With Hurricane Irene projected to slam the East Coast with heavy rain and wind this weekend, John Eline's phone has been ringing off the hook.
The Adams County Emergency Services Director has had a hard a time, however, pinpointing exactly how the storm is going to impact the region.
"The latest reports I have seen indicate the county could receive between 1 and 2 inches of rain late Saturday into Sunday and potentially tropical storm wind gusts in excess of 35 mph. That can always change but we are assuming at this point we will have some issues to deal with."
Preparation, Eline said, was his main goal on Friday. An extra person had already been summoned to work the weekend in the Adams 9-1-1 Center. Emergency management staff is in place if Eline decides he needs to activate the Emergency Operations Center. The York-Adams Chapter of the American Red Cross has designated two potential shelters, Biglerville and Gettysburg high schools, that could be used if necessary.
"All of these decisions will be made based on the track of the storm," Eline said. "I anticipate we'll know a little more by Saturday afternoon. We typically have contacts with PennDOT in the case of any road closures and phone numbers for utility companies if we get any downed power lines reported. I have sent a notice to all municipalities asking them to keep our office informed of any weather events they have."
On Friday, AccuWeather forecast Irene to be dangerously close to, if not over, the mid-Atlantic coastline and New York City Saturday night into Sunday.
Irene is expected to track near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and Delmarva coast Saturday night, then could pass within 30 miles of New York City on Sunday as a weakening hurricane.
"Numerous road, rail and runway closures are expected as Irene barrels north, underlying the urgency for residents in areas along the coast to evacuate immediately," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Bill Deger.
Damaging tropical storm-force winds (between 40 and 70 mph) could extend nearly 150 miles westward and more than 250 miles eastward from Irene's center, possibly into Pennsylvania.
"A small jog to the west or east would lead to a huge difference in impacts," AccuWeather Hurricane and Tropical Weather Expert Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said. "The winds will have no trouble downing trees where recent flooding and record rainfall has saturated the ground in areas such as Philadelphia and New York City."
More than 80 mobile Red Cross feeding vehicles and trucks equipped with communications technology are already moving towards North Carolina, where Irene is predicted to make landfall.
In south central Pennsylvania, Red Cross officials said volunteers are on stand-by and response vehicles are ready should the area be affected by the storm.
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency officials urged families to have a communication plan should they get separated during the anticipated storm.
"Personal preparedness is an essential responsibility," PEMA Director Glenn Cannon said. "Individuals and families should be ready to take protective actions at any time, whether the forecast gives us several days notice of a storm, or with an unexpected event like Tuesday's earthquake."
While the brunt of the storm is slated to hit areas east of Adams County, Eline said residents should take precautions. For example, every household should keep extra drinking water in case of contamination to municipal water due to flooding.
"Other things people can do," he added, "are keep flashlights and battery-powered radios around. Stocking extra food is also a good step to take. We are just urging people not to take unnecessary risks. If you are out and about and a road is flooded, don't try to drive through it."