Area residents, responders brace for storm

Bottled water and batteries disappeared from shelves Sunday as the region braced for a unique, and potentially devastating, set of weather events being called “Frankenstorm.”

The monster storm — appropriately haunting the East Coast on Halloween week, is expected to bring strong winds and heavy rains to Centre County beginning this afternoon.

Gov. Tom Corbett declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm. Locally, emergency responders are preparing for flooding and power outages.

Residents apparently took their cue this weekend, stocking up on supplies to get through a few days without power.

Water bottles still could be found on shelves Sunday evening, but not at Walmart on Benner Pike. The store’s supply had been picked clean. A note taped on the empty aisle directed customers to the Sam’s Club across the parking lot.

There, Andrea Auman pushed two large cases stacked in a shopping cart. She hurried through the parking lot to get back to her car, gloomy, rainy weather already setting in.

Auman didn’t know what to expect from the storm but was stocking up on a few things “just in case.”

The scene played out at supermarkets and hardware stores across the Centre Region on Sunday afternoon.

“There’s not a ‘D’ battery in Centre County,” said Jay Rupar, of the Weis Markets off South Atherton Street.

Supermarkets were packed as customers traveled anywhere they could to find batteries, water, milk, ice and food.

“It’s pandemonium,” Rupar said. “The demand for ‘D’ batteries and water is out of control.”

Dennis Curtin, a spokesman for Weis Markets, said on Twitter that the Sunbury-based chain prepared for the rush by doubling the amount of goods it usually ships to stores, and shipping 100 extra truckloads of water.

If batteries were hard to find Sunday, generators were next to impossible.

John Curtin, of Mingoville, was one of the lucky ones, scoring a gas-powered generator at Lowe’s in Patton Township.

“Living out in the country, you never know what’s going to happen,” Curtin said.

Hundreds of others who tried to pick up gas-powered generators weren’t so lucky, as stores across the region were sold out.

“We’re going through a lot of things to protect for the storm — sump pumps, batteries, tarps — but also things for cleanup,” said Jen Schmittle, of Lowe’s. “It’s not really anything where someone is in panic mode, they are being prepared.”

Alex Sosnowski, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, said the hybrid storm is a combination of Hurricane Sandy, expected to make landfall in New Jersey tonight or early Tuesday, and a nor’easter.

Locally, Sosnowski said conditions will deteriorate this morning. He is expecting 40 to 50 mph winds this afternoon through Tuesday night, with gusts as high as 50 to 60 mph at times.

“It’s the long duration of those gusts that will take its toll on trees and power lines,” Sosnowski said.

The storm is also expected to bring up to a half-foot of rain to the area over several days, potentially causing flash, urban and small stream flooding.

Centre County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Randy Rockey said local officials are keeping a close eye on the storm.

“We know there is going to be some localized flooding,” he said. “But more of a concern is the winds that are going to start (today).”

Rockey said downed trees and power lines could cause power outages throughout the county. A shelter has been set up at Bald Eagle Area High School for anyone in that area with power outages, he said.

By Sunday evening, one Centre County school district, Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District, already had canceled classes for today. There were no plans to cancel classes at Penn State, according to a statement from the university late Sunday.

Some flights out of University Park Airport have been canceled through Tuesday afternoon.

First Energy, which serves many customers in Centre County, is warning that depending on the severity of the storm, there is a possibility of power outages lasting for days. Customers can check for updated information on the county’s storm preparation effects, current outages, restoration process and tips for staying safe at the company’s website or on Twitter under the handles @W_Penn_Power or @Penelec.