SALISBURY — A monster tempest began drumming Delmarva on Sunday with increasingly heavy rain, wind and surf in the first of an expected three days of punishing weather.
Across Delmarva, authorities urged residents vulnerable to Hurricane Sandy’s threats to head to storm shelters – and not to expect immediate help if they need it at the height of the storm.
“If you’re remaining behind, please understand that help may not be able to reach you for several days once the height of the storm reaches us,” warned Sussex County spokesman Chip Guy.
The trademark of most hurricanes is that they make landfall and leave within a matter of hours. With Sandy, plan to have enough food, water and medications to stay put for at least three days, emergency managers advised.
Wind gusts of up to 75 mph — just above the minimum for hurricane force — could lash Ocean City and other coastal areas along the peninsula today, National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Rusnak said. Sustained winds could reach up to 50 mph as the center of Hurricane Sandy passes within about 150 miles of the resort town this afternoon on its way toward New Jersey.
By then, the storm is expected to have merged with a cold front and a blast of dry, Arctic air. The hybrid system — or “Frankenstorm,” as forecasters have dubbed it — stood to leave virtually the entire Northeast and Mid-Atlantic mangled and soaked.
In Maryland alone, more than 30,000 coastal properties representing $9 billion in value stood at risk of damage, according to the California consulting firm CoreLogic. Delaware had another estimated 9,000 properties valued at more than $2 billion in harm’s way.
The bruising storm threatened to drop about 10 inches of rain on Delmarva and hit beaches with 6 feet of storm surge.
“This is a formidable storm,” Rusnak said. “You’re going to be on the south side of this, but that’s not going to be much of a difference because this is such a big storm.”
Like most states in Sandy’s path, Maryland and Delaware were already under a state of emergency. Schools across the Delmarva Peninsula are closed today, in part to allow those sites to be converted into shelters.