News Local/State

A Look at Superstorm Sandy’s Impact on Central Illinois


Superstorm Sandy is effecting several areas in Central Illinois, from transportation (gas prices & air travel), food expenses (the price of seafood), to the efforts of local agencies (relief crews from the Red Cross, and repair crews from Ameren).

Sandy has grounded thousands of flights in the U.S. 

Major carriers such as American Airlines, United and Delta cancelled all flights into and out of three area airports in New York. 

But at Bloomington’s Central Illinois Regional Airport, all flights are still on schedule.  Airport spokeswoman Fran Strebeing says all direct flights from the Bloomington airport don’t go to the east coast, but do connect to other flights that may be canceled.

“Sundays and Mondays are busy days for those particular travelers," she said.  "We don’t know what the numbers really are yet. I just in talking with our airline folks downstairs, they have told us the loads are definitely lighter today.”

Strebeing says commuters should check with their airlines before heading to the airport. 

Savoy’s Willard Airport says it hasn’t canceled any of its flights, which don’t directly connect with airports on the East Coast.

Sandy could have a big impact on gasoline production on the eastern seaboard. But an analyst with the gas-price-tracking website says he doesn’t think the Midwest will be affected.

Analyst Patrick DeHaan says some east coast oil refineries have already shut down in anticipation of the storm. But he expects the impact on both supply and demand to cancel each other out, meaning there probably won’t be much extra demand put on refineries in the Midwest. 

"While, yes, a few refineries have shut, we are going to be seeing a big drop in demand, as New York City essentially shuts down, and outlying areas shut down," he said.   "So there’s not going to be near the consumption that they normally see, which could actually allow existing refineries’ supply to begin increasing."

Meanwhile, DeHaan says Illinois’ statewide average price for Regular gasoline dropped to $3.48 cents Monday mornng, three cents below its price of a year ago. By Monday afternoon, the price had risen to $3.50. In Champaign-Urbana, the average price for Regular is $3.35 a gallon.

As the storm drenches much of the Mid-Atlantic and moves northwest, a challenge facing restaurants in the days and weeks ahead may be the price and availability of seafood. 

Jacob Sartin is the executive chef at Silvercreek Restaurant in Urbana.  He says he’s already noticed the effects of Hurricane Sandy on seafood prices.

“I’ve had it a couple of times already jump way up," he said.  "I know lobsters gone up like $7 a pound this week. Sword fish went up, but I would expect definitely a spike just to cover the bases cause everything’s going to be tight.”

Meanwhile, at Champaign sushi restaurant, Ko Fusion, Head Chef Nigel Morgan says he isn’t expecting a dramatic drop in seafood since he gets the bulk of his supply from the Pacific Northwest. But he also expects prices to go up.

“For my Saturday delivery, everything was as normal in terms of pricing but we’ll see what happens with companies out of Hawaii versus companies that deal more locally through sourcing through markets out on the Pacific," he said.  "I mean, I don’t know just yet.”

About two dozen Red Cross volunteers from Central Illinois are planning to help provide food and shelter on the East Coast in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  

Carl Baker is the Executive Director of the Mid Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross, based in Decatur.  He says they’re helping residents in Baltimore, and parts of New Jersey.

"With our emergency response vehicles, there will be mobile feedings," he said.  "Once the storms hit and all that, they can use our response vehicles to drive out in the areas that are hit while people are trying to clean up.  We’ve got a lot of shelter operations, people going out there, so they know how to set up shelters when people do come in.”

Two of the volunteers are from Champaign, and the rest of the initial 12 are from Decatur, Springfield, and Peoria.  Baker says Sunday night, more than 3,000 people were using the shelters.

Utility company Ameren is committing about 300 people to the East Coast to help restore power after Sandy makes landfall.

Spokesman Leigh Morris says company personnel from Illinois and Missouri are doing ‘prep work’ in Somerset, New Jersey.  About half the group is headed to the area Monday, including linemen and support personnel.  Employees with New Jersey-based utility company Public Service Electric and Gas met with Ameren personnel to discuss safety.

Morris says the group from Illinois and Missouri are seasoned veterans, many having worked the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As for the remnants of the storm itself, Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications told residents Monday afternoon that they should "stay away from the lakefront for the next two days.'' The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for Chicago  from 1 a.m. Tuesday until 4 p.m. Wednesday. Winds are forecast between 50 mph and 60 mph. Waves are forecast to reach between 20 and 25 feet high.

Sandy is forecast to send winds gusting as high as 50 mph across parts of Indiana on Tuesday while the state sends utility crews and emergency responders to other states to help deal with its fury.

The National Weather Service in Indiana said Monday the gusty winds will be the storm's largest direct impact on Indiana.  The state's Department of Homeland Security says it sent more than 100 people and 24 ambulances to other states.

Indiana Michigan Power Co. and Indianapolis Power and Light Co. have sent 160 utility crew employees to help restore power from outages resulting from the storm.

<em>(With additional reporting from the Associated Press)</em>

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