While Hurricane Sandy may be making its way to the northeast, Morris County officials have begun to prepare for the storm which is anticipated to impact the area late Monday into Tuesday.
"The likelihood of the storm affecting our area has increased significantly over the past 24 hours," according to a letter sent to emergency officials throughout the county Thursday by Jeff Paul, the director of the Morris County Office of Emergency Management.
Paul said "flash flooding is extremely likely" and it is possible that record-level flooding will occur. Rainfall could total more than 5 inches and winds could reach speeds of 70 mph or higher.
As of 11 a.m. Thursday, Paul said the hurricane was traveling north at a speed of 20 mph with winds of up to 105 mph.
"Although these forecasts will likely change as we get closer to the weekend, it is important that we plan now for the potential impact. We can always scale back our plans, but it is generally more difficult to plan as the event unfolds," Paul said.
Long-term power outage preparation is advised, Paul said, and outages can be reported through the JCP&L website. Residents are encouraged to clear their yards of debris that can clog or back up drains, particularly leaves, so that additional flooding is not caused.
"The Morris County Office of Emergency Management will be working long hours making sure that everything that can be done is being done, we will plan, we will prepare and we will be here 24-7 to support you and your local response to this storm as well as future events," Paul wrote to the local emergency officials.
The county OEM will be working with the Morris County Sheriff's Office, Morris County Prosecutor's Office and Morris County Park Police to respond to "critical incidents" and offer support to municipalities in need. The Community/County Animal Response Team has also been contacted and is equipped with two trailers able to house 50 animals if needed.
PSE&G has been in touch with county officials and Paul said they are preparing for gas-related issues after the storm caused by increased water levels.
Sheltering will likely not be available at Mennen Arena, as it was during storms last year, and the county OEM has advised municipalities to establish local shelter operations. The American Red Cross will be available, as needed, to support local shelter set-ups.
Paul said residents should also begin to prepare on their own.
"Families should be evaluating their emergency plan and if they reside in a flood-prone area, be prepared to evacuate if they are instructed to do so," he said.
The county OEM will be communicating with the public through its blog here.