Sandy to lash Suffolk Sunday, Monday

Published 6:19 pm Saturday, October 27, 2012

Comparisons of Hurricane Sandy to 1954’s Hurricane Hazel might be well founded, at least according to longtime Suffolkian Jack Nurney.

“I didn’t know what was coming before it got here in ’54, and I don’t know what’s coming now,” he joked on Thursday. “Let’s hope and pray it’s not going to be as bad as Hazel.”

Hazel, like Sandy, was also an “October surprise” hurricane and followed a similar track up the East Coast, except Hazel made landfall in the Carolinas as a much stronger Category 4. Sandy is expected to make landfall in the Northeast as a weak hurricane.


Email newsletter signup

“The only thing I really remember about Hazel is trying to drive down Market Street coming home and watching the rolled-up metal roofing come off a building,” Nurney said. “I thought to myself, ‘This is some kind of storm. I better get home.’”

Sandy won’t be as bad for Suffolk as Hazel was, but just how badly it will affect the area remains unknown.

Originally expected to begin lashing Suffolk Saturday afternoon, effects from the storm were still mild at 5 p.m. — only a little bit of rain and mild wind.

That’s all set to change Sunday and Monday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Lyle Alexander.

“Winds are going to slowly increase,” he said about 4:15 p.m. on Saturday. “We’re already getting gusts close to 30 miles per hour in portions of the Hampton Roads area.”

Winds in Suffolk will be around 15-25 mph on Sunday and 30-40 mph on Monday, Alexander said. Rainfall in Suffolk will be around 4-6 inches total through Tuesday, though some areas could be higher.

A flood watch remains in effect for Suffolk through Monday morning, and a coastal flood watch is in effect through Monday evening.

On Saturday afternoon, Suffolk City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn signed a Declaration of Emergency for the city. The document allows the city to set curfews or enter into emergency contracts if needed and allow the area to be considered for federal or state recovery funding.

The city’s Emergency Operations Center will go to limited activation at noon Sunday. Once activated, the public information number will be 514-4570.

The large, slow-moving storm is expected to combine with other weather systems, affecting a large area. On Saturday, said the storm was so big it was affecting both South Carolina and Bermuda, even though they’re more than 900 miles apart.

The eastern third of Virginia could be lashed with tropical storm-force winds for more than 48 hours, officials said.

Some concerns have been raised about the possibility the storm could affect voting.

State Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer on Saturday released a statement on the agency’s preparations for the hurricane.

Local registrars are being encouraged to keep their offices open to allow in-person absentee voting as scheduled, unless conditions make it unsafe for employees and voters, Palmer said.

Registrars also have been advised “to be accommodating to voters who request to vote absentee due to the potential impact of the storm,” according to the emailed statement.

“SBE has been assured that the Commonwealth’s general registrar offices and more than 2,500 polling places will be given a high priority for restoration of power following the storm,” said the statement.

Many localities have arrangements for alternative power sources, and electronic voting machines are equipped with backup batteries, according to the statement. There is also the option of using paper ballots as a last resort.

Virginia law also permits local electoral boards to request the State Board of Elections grant an emergency polling place relocation if there are any lingering issues, according to the statement.

Suffolk’s voter registrar office is located at 440 Market St. Barring weather concerns, absentee voting in person can be conducted at the office Oct. 29 through Nov. 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day.