Gov. Corbett on storm: Once you're in a safe place - stay there

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Pa. Governor Tom Corbett is warning residents to take steps now to keep their families safe during Hurricane Sandy, a storm he described as “unprecented.” Speaking at a Sunday afternoon press briefing, the governor said the storm is not typical, and could be “historic” in its magnitude.

“This is one of those things – if this is as bad as predictions are looking at the moment, and I hope they’re wrong, this is when the whole state has to come together,” he said.

Upwards of 4 million people in Pa. can potentially be affected by the storm – or about 30 percent of the state’s population.

“It is a hurricane wrapped in a Nor’easter,” he said, adding that the storm will bring winds, rain, flooding and the potential for power outages. In higher elevations, there is the possibility of snow.

“The storm will present us with heavy rainfall – Monday into Tuesday. The rain will slow Tuesday as the storm weakens and hopefully moves north,” Corbett said. “We don’t want people to be fooled by the storm’s category as being a category 1. These are winds that will be sustained.” In addition, the governor added that some parts of the state could see between 6 to 10 inches of rain.

The governor urged residents to take steps now to prepare for the storm.

“Be prepared to stay in your home for an extended period. Make sure you have water and non-perishable food. If you need your medications, go get them, along with batteries, baby supplies and pet supplies,” he said.

He urged residents living in flood prone areas to be prepared to evacuate should it become necessary and to have a communication plan for talking with family members. Residents can visit www.readypa.org for information about completing their preparations.

The governor declared a state of emergency on Friday, which authorizes state agencies to use all available resources and personnel, as necessary, to cope with the magnitude and severity of this emergency situation. The time-consuming bid and contract procedures, as well as other formalities normally prescribed by law, are waived for the duration of the proclamation.

Corbett said that 1600 members of the Pa. National Guard have been placed on alert.

In talking about the potential for power outages, Corbett said this event is somewhat different from Hurricane Irene and Tropical storm Lee.

“Sustained winds will make it difficult for utilities to respond. This is an extended period of time with high winds. They can’t get up there to do the work while those high winds are ongoing.”

He did add that the state’s electric utilities have already been mobilizing crews from other areas to assist.

FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE) utility Met-Ed issued some suggestions for its customers:

• Have a hard-wired telephone or a charged cell phone handy in the event you need to report your electricity is out. Mobile phones can be charged in your vehicle using a car charger when power is out. A smart phone can be used to access online information sources.

• Call 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877) to report outages immediately, or report them online by clicking “report outage” on the company’s website, www.firstenergycorp.com. FirstEnergy customer call centers will be fully staffed. The more people who call, the faster outage locations can be identified.

• Immediately report downed wires to 888-544-4877 or your local police or fire department. Never go near a downed power line, even if you think it’s no longer carrying electricity. Stay more than 30 feet away from downed power lines, don’t walk or drive near or over a downed line, and watch out for anything touching the line. If a wire falls on a vehicle, passengers should stay inside until help arrives.

• Keep children and pets away from any wires.

• When operating a generator, always disconnect the power coming into your home. Otherwise, power from your generator could be sent back onto the utility lines, creating a hazardous situation for utility workers. The proper generator should be selected and installed by a qualified electrician.

• Stay out of flooded basements, even if the power is off. Stay away from the breaker box if it’s in a flooded basement.

• For updated information on the company’s storm preparation efforts, current outages, FirstEnergy’s storm restoration process and tips for staying safe, visit the 24/7 Power Center at www.firstenergycorp.com/outages. Met-Ed will also provide updates via Twitter: @Met_Ed

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