The University will be closed, except for critical and essential staff, on Monday due to Hurricane Sandy’s impending landfall on the East Coast. The University also canceled all Monday events on campus and will not run TigerTransit, the University’s bus system. A University decision as to whether to close the school on Tuesday will be made on Monday afternoon.
University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said the 1,200 undergraduates currently on campus for fall break should inform their friends and families of their whereabouts and provide alternative phone numbers. He added that students should close their dorm windows and power down all computers and other nonessential appliances.
Sandy is expected to hit New Jersey on Monday. Although Sandy will not be considered a hurricane by the time it reaches the East Coast, forecasters believe it will still be a tremendous storm.
"The storm is a large one, therefore do not focus on the exact center of the storm as all areas will have significant impacts," a 2:41 p.m. statement by The Weather Service read. "This has the potential to be a historic storm with widespread wind damage and power outages, inland and coastal flooding and massive beach erosion."
Almost at the same time, at 2:30 p.m., a Princeton Township and Borough Emergency Mass Notification System Message painted a similar picture for Princeton.
"Once severe weather begins, travel may be extremely hazardous, ill-advised or impossible,” the message read. “High winds, power outages, fallen trees, downed power lines and flooding are very possible."
As of 6 p.m. Sunday, The Weather Service estimated winds ranging from 35 to 50 miles per hour for as long as 48 hours, gusts of up to 75 mph, extremely heavy rainfall and major or even record flooding near streams and rivers. The strongest winds are expected south and east of I-95; Princeton is only about seven miles north of the I-95 corridor.
“It will be raining probably pretty good by [Monday] morning,” said Andrew Freedman, a senior science writer at the Princeton-based nonprofit research center Climate Central, in an interview Sunday evening. “You’ll probably have winds sustained between 30 and 60 mph by tomorrow afternoon or evening; gusts of hurricane force are also likely.”
He added that the winds will peak Monday after 12 p.m. and into the evening.
“Once winds are sustained around 30 to 40 mph, there will be trees and branches coming down and then people should really be staying indoors,” Freedman said. “Hopefully the University will send some sort of announcement ... but I think people should probably plan on being indoors after noon tomorrow.”
Freedman described the storm — which is 520 miles wide — as “gigantic.” He noted that Princeton is most likely going to be impacted by fallen trees and power outages.
Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad Director of Operations Frank Setnicky added that flooding is also a possibility, particularly on the sparsely-populated Mercer, Quaker and River Roads. These roads are all more than a mile away from campus.
Around a dozen Princeton students will be volunteering with the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad this fall break and will be aiding local residents following the storm, according to Setnicky.
Both the state of New Jersey and Mercer County have declared states of emergency. As of Sunday afternoon, the hurricane is expected to make landfall near Atlantic City, N.J. A mandatory evacuation is in effect for the state’s barrier islands.
A Sunday afternoon statement from the Mount Holly, N.J., office of the National Weather Service called the storm "extremely dangerous" and "historic." An updated 6 p.m. NWS statement once again called Sandy an “extremely dangerous storm.”
“There will be major property damage, injuries are probably unavoidable,” the new statement added. “If you think the storm is over-hyped and exaggerated, please err on the side of caution.”
On campus, Dean of Whitman College Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu sent an email to all Whitman residents Sunday afternoon asking them to voluntarily respond to an RSVP system so that they can be registered as students on campus. It is unclear whether other colleges will follow a similar system.
“Each group or student or college may choose to supplement the University’s alert notifications and website updates with their own internal communication,” Mbugua explained, noting that this was a Whitman College initiative.
Parts of Princeton were flooded during Hurricane Irene in 2011, but the University sustained only minor damages.
The Princeton Telephone and Email Notification System sent emails and text messages and issued phone calls to members of the campus community with the announcement shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/28/31648/