Area Trick or treaters have fun before Frankenstorm arrives
BY LINDLEY ESTES
Trick-or-treaters flooded downtown Fredericksburg Saturday, eager to beat impending Hurricane Sandy, which many parents fear will impact Halloween on Wednesday.
Sponsors of the event, the Downtown Retail Merchants Association and city police, say this fall’s street festival drew the largest number of children to date.
Officer Kenny Camp said they expected about 300 children, but an hour into the event nearly 1,200 came through.
Anne Luehrs, who works at Legacy on Caroline Street, was handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.
“It’s been busy,” she said, “Very busy. I think people are very worried about the hurricane. It’s on the back of all our minds. Today is the calm before the storm.”
Meri Ortegel of Spotsylvania and her 7-year-old son, Wyatt, stopped by Riverby Books, where children’s books were given out instead of candy.
Wyatt, dressed as Bumblebee from “Transformers,” picked out a book titled “Bernadette’s Big Day,” which he plans on reading to his sister.
Ortegel said her son would not be able to go trick-or-treating on Wednesday even if the storm passes the area by. He’ll be having surgery.
“But we’re not too worried about the storm, anyway,” she said. “We’re not big worriers.”
Jim Horak, who works at Riverby, said books are a fun and interesting alternative to candy.
“They seem to like it,” he said. “It was like a mob scene here a while ago.”
Xander Mosley, 6, picked up a book titled “The Runaway Flying Horse” at Riverby.
But he was most excited about a gum ball he received at a neighboring store. “It’s my favorite,” he said.
Xander was dressed as Waldo and his father, Brian, was dressed as Doctor Who.
Mosley, who lives in the city, said they are definitely worried about the storm and were happy to have an opportunity to trick or treat early.
Christine Powell of Fredericksburg brought her son Ayden, 4, downtown dressed as a wild thing from Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.”
“He loves that book,” she said. “We’ve been reading it every night for a year.”
She said the weather Saturday was perfect and preferable to the wind and rain in the forecast.
“It’s part of why we came out today,” she said.
The National Weather Services has issued a flood watch and high-wind watch for the region from Sunday night through Tuesday. The amount of rainfall will depend on the track of the storm, but current forecasts show 4 to 8 inches along and east of Interstate 95 and 3 to 5 inches west of I–95, with locally higher amounts possible. The period for the heaviest rains will likely be from early Monday morning through Tuesday evening.
The weather service said the hurricane will most likely make landfall between Delaware and the New Jersey coastline on Monday or into Tuesday.
Trina Heiser, with the Weather Service office in Sterling, said there is a 40 percent chance of rain for Fredericksburg and surrounding areas late Sunday.
Once Sandy reaches the area, experts say it will transition into an extratropical storm, which gathers strength from temperature changes rather than moist tropical air.
Sandy’s winds had dropped to 75 miles per hour, meaning it may not be designated as a hurricane or tropical storm by the time it reaches the area.
Still, coastal areas should be on high alert because the storm combined with the full moon will produce greater flooding along the Chesapeake Bay and tidal Potomac River.
Heiser said the storm should be out of the area by Wednesday—Halloween—though the forecast calls for mostly cloudy conditions and a high of 55 degrees and a low of 39
Dominion Power prepared Saturday for storm cleanup and to restore outages.
Crews loaded bucket trucks with supplies and all employees are on alert. Dominion has called other utilities for an additional 2,000 people for crew support. They expect extensive power outages and major damage from the storm in Virginia.
“Brace yourselves because this storm is going to be intense,” said Dominion spokesman Karl Neddenien.
“With this storm strong winds and rain may linger, which may make it take longer to respond to outages,” he said.
Neddenien said this storm is unlike the derecho that hit the area in June.
“That storm moved in and moved out,” he said. “”This is not as focused and the effects will be more widespread.”
To help the state recover, the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force on Saturday began staging personnel in Fredericksburg, Richmond, the Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads to remove debris and transport people if there’s high water.
Up to 500 guard soldiers are authorized to go on active duty to help, and more have been put on alert.
“The key to rapid response is positioning personnel and equipment in key locations before the severe weather hits,” said Col. Jim Ring, joint operations director for the Virginia Guard.
The Guard can’t respond to requests from the public; it gets its missions from the Department of Emergency Management. If people need help, “they should request assistance through their local dispatcher or 911 service,” Ring said.
Mike Jones, deputy fire chief in Fredericksburg, said the city is getting ready and has been in contact with state and federal agencies and the surrounding counties.
“We’re preparing for the storm to arrive late Sunday with the worst in the area being late Monday to Tuesday,” he said. “But it really depends on where it hits. Fifty or 60 miles can make a big difference in the effects we’ll feel in Fredericksburg.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency in Virginia Friday in preparation for Sandy. In a Saturday afternoon update McDonnell said the storm’s track is still slated to deluge Virginia with rains and high winds, and urged residents to finish their preparations today.
“Regardless of the exact track the wind and rain impacts are so extensive because the storm is so big,” he said.
McDonnell said FEMA officials are expected today in the state’s emergency operations center, all state police are on standby and specialized units—like deep-water rescue teams—have been positioned in eastern Virginia localities. Chain-saw crews and VDOT personnel are at the ready, he said.
—Staff reporter Chelyen Davis contributed to this story.
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976