sandy when it makes landfall south of New England on Tuesday, but the state will have long periods of heavy rain, high winds and scattered power outages, the National Weather Service said Friday.
Although “Frankenstorm” may not live up to the media hype here, Mainers should not be complacent, said Lynette Miller, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency.
The agency is urging the public to pay attention to weather forecasts over the next several days and get ready for potentially dangerous weather.
“It’s striking the balance between going crazy with worry and appropriately being prepared for the storm we are going to get,” she said. “It’s a very large storm.”
Sandy rolled out of the Bahamas on Friday as a hurricane after causing 40 deaths across the Caribbean. Downgraded early Saturday to a tropical storm – then upgraded again just hours later, according to The Associated Press – it is expected to head toward the mid-Atlantic, and make landfall in New Jersey or Delaware on Tuesday morning, said Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the weather service in Gray.
When Sandy collides with a large cold front that’s now moving into the East, it will create a huge hybrid storm, Hawley said.
In Maine, the heaviest rain will fall from Monday afternoon into Tuesday, Hawley said. Wind gusts are expected to reach 40 to 60 mph for an eight- to 12-hour period Monday and Tuesday, he said.
He said Maine can expect 3 to 5 inches of rain, with the heaviest rain and wind in the southern part of the state.
Seas in the Gulf of Maine could reach 15 feet, which would cause some beach erosion, Hawley said.
The chances of Sandy striking New England directly are now remote, he said. After the hurricane makes landfall in Delaware, wind currents will trap it for several days in Pennsylvania and western New York. As a result, Maine will get tropical showers and downpours through Friday, Hawley said.
The hurricane has the potential to cause flooding, said Miller, with the emergency management agency.
Lobsterman Greg Griffen of Cape Elizabeth wasn’t taking any chances. With the benefit of a long calm before the storm, Griffen said, he spent Friday moving 100 of his traps to deep water from shallower seas, where they are more vulnerable to shifting and damage, The Associated Press reported Saturday.
Some weather reports suggested the storm would turn inland south of Cape Cod, easing the blow to northern New England, while other forecasters “said they have never seen a late-October hurricane behave like this,” Griffen said.
“Some of my competitors have been pulling their traps and taking them right home,” he told the AP, adding that the more dire weather predictions “sort of encouraged them to pull the plug on the season.”
In anticipation of damaged power lines, Central Maine Power Co. has utility trucks fueled and equipped, and officials are holding planning sessions to line up the work crews and contractors who will make repairs.
The leaves that remain on many trees could act as “sails” and cause branches and limbs to break and fall on electrical lines, said Gail Rice, spokeswoman for CMP.
In addition, rain-soaked soil would make it easier for high winds to uproot trees, she said.
“We are preparing for the worst,” she said. “If the storm does end up going to the south and sparing us, that would be a relief.”
On Friday, Gov. Paul LePage signed a limited emergency declaration, which suspends federal travel restrictions that would otherwise slow the arrival of crews from other states and Canada.
AT&T New England, which has thousands of cellphone customers in Maine, is topping off fuel tanks for generators at cell sites, installing high-capacity backup batteries and distributing portable generators.
“We wanted our customers in Maine to know we are taking all possible precautions,” said Brian Pernicone, an AT&T spokesman.
While Maine prepares for the worst, many amateur meteorologists are excited about this unusual storm.
“It’s awesome,” said 11-year-old Jack Sillin, who lives in Yarmouth and has a weather blog, forecasterjack.wordpress.com, where he periodically posts weather predictions and updates.
“I will be on my computer all weekend,” he said, “fine-tuning the forecasts and making sure people are up-to-date.”
Jack, a seventh-grader at North Yarmouth Academy, uses several computer models to create his own forecasts, which he said tend to be less conservative than the weather service forecasts.
Most of the storm’s power is to the east of its center, he said, so even if it makes landfall in New Jersey, Maine will get quite a wallop. He’s predicting 5 inches of rain in Maine.
Jack said he loves watching the weather. “It’s fascinating when it changes every second of every minute of every hour of every day.”
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: [email protected]