Bonnie Dillaman was concerned but far from panicking Monday as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the region, promising several inches of rain and wind gusts as high as 70 mph through this morning.
As manager of Dillaman’s Auto Body on Lincoln Avenue in Meadville’s low-lying Fifth Ward, Dillaman has plenty of experience waiting out heavy storms to see if nearby French and Cussewago creeks flood.
“We don’t experience too much flooding,” she said. “The last time we had flooding, water came up to the door, but it didn’t get in.”
Based on forecasts from the National Weather Service and Crawford County Office of Emergency Services, the creek may not be at the door this morning, but the wind may cause havoc.
Although the storm may dump as much as four inches of rain on the area by Wednesday, French Creek is expected to crest around 2 a.m. Wednesday at less than two feet below its 14-foot flood stage.
The wind is the wild card in the storm, according to Alan Clark, director of the Crawford County Office of Emergency Services.
Sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph are expected through this afternoon with gusts up to 65 mph possible near Lake Erie.
“Our concern is the wind coming north to south, instead of the normal west to east flow,” Clark said. “That (change in wind direction) and the ground being saturated could uproot trees more, but it will be hit and miss. You can’t look at trees and predict which ones will topple.”
As of early Monday evening, there were no significant reports of wind damage reported in Crawford County, Clark said. There was one minor power outage on Johnson Road in the southcentral part of the county.
“We’re taking it seriously, but we’re waiting right now,” Clark said.
Clark stressed people should be pre-identify family or friends that they can stay with if power is lost. The American Red Cross has pre-designated shelters throughout the county, but will open them only if a large number of people need them, he said.
“You should plan to go to family or a friend’s place first,” Clark said. “If you have a power outage, please call your utility company and do not call 911 to report non-emergency power outages.”
Clark urge residents also to stay tuned to local media outlets via the Internet, TV, radio and weather radio for updates on the storm.
Meanwhile, as Dillaman went about her business Monday, she had the peace of mind of having a plan for her business should the need arise.
“We’re not making any preparations, but we have a parking lot we can move to if floods are imminent,” said Dillaman. “We just hope it doesn’t come to that.”
That seemed to be the attitude many were taking.
Over at the Taco Bell at the foot of Smock Bridge, another area prone to flooding, “customers have asked if we have a generator, but there’s not a whole lot we can do,” said Tammy Weatherby, shift manager. She’s heard customers talk about stocking up on bread and other groceries. “You don’t know exactly how bad it will be,” she said. “We’ll wait for the fire department to let us know what we need to do.”