National Parks Battening Down In Advance Of Hurricane Sandy

With Hurricane Sandy en route to the Eastern Seaboard, units of the National Park System in her path are preparing for her arrival next week.

Hurricane Sandy, the third most powerful storm of the 2012 season, is expected to make landfall somewhere between Virginia and New England on Monday. Its winds are expected to be near hurricane force when it arrives, partly due to unusually warm water off the East Coast.

With an approaching strong cold front from the West, and a full moon that will bring high tides on Monday, and already above normal stream flows in much of the Northeast, the combined storm event could bring heavy rains, flooding, serious shoreline erosion, and considerable wind damage to the region.

The hurriance is expected to affect parks along the East Coast before it arrives in the Northeast. Although the center will be well offshore, it will be close enough to bring winds and high seas and rain from the North Carolina's Outer Banks on north.

Parks and regions have activated their hurricane plans and have begun daily phone conferences to coordinate both preparedness and possible emergency responses, if needed.

Reports from two parks have been received so far:

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Due the possibility of a close passage or a landfall on the Outer Banks, Dare County, North Carolina, will be activating its emergency operations center on Saturday morning. Gale force winds are expected to begin on Saturday evening and continue through Sunday. Moderate to major overwash is forecast for east-facing beaches from Duck to Nags Head and on Hatteras Island. North Carolina Highway 12 will likely be impassable due to both the storm and what the Park Service calls "astronomically high" tides; Sound side following will also be a threat in some areas. The park is accordingly planning to activate its incident management team.

Cape Lookout National Seashore: The park is expecting about 30 hours of tropical storm force winds, with maximum sustained winds of from 50 to 70 mph. Vehicle ferries will stop taking visitors to the islands today and will instead focus on removing visitors who wish to leave. Vehicle and passenger ferries are expected to stop operating on Saturday and may not resume operations until further notice. Visitor centers on the islands will close Saturday and will remain closed until Monday. Visitors are advised against heading out to the islands from Saturday through Monday; visitors already staying in the cabins or on the beaches are being advised leave the islands or to seek areas that are protected from overwash.