Whether she turns out to be the monster forecasters predicted and others have feared, Hurricane Sandy left Central Pennsylvania — and most of the East Coast — a ghost town on Monday.
And, if she’s still around today, the region is expected to remain shuttered in the wake of the hurricane’s devastation.
Businesses, pedestrians, schools and many government entities took shelter, closing down Monday and announcing closures today in an attempt to escape Sandy’s wrath. Even fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Taco Bell closed early Monday.
Harrisburg International Airport canceled all in- and out-bound flights, and Amtrak also canceled train service at all of its Northeast destinations, including Harrisburg.
By Monday afternoon, thousands were already without power in Cumberland, Perry, Dauphin and Lancaster. By 5 p.m. more than 11,000 customers were without power in 27 counties and officials said it was likely that even more would experience power outages as the storm continued to pound the area.
“We have declared an emergency for Carlisle Borough,” Mayor William Kronenberg said in a robocall to residents in the borough.
Gov. Tom Corbett didn’t wait, declaring a state of emergency two days before rain began to drench most of the state and power outages were realized.
By 2 p.m., the massive storm was dumping colder air and heavy rain on the area, and the eye of the storm was blasting its way to Atlantic City, N.J., and threatening areas around Philadelphia and Delaware and, ultimately, weather forecasters said, Sandy would pummel Central Pennsylvania.
Public transportation around the region was shut down, area schools already closed Monday, announced more closures for today.
By 2:30 p.m., abc27 weather forecasters warned that the worse was still very much ahead.
The latest forecast guidance suggested the worst of the rain and wind would take place Monday night and overnight.
By that time the rainfall was likely to lessen, but winds were expected to remain gusty, with sustained winds between 30 to 50 mph and gusts up to 70 mph, according to abc27.
The National Weather Service called Hurricane Sandy a life-threatening storm that resulted in flooding along a broad swath of the East Coast.
In some areas, peak tide levels were poised to top those from Hurricane Irene by two feet.
Weather.com Senior Meteorologist Stu Ostro said history is being written as an extreme weather event continues to unfold, one which will occupy a place in the annals of weather history as one of the most extraordinary to have affected the United States.
“This is an extraordinary situation, and I am not prone to hyperbole,” Ostro said.
Localized flooding had already become noticeable by Monday afternoon, said Megan Silverstrim, a spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Department of Public Safety.
The Yellow Breeches Creek was expected to reach flood stage of 7 feet by 5 p.m. today and officials said those in the area should be prepared and move any vehicles to a different location.
“We have been advising people to have a bag packed and a place to go if there is a need for an evacuation,” Silverstrim said.
Area roads have been mostly clear as residents appeared to have heeded earlier warnings,” she said.
“There hasn’t been any reports of storm related injuries and we are telling people that, unless they absolutely have to travel, to stay off the roads,” Silverstrim said.
Additionally, PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission lowered speed limits on most local roadways to 45 mph because of the high winds accompanying the storm. The turnpike also banned certain vehicles, such as tractor-trailers and motorcycles – from traveling on the highway.
The Pennsylvania State Police also sent reminders that motorists could face steep penalties if they failed to obey a “road closed” sign.
The new law, which went into effect on Sept. 6, states that motorists who drive around or through signs or traffic control devices closing a road or highway due to hazardous conditions will have two points added to their driving records and be fined up to $250.
If the violation results in a need for emergency responders to be called, the fine is increased to between $250 and $500. In addition, violators will be held liable for repaying the costs of staging the emergency response.
“When a motorist fails to obey these signs, they can potentially put their own life in danger, as well as the lives of the first responders if rescue is necessary. With a storm such as this, road closures are common due to flooding, downed power lines, and downed trees,” said PSP PIO Trooper Adam Reed.
Meanwhile, in declaring an emergency, Carlisle officials asked residents to adopt a storm drain and help make sure it’s clear of leaves.
They also asked residents to report any downed trees to the Carlisle Police Department and that residents stay off the streets.
The borough added that leaf collection had been suspended and area residents should retrieve bags of leaves left for collection. Today’s scheduled trash collection has been canceled and will not be rescheduled this week, borough officials said.
Kronenberg said borough crews and police and fire personnel would work around the clock to mitigate impacts from the storm.
Emergency crews will prioritize and respond to all incidents as soon as possible, Kronenberg said, adding that due to the storm’s magnitude, serious threats to public safety and disruptions of service were possible.
Shippensburg Borough also declared a state of emergency Monday, which will remain in effect until Thursday.
South Middleton Township declared a township disaster emergency at 3 p.m. Monday, according to Supervisor Tom Faley.
When the county declared a disaster emergency, it recommended local municipalities think about doing the same, according to Faley. Declaring a disaster emergency allows workers to stay out longer and lift weight restrictions on roads so the township can move equipment to areas of the township that usually floods by the Yellow Breeches, Faley said.
North Middleton Township declared a state of emergency at 3:30 p.m. Monday.
Mechanicsburg Borough also issued an emergency declaration on Monday noting that the worst of the storm was expected to continue through today and flooding was expected in multiple areas inside the borough.
Trash collection in Mechanicsburg has been suspended until Friday and residents have been directed not to place leaves on street or curb areas until Friday.
The Cumberland Valley School District has postponed till next month its student field trip to Washington D.C.
The Shippensburg Chamber of Commerce’s Lunch N’ Learn scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled and the chamber said it would reschedule the event as soon as possible.
Newburg and Shippensburg trick or treat nights scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled.
The Hampden Township GOP Candidates Night that was scheduled for Tuesday also has been canceled.
The Fish and Boat Commission’s meeting on a habitat plan for the Big Spring scheduled for Tuesday at Big Spring High School was canceled, as well.
Franklin County Government and Court offices closed at noon Monday and will remain closed today. Officials said mandatory personnel should report to work as scheduled and Franklin County Commissioners will conduct their public meeting on Tuesday as previously scheduled.