WEATHER ALERT: Heavy rain, wind and seas expected ahead Sandy’s arrival

A coastal flood watch has been issued for Sussex County, including the beach areas, running through at least Monday afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, the evolution of Hurricane Sandy into a powerful storm currently predicted to cross the New Jersey coast Monday evening will mean at least two tide cycles of potentially moderate to major flooding.

Moderate to major coastal flooding is anticipated within two to three hours either side of the high tides Sunday evening and again Monday morning to midday. NWS officials said there will be long-duration tidal flooding and probable road closures and potential for damage where water encroaches on parking lots and buildings.

With extremely low pressure expected to fuel the strom, seas at the Delaware beaches are predicted to reach as high 15 to 20 feet to the north, while southern Delaware’s coast could see seas of 6 to 10 feet. The upper part of the Delaware Bay is predicted to see heights of 2 to 4 feet. Officials said the added over-wash will threaten considerable damage to beachfront properties.

Additionally, 4 to 8 inches of rainfall is projected to happen by noon on Monday, adding to local stream flow in tidal areas and increasing the chances of major flooding. Moderate or greater tidal flooding may last three to five hours during the high tide cycle.

NWS officials said minor coastal flooding is likely during the Sunday morning to midday high tide but they said that will be dwarfed by what follows Sunday night and Monday. A flood watch in effect from Sunday evening through late Monday night.

In addition, a high wind watch in effect from Sunday evening through late Monday night, with NWS predicting that Sandy will deliver damaging winds and flooding rains to parts of the area late Sunday through Monday evening and possibly Tuesday.

They said Sandy could generate northeast winds of 35 to 45 mph, with gusts up to 65 mph from the Interstate 95 corridor to the coasts. The strongest winds are expected Monday and along the coast of New Jersey and Delaware.

The combination of winds between 50 and 65 mph, rain-softened ground and many trees still fully leaved, NWS said, should result in widespread power outages Monday into Monday evening. Trees could be uprooted, with many broken tree limbs expected. Power outages may be of long duration, they said.

NWS officials emphasized that the 4 to 8 inches of windswept rain expected through Monday, with isolated heavier amounts in Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, will be in advance of Sandy.

Pockets of small stream flooding and considerable urban flooding was expected to develop Monday morning and then grow into larger mainstem river flooding late Monday or Monday night. If the storm moves faster than currently predicted, they noted, flooding potential would begin sooner. River flooding could last several days, they said.

NWS officials advised those in the area to monitor forecasts and be alert for possible flood warnings. Those living in areas prone to flooding should be prepared to take action should flooding develop, they said.