East Coast Pinoys urged to brace for 'Sandy'

By Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Oct 29 2012 09:37 AM | Updated as of Oct 30 2012 03:43 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Philippine Embassy has issued a rare advisory, urging close to half a million Filipinos living in the East Coast to take precautions ahead of a powerful storm that’s expected to bring strong winds and rains starting tonight.

Hurricane Sandy, which killed scores of people in the Caribbean, had been moving along a path off the Atlantic seaboard for the past days but veered west and was poised to hit land Sunday, drawn by a cold front sweeping from the north.

Because of that combination, forecasters are describing the hurricane as a “perfect storm”.

“We advise our kababayans staying along the path of Hurricane Sandy to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary travel until the storm has passed,” Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose L. Cuisia Jr.  said in a statement disseminated by the Philippine Embassy today.

The Embassy usually does not issue statements on weekends.

Cuisia said Filipinos in the affected areas should be ready for heavy rains, strong winds, power outages, floods, falling trees and flying debris when the hurricane hits land with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.

He added that the advisory aims to reach more than 460,000 Filipinos in at least 11 states that forecasters warned would be affected by what could be the biggest storm to hit the Mainland since the 1990s.

As part of their preparations, Cuisia advised Fil-Am communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maine and Connecticut to stock up on food and other emergency provisions and to monitor local media for regular updates.

Cuisia said the Embassy and the Philippine Consulate General in New York have also activated 24-hour help desks to assist Filipino tourists, businessmen, seamen and other temporary visitors travelling along the East Coast who may be affected by the hurricane.

Reports indicated that airlines had begun cancelling hundreds of flights by mid-Sunday and more are expected to be scrapped tomorrow when Sandy’s punch will be felt more severely. 

Cuisia said Filipinos who may require assistance may call the Duty Officer of the Embassy in Washington D.C at 202-368-2767 or the Consulate General in New York at 917-294-0196. 

He said teams from the Embassy and the Consulate General are on standby in case of emergency assistance.

Both Ambassador Cuisia and Consul General Mario de Leon have also urged Fil-Am community associations to keep in touch with their members for any developments or emergencies that may arise as a result of the hurricane the effects of which will be felt from late Sunday to Tuesday.

In the Metro DC area, the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) has opened communication lines and urged its members to check up on fellow Filipinos to determine if they need assistance.

DC, Maryland and Virginia have already cancelled classes for Monday. As of post-time, the federal government has not yet announced if it will be open tomorrow.

Stores sales experienced unusually heavy volume since Saturday, especially for emergency supplies, as residents tried to prepare for possible power outages, water supply disruptions, flooding and blocked roads from broken trees.  

Cuisia said the 88 officers and men of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16), the country’s second high-endurance cutter acquired from the US, have also been advised by the Office of the Defense and Armed Forces Attache to prepare. 

The vessel is currently undergoing refurbishment and refitting in Charleston, South Carolina, which is also in the path of the hurricane.

Cuisia said the Embassy and the Consulate General in New York will issue regular updates on Hurricane Sandy in their respective websites www.philippineembassy-usa.org and www.newyorkpcg.org and Facebook and Twitter accounts.