Cynthia Sides usually goes to her Wildwood Crest home to relax. On Friday, she was preparing for the worst.
“I’ll take things in, empty the fridge and turn off the electric. Then I’m beating feet and going home,” the Wallingford, Pa., resident said as she stopped in aisle five of the Wildwood Acme.
Aisle five — the store’s water aisle — is likely to grow in popularity today as island residents and visitors stock up in preparation for the weather being spawned by Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to arrive Sunday.
Manager Carl Mason said the store, which already had its front glass windows taped, had ordered extra water, and by Friday afternoon the one-gallon jugs were becoming scarce.
On Friday, municipal officials from all along Cape May County’s barrier island communities were preparing for the storm, which is expected to bring high winds, heavy rains and flooding.
Some local schools, including Cape Trinity and Wildwood Catholic High School in North Wildwood, have already announced plans to close Monday and Tuesday.
Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton issued a statement Friday evening explaining evacuation plans.
“The county’s position and the state’s recommendation is that there will be voluntary evacuation of the barrier islands and Delaware Bay communities tomorrow (Saturday) and mandatory evacuation on Sunday, October 28th, for barrier islands and Delaware Bay communities. However, if the storm direction intensifies or changes, we will modify this directive,” he wrote on the county’s website.
Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said City Hall would be closed Monday, though emergency personnel will be working.
He said Wildwood was operating under a voluntary evacaution that would become mandatory Sunday.
“If you can make arrangements to be elsewhere, be elsewhere,” Troiano said.
Upper Township Mayor Richard Palombo said school buildings in his community could potentially be used as shelters Sunday. He said he expects there to be mandatory evacuations then and that emergency management personnel will block the bridges into Ocean City and Sea Isle City.
“We’ve been so lucky for so long,” Palombo said, “I wonder when our luck is going to run out. I’m worried about this one.”
North Wildwood police Chief Robert Matteucci said the city would not issue an emergency declaration until the county issued one, but he said residents were encouraged to leave.
He said that by today he expected to receive a list of county shelters and that the county would likely make an official declaration.
On Friday, he said residents should prepare because the storm is expected to bring hurricane-force winds and the area is also likely to experience heavy rain and “tidal flooding of major proportions, possibly (a) record” of 8 to 10 feet.
“This is a very serious storm,” North Wildwood Mayor Bill Henfey said.
Wildwood Crest Borough Clerk Kevin Yecco said the borough was also anticipating mandatory evacuations by Sunday.
Many of the communities were making use of automated emergency phone message systems to notify residents of the weather to come.
Freeholder Len Desiderio said Sea Isle City, where he serves as mayor, had moved equipment in preparation for the coming emergency.
“We are taking our direction from the county and the state,” he said, adding that after residents leave following any mandatory evacuation Sunday, “you won’t be able to come back.”
Middle Township resident Nichole DiLossi said she was stocking up on water and cookies — readying for Halloween — during a trip to the Wildwood Acme.
She didn’t evacuate in August 2011 during Tropical Storm Irene and said she wasn’t sure what steps she would take this time. Her husband, she added, is an emergency dispatcher in Wildwood Crest and can’t evacuate because of his job.
Deanna Ebner, of Cape May Point, spent part of Friday in Stone Harbor, sandbagging the restaurant Quahog’s Seafood Shack, which she and her husband own. She was hopeful it would survive the coming storm.
Patrice Connelly, of Wildwood, said she had planned to evacuate Sunday. The last storm that passed through claimed her car, so she said she was not taking any chances.
“I’m just a block and a half from the beach,” she said.
This is the second time the South Philly transplant has had to evacuate after moving to the area 5½ years ago, she said.
Now, she and her dog planned to stay at a hotel that accepts pets in Ewing, Mercer County. She got her dog after someone abandoned him during Irene, she said. Steve and Sharon Somers, both seasonal residents of the Rio Grande section of Middle Township, said they planned to go back to Hackettstown, Warren County, today. They were worried about trees coming down while they were away, they said.
“We’re just closing things up, battening down the hatches,” said Steve Somers, as he and his wife left The Red Store restaurant in Cape May Point.
“We just got gas,” he said, mindful of the hour-plus waits by some people in the region following the June 30 storm.
Staff Writer Derek Harper contributed to this report.
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