SA expats brace for US hurricane

Kathryn Kimberley

FORMER Eastern Cape residents now living in the US were bracing themselves yesterday for a tough week as Hurricane Sandy barrelled towards America’s East Coast.

Speaking from the US last night, the expats said they were prepared for the worst and ready to tackle the hurricane head-on.

Hurricane Sandy, packing 136km/h winds and a 3m storm surge, has been described by forecasters as life-threatening.

Fox News reported that the 1600km-wide storm’s front edge sent tide-enhanced surges over boardwalks from Delaware to New York, 12 hours before Sandy’s eye was to make landfall.

Widespread evacuations along the coast were ordered, mass transit was shut down in major metropolitan areas, and about 60 million people living in the path of the mega-storm faced power outages in the coming hours, something which was expected to last for days, the American news agency said.

Sally-Ann Niekerk, who grew up in Heath Park and now lives in Washington DC, said while the storm was expected to hit anytime yesterday, she had no idea when.

This is her second hurricane experience after surviving Hurricane Irene last year, and Niekerk said she was more prepared this time around.

Hurricane Irene affected much of the Caribbean and East Coast last year and brought massive destruction to large parts of the US.

“This time I’ve stocked up on water and food … but I’ve just realised I need to get candles.”

Her fears were that her property would be damaged or a loved one would be injured.

Deo-Lynne Miranda, of Gelvan Park, said she and her husband, Nathan, had stocked up on water and candles.

Miranda has lived in Massachusetts for about two years.

“We live about six hours north of New York and I believe New York is going to get the brunt of this storm.

“Their water levels are already eight foot [2.4m] above the norm which is a little scary. I think the authorities are more worried about flooding than damaging winds. Both my husband and I work in Rhode Island, which is a 40-minute drive away.

“Rhode Island has been declared a state of emergency and one or two cities at the coast have been evacuated,” Miranda said.

She said her office was closed yesterday, so she was working from home. “My husband’s company is closed until further notice because they work on boats, so it isn’t safe for them to be on the water.”

She said the bad weather was expected to run into tomorrow, but right now they were just waiting for it to hit New Jersey. “Long periods of no power worry me but my thoughts are mostly with the families who don’t have homes or those who will be displaced because of the storm.”

Chris Coutts, who moved to northern Virginia from East London in 1997, said the storm was expected to hit his town before the morning.

“It’s raining pretty hard and the wind is starting to blow. They are expecting floods and very high winds, which might result in loss of electricity and falling trees,” he said.

“[On Sunday] we purchased batteries, canned food, fruit and snacks for when the power goes out. We have also gathered plenty of water.

“In the yard, we tied down anything that can blow away, put away lawn furniture, took down the kids’ basketball hoop and generally made sure nothing was left out that could be damaged by the winds or that could cause damage if it was blown away.”

Coutts said the hurricane was predicted to go directly over North Virginia. He said all schools, universities and government offices had closed for the week.

Former Graaff-Reinet resident Jolandie van der Walt, who moved to Connecticut last week, said she had stocked up on water, groceries and torches, and filled up her car. She was also keeping all electronics charged in preparation for a power failure.

“Last year’s storm left residents without power for about 10 days, so I have prepared accordingly. Government is prepared with appropriate stand-by and evacuation for those who may need it. It seems we will mostly get the heavy winds.”

Van Der Walt said she would also be working from home for the next few days.

Fox News said the National Guard had been deployed along the densely populated Atlantic coast, and airports had shut down by yesterday afternoon.

The hurricane is on a collision course with a winter storm and a cold front, and high tides from a full moon make it a rare hybrid storm that could be felt all the way to the Great Lakes.

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