PHOTOS: Philly feels the effects as Hurricane Sandy nears landfall (UPDATED)

The effects of Hurricane Sandy are already being felt in Philadelphia, with steady rain, high winds and street closures hitting the region.

UPDATE: 5 p.m. Sandy has sped up and is now expected to make landfall near Atlantic City soon, according to the National Weather Service.

Locally, conditions have intensified. High winds continue, with gusts now projected to reach up to 75 mph. Wind gusts between 50 and 60 mph could still come early Tuesday morning, but the most damaging winds are predicted to hit by 6:30 p.m. tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

A coastal flood warning is in effect until 4 a.m., with moderate coastal flooding forecast for high tide along the Delaware River and its tributaries, which in Philadelphia occurs at 2:22 a.m. The NWS is also forecasting four to 10 inches of rain by midnight, with the highest amount falling in the Philadelphia metropolitan area and areas south. Heavy rain near the time of high tide is expected to worsen tidal flooding, “numerous” roadways are expected to flood and a minor to moderate risk of property damage is projected.

A flood warning is in effect until 7:30 p.m. An NWS update issued at 2 p.m. reported that area creeks and streams continue to rise and additional heavy rain is expected to push creeks and streams over their banks this evening. A flood watch will continue through tomorrow afternoon.

Traffic on Lincoln Drive is now closed in both directions due to flooding. Closures due to downed utility poles or trees include the 3200 block of Richmond Street in Port Richmond, the 7600 block of McCallum Street in Chestnut Hill, the 2100 block of Benson Street and the 1800 block of Evarts Street in Rhawnhurst, the 600 block of Princeton Avenue in Burlholme, the northbound lane of the Roosevelt Boulevard at Grant Avenue and the intersections of 17th and Shunk streets in South Philadelphia, Henry Avenue and East Hermit Lane in Wissahickon and Neil Road and Jamison Avenue in Bustleton.

The American Red Cross is reporting that the number of people staying in its West Philadelphia High School has ballooned from 63 people this afternoon to 143 people currently. The number of people staying at the Roxborough High School shelter has risen from 18 people to 21 people, though the number of people at Samuel Fels High School in Crescentville has remained the same, at 12.

PECO is reporting 20,000 customers without power in the five-county area, with 1,000 outages in Philadelphia, 2,000 people in Chester County, 2,000 in Delaware County, 5,000 in Montgomery County and 10,000 outages in Bucks County.

Here are some photos shot around the city this afternoon, including a sandbagged Apple store in Center City and flooding in Manayunk and along Boathouse Row.

UPDATE: 3 p.m. The wind damage seems to be ramping up, with downed wires on 21st and Lippencott streets in North Philadelphia and the 2400 block of South 8th Street near Ritner Street in South Philadelphia, the 9200 block of Woodenbridge Road in Northeast Philadelphia, the 700 block of Kenilworth Avenue in Olney and the intersection of 19th Street and Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia. Drivers and pedestrians are asked to proceed with caution.

Downed trees continue to be a problem due to the wind and the rain-softened ground. A fallen tree is blocking north and southbound traffic at the intersection of East Haines and Sprague streets in East Germantown and a tree on Lincoln Drive a quarter-mile before Rittenhouse Street in West Mount Airy has blocked all northbound traffic, according to police. Downed trees have also closed the 7800 block of Buist Avenue in the Eastwick Section of Southwest Philadelphia and are blocking the intersection of South Georges Hill Drive and Belmont Avenue in West Philadelphia.

Flooding appears to be a growing issue, as the rain continues at a steady pace. The 6000 block to the 6700 block of Cobbs Creek Parkway will close at 3:30 p.m. in the anticipation of flooding. Residents of that neighborhood were advised to evacuate by 2 p.m. yesterday.

11 a.m. According to police, the 1400 block of North 5th Street near West Master Street in North Philadelphia is closed due to a partial building collapse. The 900 block of New Market Street near Poplar Street and I-95 in Northern Liberties is closed due to a downed tree, as is the 2000 block of Appletree Street, a half block above Arch Street, the 1200 block of St. Vincent Street in Rhawnhurst, the 2600 block of South 9th St in South Philadelphia, Parkside and Monument avenues in Wynnefield Heights, the 6000 block of North 13th Street in Fern Rock and the 900 block of East Stafford Street in Germantown.

Traffic lights are out in all directions at Rhawnhurst Street and the Roosevelt Boulevard. Those who do not need to be on the roadways are advised to stay inside their homes.

Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, is currently under a high wind warning, which will be in effect until 9 a.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Winds are forecast to hit 40 to 55 mph by 2 p.m. today with gusts of 65 to 75 mph that last into early evening.

A flood warning is also in effect for Philadelphia County until 7:30
p.m. tonight, according to the National Weather Service. Some areas in
Southeastern Pennsylvania have already received one to two inches of
rainfall, and moderate to heavy rain is expected to continue throughout the
day and into tonight, with five to ten inches possible by the end of the
day on Tuesday.

The flood warning will likely be extended, the NWS said.
Areas most at risk are those along streams, creeks and rivers, whose
levels will rise due to rainwater runoff, low-lying areas and areas with
poor drainage, such as roadways, streets and underpasses, where ponding
is expected to occur.

The prolonged period of high wind combined with water-softened ground that continues to be hammered by rain is expected to increase the risk of structural damage, downed trees and widespread power outages today and tonight, which are expected to be of long duration, according to the NWS.

As far as the city’s shelters, The American Red Cross has reported that 63 people are staying at the West Philadelphia High School location at 4901 Chestnut Street, which has the capacity to house 429 people. Twelve people are staying at Samuel Fels High School at 5500 Langdon Street in Crescentville out of a total shelter capacity of 312 people. Eighteen people are staying at Roxborough High School at 6498 Ridge Avenue, which is able to fit 628 people.

For more information about emergency preparedness tips and closures, click here. In the meantime, here are some photos taken around the city this morning.