WORCESTER COUNTY, Mass. – The potential for damage and power outages from Hurricane Sandy could be greater than last year's Hurricane Irene, the National Weather Service is predicting.
"This is more of a wind event, but potentially a major event," said Gov. Deval Patrick, speaking on a Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency conference call Sunday afternoon.
The National Weather Service said Central Massachusetts can expect 2 to 5 inches of rain but that there will be sustaining winds of 20 to 40 mph with gusts of 50 to 60 mph for a period of 12 to 18 hours.
Widespread power outages are predicted but if power does go out, road crews won't be able to begin work until the wind dies down.
"This is not looking good," said Warning Coordination Meteorologist Glenn Field of the National Weather Service on the call. "This is a very, very big storm."
The concern last year with Hurricane Irene was flooding, as the storm brought 10 inches of rain to the area. Hurricane Sandy brings the threat of sustained winds and the timing is hazardous – while the storm may look bearable in the morning, the afternoon hours when children are leaving school and commuters are leaving work look to be at the storm's peak, Field said.
Shrewsbury weather specialist Jim Arnold said the Central Mass. area will likely escape the brunt of the storm.
"We will still experience a very stormy period, perhaps as long as 24 hours in duration before tapering off," he said.
While the area is already seeing precipitation, rain is expected to begin in earnest around 10 p.m. Sunday.
"This storm will exceed all the hype surrounding it," Arnold predicted. "It will be a history-making event, both from a sensible weather perspective and a climatological perspective. This storm is setting new rules and doing things not seen for a very long time, if ever. The final damage cost from Sandy is likely to rival the most expensive storms in U.S. history, and it will far surpass hurricane/tropical storm Irene of last August. We are very lucky Sandy is quite likely going ashore in central New Jersey. If she continued on a northward track into southern New England, we and even the southern portions of the three northern New England states would suffer catastrophic damage."
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