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Hurricane Sandy: Long Island Braces For Flooding, Power Outages

10/28/2012 06:59 pm ET

NEW YORK -- Howard Pavane made it through Hurricane Irene with just a few hours to spare. He's worried Sandy will be worse.

The 62-year-old songwriter has multiple medical complications as a result of having polio in 1954. Pavane, who lives in New Hyde Park, a town on Long Island's north shore, prefers to use an electronic wheelchair to move around, and depends on his nebulizer to breathe during asthma attacks.

"It can be an issue if we lose power for a long time," he said. His nebulizer's batteries are currently broken, so it only works when it's plugged in to a power source -- and asthma has hit him hard this weekend. So if the power blows, he said he might not be able to breathe.

Pavane is one of millions of Long Islanders preparing for the wrath of Sandy, a megastorm expected "to bring life-threatening storm surge flooding to the mid-Atlantic coast," according to the National Weather Service. On Sunday, the storm raged several hundred miles south of Long Island, picking up speed. The National Weather Service expects the storm to hit New Jersey late Monday, and the National Hurricane Center told Newsday that Long Island will likely be at the center of the storm at one point.

"This particular coastal storm will have record-breaking tidal surges, surges we haven't seen for 30 years," Edward Mangano, Nassau County executive, told The Huffington Post. He ordered a mandatory evacuation of all flood zones on Sunday. "With the storm tracking on high tides, we are very concerned with the impacts on the flooding," he said.

Tides will be high between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday and between 7 p.m. and 12 a.m. Tuesday morning, with hurricane-force winds expected to hit at 3 p.m, according to Mangano. "It's a very concerning cocktail of weather coming at us," Mangano said.

While low-lying waterfront areas such as Islip, Babylon, Riverhead, Long Beach and Fire Island are being evacuated, analysts expect the storm's effects to be felt by those who live inland as well. The Long Island Power Authority warned that power outages could last between seven and 10 days.

To prepare, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is sending in extra Coast Guard members. Towns are turning high schools and colleges into storm shelters -- including a pet shelter and a kosher shelter. Waterfronts are covered in sandbags, and many schools are preparing to close. Transit is also shutting down, with the Long Island Railroad and Nassau Inter County Express bus stopping service on Sunday evening.

In Southhold, at the eastern end of Long Island, no one is supposed to be outside after 5 p.m., said Brian Flinn, a sports analyst who lives in a house on a creek.

"Normally it's calm, but it's getting really wavy, probably 3 to 4 feet above what it normally is," Flinn said Sunday afternoon. "The town is locking down, and everyone is bracing for the storm." Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) called his house Sunday to say that he might be without power for a full week. Flinn bought a generator, but he's still worried about flooding.

Pavane, the songwriter, recently had his house examined by LIPA because it was damaged in Hurricane Irene. But he still expects a power outage, so he's charging everything and has 100 candles at the ready. If his nebulizer dies, his life will depend on a trip to the emergency room -- one that will likely be imperiled by roads covered in felled trees.

"During Irene, I got power back just in time," he said. "I was thinking I might have to go to the hospital -- we lucked out by a few hours. I'm not sure what'll happen this time."

Medical issues are also top of mind for Alicia Erlich, a Franklin Square executive assistant whose 61-year-old mother has juvenile diabetes. Her insulin and eye drops need to stay refrigerated. "These supplies aren't cheap to replace without a subscription," Erlich said. "They only last so long until everything melts."

Huge storms have special meaning to John Licata, an energy analyst who recently moved to Lawrence, a town on Long Island's south shore. Last year, he got engaged on the night of Hurricane Irene. "I just wanted to make it memorable," he said. But he also remembers the power outages. "We're expecting an instant replay," he said. "No storm has been able to turn left inward in many years, this will be the third time in at least 200 years."

Licata had to stop at several gas stations Sunday morning before he could fill his tank, and there was no milk or water left at his local grocery store. When he got home, he taped his windows shut and brought his outdoor furniture inside. "It's already getting very windy here on Long Island," Licata said. "The trees are swaying good."

Mangano said Nassau County residents facing non life-threatening emergencies should call 1-888-684-4274, not 911. Those facing non life-threatening emergencies in Suffolk County should call 631-852-COPS.

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