HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Several Connecticut shoreline cities on Saturday called for evacuations of low-lying areas ahead of Hurricane Sunday, a storm that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said could generate the worst flooding the state has seen in more than 70 years.
Bridgeport and Fairfield issued evacuation orders for vulnerable communities effective as of noon Sunday. Old Saybrook and East Haven also called for people to leave flood-prone areas.
Malloy said the flooding will be worsened by the fact that the long-lasting storm will span three high-tide cycles. He warned residents to prepare to go for a long time without power as the storm is forecast to batter the state for up to 36 hours.
"Folks, this could be bad, really bad. It could impact us in several ways and for a long period of time," Malloy said. "Please take it seriously as we are taking it. We are talking about a potential for high number of power outages and for an extended period of time. We are talking about severe flooding."
Malloy spoke hours after he declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm.
The hurricane is expected to make landfall early Tuesday near the Delaware coast, then hit two winter weather systems as it moves inland, creating a hybrid monster storm. Connecticut is forecast the feel the first effects of the storm as early as late Sunday.
Malloy said 350 members of the national guard are already on standby to help in recovery efforts. The number will rise to 400 by the time the storm reaches land, he said.
Other preparatory measures include putting additional state police troopers and dispatchers on duty as the storm approaches. They are also adding 43 police recruits who will be deployed with troopers, Malloy said.
Residents should prepare for road closures and suspension of services of Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak, Malloy said.
The department of transportation is working with neighboring states to assess the impact that any road closures there may have on Connecticut residents and coordinate the closure of the interstate, he said.
Authorities are opening emergency centers and the state Department of Social Services working with nonprofit groups on a plan to deliver meals to seniors, Malloy said.
Experts said the storm could be wider and stronger than Irene, which caused more than $15 billion in damage, and could rival the worst East Coast storm on record. On Saturday morning, forecasters said hurricane-force winds of 75 mph could be felt 100 miles away from the storm's center.
Early estimates of the storm surge indicates that Connecticut faces coastal flooding "in excess of what we saw during Tropical Storm Irene, with the most severe impact expected to be felt along the coast from Greenwich to East Haven," Malloy said.
He urged municipal officials to begin implementing evacuation plans by 10 a.m. on Sunday.
"We anticipate a strong storm surge on our coastal areas made much worse by the expected duration of the storm and the fact that it will happen over ... three high tide cycles," Malloy said.
"Wind gusts are expected to top 80 mph, which is stronger than anything we experienced in the last tropical storm," he said. "But we are going to experience sustained high winds for as long as 36 hours, which will hamper our ability to recover during any storm that we are in the midst of."
Utility executives said they are ramping up preparations to deal with the storm.
Northeast Utilities' Connecticut Light & Power unit, the state's largest utility, has 340 linemen ready and has requested 2,000 additional linemen, tree crews and patrol resources from elsewhere in the country, said William Quinlan, the firm's senior vice president for emergency preparedness.
The fact that winds are going to be high for as long as 48 hours may limit the ability of utility workers to work safely, effectively delaying recovery efforts, he said.
The United Illuminating Co. is preparing for about 50 to 70 percent of its customers to be without power, CEO James Torgenson said.
The utility is concerned about flooding affecting substations located on the shoreline and has deployed sandbags to shore up those facilities, he said.
The firm expects to have 290 linemen on hand Sunday and more than 200 damage assessors will be available during the storm. It has also requested 600 linemen and line-clearance crew from mutual assistance, he said.
"We are talking about a weather event that could last for up to 36 hours, not the 12 hours that Connecticut residents are generally used to," Malloy said.