Editor's Note: Check back with Middletown Patch throughout the storm for updates.
3:21 p.m.: Mayor Drew says the worst of the storm will begin Monday at midnight and continue until Wednesday morning.
UPDATE: 1 p.m. Mayor Drew has declared an 8 p.m. curfew. Emergency management is asking residents with medical issues — regardless of whether they have lost power — to come to the shelter now.
As the city, like the rest of Connecticut, is expected to begin feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy early this afternoon, Mayor Daniel Drew has declared a state of emergency in Middletown.
Middletown officials are concerned less about potential local flooding than sustained, damaging winds, which were gusting significantly by 11 a.m. Monday.
"We are looking at wind gusts up to 90 miles per hour," here in Middletown, Drew said after a 10 a.m. briefing with the governor. Activating a state of emergency in Middletown allows the mayor the legal authority to order in any employees to work, "it also provides the legal ability to have reimbursement of resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency" after the hurricane passes.
"We expect some flooding," Drew said, such as parks and at Harbor Park, but he is not sure about flood waters reaching Route 9 at Harbor Drive.
Deputy Director of Public Works Robert Dobmeier is relying upon Hartford’s Connecticut River gauge, which is updated every 15 minutes by the state.
“The Hartford data is a good guide when we’re talking a regular rain event because that water has to come through here, but when we’re talking storm surge and backup from the sound,” Dobmeier said, “it’s going to be a little more difficult to figure. But in Hartford, they’re only thinking [about the Connecticut River] going up 4 or 5 feet or so.”
When the city’s river gauge was removed in February, that left officials in Middletown — and lower river towns —only the Hartford gauge to rely upon.
Still the National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for Connecticut, including northern and southern Middlesex County, through Tuesday afternoon.
Flooding in Middletown from the Connecticut River, Dobmeier said, “is not going to be an issue from the storm standpoint with 3 to 4 inches of rain spread out over a while.”
City officials are going to be closely monitoring the storm surge in the sound to see if it will affect Middletown at the Connecticut and Coginchaug rivers. “If the sound goes up 10 feet, it’s got to effect us,” Dobmeier said.
On the statewide front, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said at his Monday morning briefing that Long Island Sound has already seen a small storm surge that will grow as the day goes on and Sandy’s winds force more water into the sound.
State officials are particularly concerned about the high tide that will occur at midnight. That tide is expected to bring the biggest surge, possibly as much as 11 feet, and devastating flooding, Malloy said.
The surge in the sound will force water up tidal rivers in the state, including the Connecticut River.
The high school emergency shelter on LaRosa Lane in Middletown is on track to open today at noon, according to Bruce Driska, emergency operations director.
“We’ve been ready since 7 o’clock this morning,” he said, with well over 100 cots for residents. More cots have been requested. In all 700 persons is the full capacity of the shelter, at which officials can safely operate. “It can get iffy after that,” Driska said.
Parks and Recreation staff are prepared with games for the kids, who, Driska said, could get pretty bored just looking out the window at the wind.
Pets will be allowed in the shelter, but must be in pet carriers or on leashes. Pet owners must bring a supply of food and any necessary medication for their animals.