Emergency shelters were opened Monday in Bradford and Sullivan counties as the area braced for possible widespread power outages during Hurricane Sandy, officials said.

"Winds are going to be our biggest problem" with sustained winds of 30 to 50 m.p.h., and gusts up to 70 m.p.h., on the hills, Bradford County Public Safety Director Robert Barnes said at 5 p.m. Monday.

Heavy rain has started to soften the ground, making it more likely that trees will be toppled by the high winds, taking down power lines, Barnes said.

Emergency shelters for people to stay at have been opened at the Wysox Fire Hall (Red Cross) and at the Ridgebury Fire Hall (non Red Cross).

In Sullivan County, an emergency shelter has been opened at the Eagles Mere Community Hall, which is partially supported by the Red Cross.

As of late Monday afternoon, there was a power outage in existence in Canton as well as a few people without power elsewhere in the county, Barnes said.

"There has been no other reported damage yet," he said.

The highest winds in Bradford County were expected to occur between 9 p.m. Monday and 3 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

There is less rainfall expected during the storm than was anticipated, with a total accumulation of 1 to 3 inches, he said.

Nevertheless, small streams could flood and ponding of water could occur in low-lying areas, such as a front or back yard, or a street where a grate has been clogged by leaves, he said.

Residents need to stay away from downed power lines, he said.

A high wind warning remains in effect until 5 p.m. today in northeastern Pennsylvania and central New York state, including Bradford County and Tioga County, N.Y., according to the National Weather Service.

Sustained winds of 30 to 40 m.p.h. were forecast for Monday night and continuing this morning, with frequent gusts of 50 to 60 m.p.h., especially on hilltops, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Occasional gusts of 60 to 70 m.p.h. are also possible, the NWS said.

The NWS said that winds would likely reach their peak intensities Monday night and this morning, and then gradually start to subside this afternoon.

Widespread and prolonged power outages were expected, due to substantial anticipated damage to trees and power lines, the NWS said.

"Property damage will be common," according to the NSW forecast. "Many roads are also likely to be blocked, closed, or at least littered with debris."

"You should be prepared to be without power for several days," the NWS said. "Make sure you have adequate supplies of food and medicine."

A flood watch also remains in effect through this evening in parts of upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania, including Bradford County.

"Rain could be heavy at times in central New York and northeastern Pennsylvania, but major flooding is not expected at this time," the NWS said.

Rain was expected to be heavy at times, starting Monday evening, and then diminish to lighter amounts today, the NWS said.

Rainfall totals of 2 to 3.5 inches are expected across the region, with the possibility that small streams would flood, the NWS said.

"In towns and villages, street flooding may especially become an issue where leaves clog storm drains," the NWS said. No significant flooding of area rivers is expected, the NWS said.

Anyone who sustains damage to their property is asked to report it to the Bradford County Emergency Management Center at (570) 265-5022.

If the county sustains enough damage, there could be reimbursements made to homeowners, as there were in the floods of last year, Barnes said.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.