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DePhillips on Hurricane Sandy's Impact: Strong Winds Likely to KO Electricity

Following a conference call with Gov. Chris Christie, Wyckoff Mayor Chris DePhillips expects 35 to 50 mph winds will shear branches and cause power outages, but the township is prepared for the worst case scenario.

Hurricane Sandy is likely to bring down trees and branches, knocking out power around Wyckoff, but the township is more prepared than it was before severe storms last year, Mayor Chris DePhillips said late Sunday night following a conference call with Gov. Chris Christie and his cabinet. 

The hurricane is expected to make landfall late Monday evening, DePhillips and other local mayors were told during the state briefing Sunday evening. 

"Atlantic City is expected to be the bull's eye [for the storm to make landfall] around midnight [Monday] night," the mayor said.

Throughout Monday, however, sustained winds of 35 to 50 mph will be felt around the entire state, including the north, DePhillips was told, but once the storm comes inland the winds are expect to subside — possibly by late Tuesday.

With such strong winds raking the township, the mayor said, power outages are very likely.

"I'm expecting my own house will be out and there are going to be outages all around," DePhillips said. "Wyckoff is very wooded and so when you have gusts over 40 mph you're going to have branches coming down." 

Sustained winds over 40 mph only make the problem worse, he added.

"The only thing helping us is we're probably going to have a lower rain total," lessening the weight burden on compromised branches, DePhillips said.

Officials on the governor's conference call reported that rain North Jersey municipalities should expect between 2 and 4 inches of rain, while some of the hardest hit southerly regions would face upwards of 10 inches.

He recalled recent storms, in which inclement weather dumped massive amounts of rain on the township. 

"Wyckoff doesn't have a chronic flooding problem... if you're at the bottom of a hill you might have rapid water coming down the hill... but it's not as bad as some other areas near here," the mayor said, indicating areas such as Oakland.

The October 2011 storm was "really a disaster" he said, but "prep for this storm is really so much more deliberate."

"No one knew the extent of the snow that just started piling up [in 2011,]" DePhillips said, recalling his own Sicomac-area neighborhood and many of the roads there, which which was "impassable." 

The upside now, he said, is that the temperature is 20 degrees warmer and it's not expected to snow. 

"If the winds stay under 40 mph and the rain stays near two to three inches the damage will be limited," DePhillips said. "Just try to keep your storm drains and catch basins clear... that really does ease flooding." 

The township could also receive some financial relief from on-high, the mayor learned. 

"Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable announced that municipal overtime and other necessary municipal appropriations for emergency storm prep and clean-up will be considered outside the 2 percent cap," DePhillips said Friday night. 

Constable told the mayors that municipalities could suspend normal procurement rules and procedures if necessary to ensure safety during the storm. 

"Basically, if you need to buy things or purchase equipment you can... But, I don't know if we're going to buy any equipment," DePhillips said. "We're in good shape."

DePhillips said the township recently purchased a bucket truck that the DPW could use "to help residents who have unsafe trees on their property" should the need arise. 

Asked about local schools re-opening, the mayor said it was too early to forecast whether township children would return to classes on Wednesday.

The Wyckoff Office of Emergency Management, Franklin Lakes School District, and Ramapo-Indian Hills Regional High School District announced Sunday afternoon that all public schools would be closed Monday and Tuesday in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy.

DePhillips said he was in "constant contact" with Wyckoff Public Schools Superintendent Richard Kuder.

"It's going to depend on the damage and how long it takes to clear the roads," DePhillips said.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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