Preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best, Police Chief Gary MacNamara said Sunday afternoon that "catastrophic devastation is likely" to be wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, bearing down on the region with the prospect of flooding at the record levels of the 1938 hurricane, known as the "Long Island Express."
Officials by Sunday afternoon -- projecting a level-4 flooding threat peaking Monday night -- expanded the mandatory-evacuation area from the town's beach area north to the Old Post/Oldfield roads area, with voluntary evacuation from there farther north to the Post Road.
It's possible, they said, that flooding could even reach the Post Road commercial district of town.
The police and fire chiefs and first selectman held a press conference at Penfield Pavilion to answer questions not only from the press, but the public as well.
A shelter has been opened at Fairfield Ludlowe High School, which can accommodate about 400 to 500 people, and First Selectman Michael Tetreau said, if necessary, Fairfield Warde High School will be opened as a second shelter as well.
"If you flooded before, you will flood again," MacNamara said. "If you came close to flooding (in Tropical Storm Irene), you will flood this time."
Tetreau continued his appeal to residents living in areas near the beach, or near waterways like the Rooster and Mill rivers, which could also flood.
"Please leave," the first selectman said. "Don't wait until the last minute, it may be too late."
While evacuation is mandatory in designated areas, officials cannot make anyone leave their home. But, Tetreau said, that means if someone has been told to leave and do not, there is no guarantee that emergency personnel will be able to get to come to the rescue if flood waters later pose a threat.
Fire Chief Richard Felner said firefighters have distributed about 1,000 evacuation notices in the town's beach area, and will likely make another sweep through the neighborhoods, using a loudspeaker to urge residents to leave.
Flood waters are expected to rise to Irene levels by 11 a.m. Monday, and hit 1938 levels around midnight. "This is a three-day event," MacNamara said. "This is not a situation that should be taken lightly."
Carol Muller, a Hulls Highway resident, said her biggest concerns is a nearby stream. She said she spent the morning cleaning out the stream in hopes of preventing it from flooding the street, and headed down to Penfield to let town officials know her concerns.
Fred and Nancy Mis live on Penfield Road. "We've been an island in the past," Fred Mis said. He and his wife will be "dividing and conquering," he said. Fred Mis will maintain the generator at the house of power goes out, while Nancy will take the dogs and head to a friend's house.
"If it gets too hard, I'll leave," Fred Mis said. Nancy Mis said the hardest part is once people evacuate their homes, it's not certain when they will be allowed to return.