Predictions for the hybrid storm bearing down on the Northeast keep worsening and the tone of the coverage is growing ever more strident, so it's no wonder the phone at Ice Cream World has been ringing off the hook.
No one's looking to stock up on ice cream. The South Whitehall Township ice cream parlor across from Dorney Park has long been a supplier of dry ice for power outage emergencies.
A block of the frozen compressed gas can preserve the food in a powerless refrigerator for days. And with the storm dubbed "Frankenstorm" predicted to rampage from Sunday to Wednesday with powerful winds and flooding rain, power outages are a virtual certainty.
"For years people have known we're one of the centers for dry ice," owner Kim MacIver said Friday. "We've had people show up, but we're asking them to wait."
"If you get it now, it will evaporate before the power goes out," MacIver explained, adding that the store had ample supplies of dry ice and will be open even if the power is out.
Forecasters have doubled down on the superlatives in describing the approaching storm, which is expected to be an unprecedented collision of a tropical system — Hurricane Sandy, or whatever is left of it — with a pre-winter storm coming from the west.
Throw in a blast of frigid northern air and you have three meteorological fuses approaching the same powder keg. It's four if you count the full moon that will have tides at their highest and exacerbate coastal flooding and erosion.
The hurricane killed at least 41 people across the Caribbean and was moving north. Federal forecasters said it may jog to the west at Delaware and combine with the wintry storm. But New York and New Jersey are also in the target area.
According to Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sandy will drop at least 10 inches of rain wherever it makes landfall. Areas not directly in the storm's path will get 4 to 8 inches of rain or more. Up to 2 feet of snow could fall in West Virginia, with smaller accumulations in Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
The weather in the Lehigh Valley is expected to start worsening late Sunday, with tropical storm conditions Monday and Tuesday. That means sustained winds of nearly 40 mph with much higher gusts and flooding rain.
On Friday afternoon, Gov. Tom Corbett declared a disaster emergency, which authorizes state agencies to use all available resources and personnel as necessary to cope with an emergency situation.
Glenn M. Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, urged people to prepare for two possibilities: riding out the storm at home or evacuating.
"This is the time to make sure everyone has an emergency kit in their home and car, and an emergency plan for taking care of each other in the event this storm brings its full destructive potential to our state," Cannon said in a statement.
Robert Mateff, director of Northampton County Emergency Management Services, said the agency is working with local utilities, the American Red Cross, public transportation and Lehigh County on its preparations.
"We've gotten good at it with all the storms over the last few years," he said. "It's all a matter of how much rain are we going to get, how fast does it fall, and how long is it here."
Mateff said the county and utilities have increased their partnership for response considerably since the last storms. Part of their focus has been on setting priorities for restoring services.
"If you have a senior assisted living facility where I can keep 100 residents in place if I get power back to them, versus taking them to a shelter, we're so much better off," he said.
Allentown has already rescheduled its Halloween parade to the planned rain date of 2 p.m. Nov. 4. And trick-or-treat schedules in many communities are in doubt, given that the weather may be poor through Halloween.
Ben Galiardo, deputy emergency management coordinator in Lower Macungie, predicted the storm could be worse than last year's Hurricane Irene, which brought flooding, downed trees and power outages. The township's emergency management team will meet Sunday to discuss the latest forecast and whether to activate an emergency operations center.