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October 27, 2012

Weather wary: Emergency supplies fly off the shelves as Sandy approaches

NORTH ANDOVER — Batteries. Flashlights. Stand-up lanterns.

All or mostly gone.

Generators? Fugetaboutit. Ace Hardware on Route 114 in North Andover sold its last two generators earlier this week. And the New York warehouse that distributes to the hundreds of Ace stores throughout New England is also out of them.

For an area that’s been devastated over the last few years by power-crippling ice storms, floods, and last year’s October blizzard, many local retailers are saying people are buying supplies in preparation of Hurricane Sandy’s arrival at a feverish pitch.

But is it just a hyped panic? Or is the threat real?

“This has the makings of a natural disaster,” Martin Murray, spokesman for utility Public Service of New Hampshire, said. “We all, as individuals, have to be prepared for the possibility for dealing without services, including power, for several days.”

Currently, the storm is moving over the Atlantic Ocean as a hurricane. Several weather models project the storm will move along the east coast until it passes North Carolina, at which point it’s expected to move northwest towards New Jersey.

Even with that track, damage is expected to be significant. The storm will lose strength as it hits land, but it will merge with a northern jet stream. The contrast between warm, tropical air and colder Canadian air “will significantly intensify the storm as it moves up the east coast,” according to Eric Sinsabaugh, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

After that, “it’s going to close off over the Northeast and, once that happens, it pretty much becomes stationary,” Sinsabaugh said. “It’s not going to show a lot of movement between Tuesday and Thursday.”

The storm is “pretty much going to trash the whole week,” he said.

The height of wind speeds will be felt beginning Monday night and continue throughout Tuesday, with wind and rain slowing down through to Thursday, Sinsabaugh said. At the storm’s peak, sustained winds will be as low as 20 to 30 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 50 to 60 miles per hour.

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