Business owners in downtown Milford were boarding windows, securing doors and raising equipment Saturday in preparation for the tidal flooding that's expected from Hurricane Sandy.
"We usually get hit pretty hard be these storms," said Carmen Kemper, the owner of the Milford Skating Center on Park Avenue, which is just a block away from the banks of the Mispillion River. "The last time I had flooding was during Hurricane Irene, so right now, I'm just trying to make sure all my doors are secure and everything is protected. Other than that, all we can do is sit tight and wait."
The hurricane is expected to combine with a second storm when it hits the Mid Atlantic, bringing more than a foot of rain and 75 mph winds to the area between Sunday and Wednesday.
The heavy rain fall combined with major coastal surges and higher-than-usual tides resulting from Sunday's full moon, means Delaware towns along tidal waterways, like Milford, could experience severe flooding.
To help protect the town's downtown commercial district, city workers handed out hundreds of free sandbags at Milford's public works facility on Vickers Drive from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
About two dozen business owners showed up to collect the pre-filled sandbags, including Nelson Gray of Gray Electronics at 215 N. Rehoboth Blvd.
"My biggest concern is the water coming in from under my commercial door," Gray said while waiting his turn in line. "We've had flooding before, so I just want to be prepared. We're boarding up our windows and then we'll take it on an as-you-go basis from there."
Scott Angelucci said he spent most of the morning getting everything off the floor at Angelucci Studios and Artists' Gallery at 7 Park Ave.
"I locked stuff up and checked all our flood grates to be sure they were clear," he said. "We've been through this before. We've never actually had water come in the studio but I have seen the parking lot get so flooded that the water comes up to the second step. Right now, I figure it's better to be safe than sorry."
Mark Dissinger, director of the Second Street Players, said he was taking every precaution to protect the Riverfront Theatre at 2 S. Walnut St.
"We're right there on the water, so we want to protect our investment," he said. "We're planning to put these sandbags right at our front door, which is our biggest concern.
David Shockely, the pastor of Jesus Love Temple at 106 S. Walnut St., said he was picking up sandbags to add one more precaution against flooding.
"We have people over at the church right now doing a walk through, checking drains and making sure we're ready," he said. "We've had to intervene to keep everything dry before, and with poor drainage and the chance of flooding, we just want to be sure we're protected."
While town workers have handed out empty sandbags to residents and business owners in the past, City Manager Richard Carmean said the anticipated severity of the coming storm prompted city officials to take an extra step this time around.
"We had crews here yesterday preparing about 30 tons worth of sandbags," he said. "Unfortunately, we don't have the manpower to deliver and install the sandbags all over town, but we decided we could at least make them available for pick up on a first come, first serve basis."
Although the sandbags were only made available to businesses and civic organizations located in the downtown area on Saturday, Carmean said any leftover bags could be distributed to area neighborhoods near known flood zones.
"The reasons we decided to make them available to the businesses was because if those businesses aren't open after this thing hits, there won't be anywhere to the residents to go to buy food and necessitates," he said. "I also don't think most of our subdivisions are going to see flooding like what we might get in the downtown area near the river."