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October 29, 2012

Are you ready? Storm set to hit today

After days of warnings and hype, Hurricane Sandy’s wild wrath is expected to hit the region hard today with treacherous winds that will rip down trees and power lines.

“My main concern is the wind,” said Methuen Mayor Stephen Zanni, stepping out of an emergency planning meeting with other city officials last night. He urged residents to stay home and off roads until Sandy’s demise.

Schools, municipal buildings and City Halls throughout the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire are closed today, as uncertainty and worry about the storm peaked last night.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick warned that by Monday afternoon “the entire Commonwealth will feel the effects” of Hurricane Sandy. State of emergencies were declared in Massachusetts and New Hampshire over the weekend. Patrick urged all schools and colleges to be closed today and all non-essential state employees to stay home. He also encouraged private employers to keep their workers home today.

Coastal flooding is expected along with major wind, tree damage and power outages inland. The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for the area, noting speeds may hit 75 mph.

Bracing for Sandy’s beachfront arrival, the American Red Cross opened a shelter in Newbury last night, encouraging Plum Island residents to take cover there. A voluntary evacuation order was issued to residents in low lying areas. The Red Cross shelter is located at Newbury Middle School at 63 Hanover St.

Other shelters could open in individual communities today, depending on the scope of the damage and how long power outages may last.

“Right now, it’s kind of a wait and see what we need. The agencies are all prepared, including ourselves,” said Lawrence Police Chief John Romero. “If we need to bring more people in, we’ll do that.”

Methuen Public Works Director Raymond DiFiore said he’s very concerned about downed trees and damage. Last night, he lined up five private contractors who can assist city crews clearing branches, limbs and trees if necessary.

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