By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — With a hurricane of record baring down on the east coast of the United States and Western New York in its cross-hairs, many of the area organizations are taking steps to provide for public safety.
All school districts in the Niagara region, including the Falls city schools, have canceled all after-school activities for Monday.
District officials from Niagara-Wheatfield and Lewiston-Porter also took immediate action as Hurricane Sandy approaches Western New York in the next few hours.
But none of the districts have committed to canceling classes for Tuesday morning, choosing to weigh all evidence as it comes. Decisions will come in the early-morning hours Tuesday, according to Lew-Port Superintendent Christopher Roser.
"Right now, we're going to treat this as if it's an approaching snow storm," he said. "At about 4:30 a.m., we'll be checking with the town and the police to see if everything's alright and we're able to hold school."
As of 3 p.m. Monday, the eye of the storm is moving rapidly west towards the South New Jersey shore and will begin to impact the Western New York region beginning at about 5 p.m. tonight, according to meteorologist Dave Zaff at the National Weather Service.
Once the eye makes landfall, the storm is expected to weaken quickly as it heads toward Pennsylvania, Zaff said. It will take a sharp turn north Wednesday into Thursday, where it will be a "non-event" in the region, he said.
"Our concern is the ramp-up of the winds this evening as heavy rain moves through as the system moves ashore," he said, explaining winds could gust in excess of 50 miles per hour tonight into the early tomorrow morning.
He said the worst of the storm locally could occur along the south Lake Ontario shoreline as waves could crash ashore near Porter and Wilson exceeding 10 feet high. Waves offshore could reach 25 feet as the storm rages, he added.
He said current projections have reduced the threat of rain, though still expect it to be hard at times. A flood watch is in effect but only as a precaution incase something unexpected occurs with the storm, he said.
"Right now, it looks like there'll be less rain than expected, which is good," he said. "And just in case something unpredicted happens, going to keep our flood watch up through the night.
"High winds are a concern, as well as those who have property or live along the southern Lake Ontario shoreline. Otherwise, expect the typical trees and power lines down across various parts of the county and Western New York. It's not insignificant, but it's not like we'll have to survive an actual hurricane."