Local People Preparing, But Not Worried

WHEELING – Robert Schmitt said each of his three children who live along the East Coast called him Monday to make sure he was prepared for Hurricane Sandy.

But Schmitt – and other local residents stocking up on groceries Monday – expressed greater concern for those stuck in the hurricane’s direct path than for themselves and others living in the Upper Ohio Valley.

“I have children – one who lives in Connecticut, one who lives in South Carolina and one who lives in North Carolina. I am more concerned for them,” said Schmitt. “They called me about the snow, but I am not too worried about that.”

Some warnings Monday showed that parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states could receive as much as 3 feet of snow in higher elevations. Combined with strong winds and heavy rain in other areas, the massive Hurricane Sandy could wreck havoc across much of the eastern United States.

No local counties had opened emergency shelters at press time Monday, but officials in the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio said they will be opened as warranted in areas of need. In Brooke County, some potential shelter sites were identified, including Follansbee Community House, the church on top Mecklin Hill in Follansbee, Windsor Heights Community Center, Wellsburg Firehouse and Free Methodist Church in Wellsburg near Brooke Hills.

In the event of flooding, Weirton Mayor George Kondik said the Thomas E. Millsop Community Center on Main Street will serve as a community shelter for all city residents.

As a precaution, several local schools will operate on a two-hour delay schedule today. Emergency management officials throughout the area also made preparations to deal with possible flooding and power outages.

“I think it will mostly just rain here. I am preparing, but not worried,” said Wheeling resident Cathy Abraham.

Bonnie Kidd of Wheeling echoed her sentiments, noting she believes the East Coast will be more impacted than the local area.

“I am concerned about losing power, but I think the people out east will get it far worse,” added city resident Geri Sloane.

“It seems like every time we get really excited for something like this, it ends up not being that big of a deal,” said Wheeling resident Polly Churilla. “The power may go out for awhile, but I don’t see this being as bad as what some think.”

Martins Ferry resident Bill Hans said he believes the storm is “being blown out of proportion.”

“Maybe we need the excitement, though,” he added.

Tonya Woody of Wheeling, MaryAnn Baker of New Martinsville and Judy Sloane of Claysville, Pa., were also concerned about what may happen to those who on the East Coast.

“The power outages could be a problem, but I am more worried about the people in places like New York and Virginia,” Woody said.

“I think people are blowing this out of proportion. I hope I am right,” Baker said.

“I do feel bad for the people on the coast because they are probably going to get hammered,” Judy Sloane added.

But Ohio County Emergency Management Agency Director Lou Vargo said people can never be too prepared. He said the city of Wheeling cleaned out storm sewers Monday to help prevent flooding.

“Right now, with the chance of sustained winds, there’s a possibility of trees coming down and power outages,” Vargo said, advising residents to make sure they have enough food, batteries and flashlights.

In Marshall County, EMA Director Tom Hart said people need to watch out for each other during the storm and its aftermath. He also said elderly people should make sure they have enough medication and equipment to last throughout any sustained power outages or other problems. He also said residents should have at least three days worth of food and water stocked.

“If you have any family member, neighbor or friend on home medical equipment, check with medical supplier to see what emergency services are provided during a power outage,” he advised.

A spokeswoman for Brooke County EMA said 13 people will be available to assist residents through the EMA and the fire department will be on standby throughout the storm. She noted the non-emergency phone number for the EMA is 304-737-5002. Residents can call if they need assistance, water or to report trees down. In an emergency, they still should call 911.

Due to the projected poor weather conditions, trick-or-treat celebrations in Brooke County, including those in Follansbee and Wellsburg, have been moved from Wednesday to Saturday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Weirton has moved its trick or treat to 6-8 p.m. Saturday. West Liberty will have trick or treat from 5-6:30 p.m. Saturday, while Paden City will hold its celebration from 6-7 p.m. Thursday.