- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy left more than 7 million people on the East Coast without power and forced the closure of schools, government offices and transportation systems.

But it won’t stop Halloween.

Around the Washington area on Tuesday, young ghouls and goblins, watchful parents and public safety agencies prepared for Halloween festivities taking place just two days after the storm ripped through neighborhoods, felling trees and flooding streets.

“No one has the power to cancel Halloween,” said Alexandria spokesman Tony Castrilli, “but we will definitely be putting out safety messages, reminding people there’s trees down, possibly wires down, and certainly leaves.”

Concerns about area Halloween festivities began after Charles County, Md., officials pre-emptively recommended Monday that Halloween-related celebrations — including trick-or-treating — be put off as officials cleaned what most expected to be a sizable mess from the superstorm fueled by the remnants of Hurricane Sandy.

But by Tuesday morning, with a consensus that the area had dodged a big blow from the storm, county officials reconsidered their decision and restored Halloween.

Barry Stanton, Prince George’s County deputy chief administrative officer for public safety, also said there is no stopping Halloween. He said the county doesn’t “play a role in those decisions. Essentially we just increase police patrol in the community.”

The issue also came up in New York City and New Jersey, which suffered far more damage from the storm.

New York officials canceled that city’s Halloween parade for the first time in its 39-year history.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tweeted on Monday that “If conditions are not safe on Wednesday for Trick or Treating, I will sign an Executive Order rescheduling #Halloween.”

No such order had been issued as of Tuesday, but the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported that officials in at least eight cities and towns in New Jersey’s Gloucester County had postponed trick-or-treating to Nov. 3.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said the city is ready to handle residents who hit the streets on Halloween. But he encouraged parents to be cautious.

“We hope that as people go out and participate in the trick-or-treat process, that they still be mindful that there are lingering storm conditions,” he said.

That response echoed other area officials.

Montgomery County police sent out Halloween safety tips late last week in anticipation of the storm and the probable damage left in its wake.

The “Frankenstorm,” the statement advised, “could cause a heavy coating of leaves and fallen tree branches on streets, sidewalks and front yards, which means trick-or-treaters should be extra careful on Wednesday.”

Marco Santiago, community outreach coordinator for D.C.’s 3rd District police station, said its Halloween party remained scheduled for Wednesday night.

Along with the standard warnings to wear reflective clothing, have an adult with children at all times, and not to eat opened candy, Mr. Santiago also recommended “in light of the storm, avoid crossing where lights are out.”

“If you see a down power line,” Mr. Santiago stated in an email, “do not go near it and report it to an adult or call 911.”

The 4th District station also sent out fliers Tuesday stating that because the “monster” storm had passed, it was time to celebrate at the Safe Haven Halloween event on Wednesday.

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