Mayor Ben Blake said weather predictions have been right on target, with coastal flooding occurring with the morning high tide, just as expected.
With that said, he said at an afternoon press conference that he expects that the high tide just before midnight tonight will bring flooding like this city hasn’t seen since 1938, when summer beach cottages were leveled by hurricane winds and tide.
He continued to urge shoreline residents to evacuate, and said the evacuation zone has been extended somewhat beyond those right on the water. Flood maps on the city’s website indicate which homes should evacuate.
“Fire and police have been going door to door making sure people are out of their homes,” Blake said.
The city cannot force people to leave their homes, but “we’re strongly urging people to leave for their own safety and the safety of others,” he said.
Based on forecasts, he expects stronger winds will kick in around 9 p.m., adding to the number of downed tree limbs already reported in the city.
There are 75 cots set up at the city’s emergency shelter at Jonathan Law High School, and more are on their way. As of early this afternoon, city officials estimated that about 50 people had sought refuge at the shelter. Some have brought their pets, as there is a separate area for dogs and cats.
As the winds pick up and that super high tide nears, the mayor and city department heads expect to see the number of people at the health department-run shelter triple.
So far, the city has seen flooding in low-lying areas. Assistant Fire Chief Robert Healey said there were several calls earlier today from people wanting help evacuating their homes due to water. The mall has been evacuated and some streets closed, the mayor said.
Deputy Police Chief Tracy Mooney urged people not to drive around barricades, for their own safety. The entire police department has been mobilized for the storm, she added, explaining that the hours have been broken down into two 12-hour shifts.
Public Works, the Health Department and other city employees are working, too, the mayor said.
Schools were closed today and tomorrow, and the mayor said school officials will announce if they will extend that, possibly even closing schools for the rest of the week.