By Shawn Ryan
---- — PLATTSBURGH — As the North Country turns its attention toward the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, people are taking steps to prepare.
“People are most definitely preparing,” said Tony Smith, administrative manager at Lowe’s in Plattsburgh. “We’re selling a lot of flashlights. We’re sold out of generators. Flashlights are selling at a rate of about 10 or 12 times what they normally sell, just in the last few days.”
Cases of bottled water, batteries, and gas cans are also selling briskly, according to Smith. A half empty shelf of gas cans showed how well they have been selling.
Across the parking lot at Price Chopper the story was much the same.
“We have sold more water and batteries than we normally do on a Saturday, but there’s no sense of panic like the last hurricane. Nobody seems to be worried,” store manager Sharon Wood said.
In advance of the storm, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for all counties in the state, in an effort to help mobilize resources to local governments and get ready for response efforts.
In a statement issued by the governor’s office Saturday, New Yorkers are being urged to have a storm emergency kit on hand. According to the statement, the kit should include items such as nonperishable food, water, cash, filled prescriptions, a battery powered radio, first aid kit, supplies for any pets, flashlights and extra batteries.
Checking on elderly neighbors or relatives, or people with special needs is also being stressed. A complete list of emergency preparedness tips as well as updates throughout the storm can be found at www.governor.ny.gov.
Lynn Gilbert, Executive Director of the North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross in Morrisonville is likewise urging North Country residents to build or replenish emergency kits.
The Red Cross is currently mobilizing numerous resources to respond to Sandy, including calling their 2,500 volunteers in 17 counties to gauge who is available for emergency response, transporting relief supplies and staging more than 100 emergency response vehicles to respond wherever the need should arise. They are also preparing to open 18 emergency shelters throughout northeastern New York. One shelter, at the Jay Community Center, will open Sunday morning.
Gilbert urges community members to visit redcross.org for a complete list of emergency supplies, safety tips and a list of shelters. Smart phone users can also download free apps that will provide ongoing information and updates during the storm.
With the exception of generators, local stores are confident that their supplies of essentials are enough to hold North Country residents throughout the storm.
“I feel we’re more prepared this time. It seems like Irene; we were ready for Irene, but it turned out to be more than we anticipated. So everyone is looking at that as an example to be more prepared this time,” Wood said. “We’re ready for business; bring it on.”
Price Chopper, Lowe’s and Hannaford all plan on staying open throughout the storm.
As they left Hannaford pushing a cart loaded to the top with cases of water, Britt and Robyn Lindsey of Morrisonville were relying on their past experience with weather emergencies to guide their preparation for Sandy.
“We’re definitely stocking up on water for the storm, that’s the main thing. We’re going to get some gasoline to power our generator. We’ve been through Irene and the ice storm. The ice storm more so than Irene, because it affected us more,” Britt said.
According to Tina Leclerc of Cumberland Head, she’s not worried about Sandy, in part because of storm predictions in the past that didn’t pan out.
Others, like Aurora Billings of Plattsburgh, are watching the storm from a different angle.
“I’m actually kind of excited. I’m kind of a science nerd,” she said happily as she headed into Hannaford.
The storm will also impact New Yorkers’ outdoor recreation plans for the coming week. In a news conference Saturday, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials outlined guidelines for dealing with the potential storm onslaught.
“DEC is advising all backcountry users to be out of the woods by dark on Sunday, October 28. Hunters, hikers and campers should stay out of the backcountry until after this storm event has passed,” officials at DEC said in an announcement.
Once the storm ends, forest rangers and DEC personnel will assess the damage and determine if the flooding or blow-down make backcountry areas unsafe.
The Fish Creek Campground in Saranac Lake is closed effective Sunday night, October 28.
— Staff Writer Kim Smith Dedam
contributed to this report