The City of Meriden's opened at 6 p.m. Saturday night at the Meriden Police Department.
As of 8 p.m., a handful of police and fire officials were at the center, monitoring Hurricane Irene's progress on its route to Connecticut, taking and making calls, and making sure computers and communication systems work properly.
"We're in the monitoring mode, getting ready to build up to when things happen," said Meriden Police Capt. Donald Parker, Co-Director of Meriden's Emergency Management team.
Parker said forecasters anticipate that heavy wind and rain will begin in Meriden after 10 p.m. Saturday night, and that it will pick up between 6 a.m. and noon Sunday, lasting several hours.
Parker and Co-Director David Bowen, Assistant Fire Chief will be in the center throughout the night, along with other emergency personnel. At 4 a.m. city department heads will meet in the room to be on premises before the storm gets into full swing.
The city has had no forced evacuations, Bowen said, but 632 residents in two flood-prone areas of Meriden – the Lincoln Middle School and the Cook Avenue and Summer Street area – all received phone calls this Saturday advising them that could voluntarily evacuate.
"Our general rule of advice to them is to be aware of the flooding situations, and be aware that should you decide to leave, you can go to Washington Middle School," Parker said.
About 100 phone call recipients confirmed that they had received the message, Bowen said, and one woman so far has chosen to voluntarily evacuate to Washington Middle School.
If residents of those areas do decide to stay in their homes and need evacuation, The Meriden Fire Department and South Meriden Fire Department each have boats, and the city has buses at their disposal.
As of 8 p.m., the hurricane was expected to land in Stamford or Bridgeport, Parker said, or somewhere in between, so experts believe Meriden will get more wind than rain.
"If you're east of the eye you get more wind, if you're west of the eye you get more rain," Parker said. "For Meriden, that's good, because there's a flood control issue here. However the amount of rain that we're projected to get is pretty significant and is going to cause some flooding, there's just no doubt about it."
"We do expect a lot of power outages, and we do expect a lot of trees down," Parker said.
Emergency Management Directors ask that if residents see a tree down and it's not an emergency situation, to call a Police or Fire non-emergency number (Police - 203-238-1911, Fire - 203-235-2537) and not tie up 911 lines for true emergencies.
There is no parking ban on Meriden streets at the moment, as in some other cities in the state, but that may change, Parker said, if Public Works needs to clear debris and trees from streets.
Video: Parker talks to Patch from the EOC about forecasts and the state of the city's storm preparation.