Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee declared a state of emergency just after noon today, warning residents to be prepared for the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and Woonsocket Public Schools were closed shortly after.
Chafee said he will be on a conference call with other governors and President Barack Obama later today.
Decisions on canceling schools and work and evacuation plans will be left to individual communities, following a conference call with town managers and mayors, said Chafee, who added that a decision whether to cancel the day for state workers will be made later today by his office.
At the Woonsocket School Department, School Committee Chair Vimala Phongsavanh said Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan made the call at 1:30 p.m. to cancel school on Monday.
According to Kevin McBride of the Rhode Island National Guard, there are 2,100 National Grid employees stationed and on-call in anticipation of power outages. About 200 National Guard members are also available.
Sen. Jack Reed says a Federal Emergency Management Agency response team is already on the ground in Rhode Island. He said the Congressional delegation – himself, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, and Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline – secured support from the federal government via letter two days ago.
All of the officials stressed one thing: it’ll be the duration of the storm — almost a full 12 hours, as opposed to the intensity — that will be the problem.
McBride specifically cites that the surge will be worst from about 9 am Monday through 12 hours later, coinciding with Monday's scheduled high tide, but the winds will still be an issue even after that point.
According to the state police, there is a strong chance that the Pell Bridge, Jamestown and Mt. Hope bridges will be closed as of 6 am Monday. They’re closed at specific wind speeds, around 65 miles per hour, for commercial vehicles.
State Police Col. Steven G. O’Donnell warned people NOT to be thrill seekers, and to stay home as opposed to trying to see the waves. He mentioned that in a past storm in the 1950s, a trooper died, and he wants to avoid a similar circumstance today.