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Sunday, 28 October 2012

East Coast Braces for Worst

Authorities warned millions of Americans from North Carolina to New England to prepare for gale-force winds, life-threatening floods and even snow as Hurricane Sandy churned up the Atlantic coast Sunday, threatening to make landfall somewhere between Virginia and Connecticut by late Monday or early Tuesday.
"The weather is already going downhill in mid-Atlantic states," as tropical-storm conditions lashed North Carolina on Sunday morning, Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, said in a conference call.

In preparation for Hurricane Sandy's arrival, Gov. Cuomo ordered the MTA to suspend service beginning 7 p.m. Sunday. Metro North and Long Island Rail Road service will also stop at that time. Service is expected to be suspended until Tuesday.
State and city officials up and down the East Coast kicked into action Sunday, ordering schools and transit systems to close and low-lying and coastal areas to evacuate as they watched the giant storm crawl up the coastline, pummeling parts of North Carolina and Virginia. The nation's largest transit system by ridership, in New York City, was scheduled to shut down Sunday starting at 7 p.m. The New York Stock Exchange said its trading floor would be closed starting Monday, the first weather-related shutdown in 27 years.
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Earth movers build protective berms as the first signs of Hurricane Sandy approach on Sunday in Westport, Conn.
Amtrak announced via Twitter on Sunday afternoon that it was canceling all Northeast Corridor and Keystone Service route trains on Monday, as well as other inland routes along the East Coast.
The National Weather Service said Sandy, whose hurricane-force winds extend 175 miles out from its center, could bring extensive flooding, power outages for millions of residents and other extreme weather conditions to multiple states from North Carolina to New Hampshire. Temperatures could drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit in the coming days across the eastern U.S., thanks to expected interaction with cold-weather systems, bringing further misery to those without power.
Sandy was about 270 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and 575 miles south of New York City at 2 p.m. EDT Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. The Category 1 hurricane, with winds up to 75 miles per hour, was moving toward the northeast at 14 miles an hour, before it was expected to turn to the northwest late Sunday or early Monday.
Mr. Knabb said Sandy would most likely make landfall late Monday night or early Tuesday morning somewhere between the Delmarva Peninsula of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and New York's Long Island.


The National Weather Service warned Sandy could bring coastal storm surges of four to six feet in southeast Virginia, one to three feet in Long Island Sound and Raritan Bay, including New York harbor, and six to 11 feet elsewhere from Ocean City, Md., to the border of Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Inland areas were also on alert, as flooding from rivers in Pennsylvania and other states pose a serious threat. Sandy could bring early snow to West Virginia, as well as Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered a shutdown of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, including New York City's subway system, commuter trains and buses, affecting a ridership that totals 8.5 million on an average weekday. Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuations of 375,000 people from parts of New York City and ordered city schools to close Monday.

Photos: Preparing for Sandy

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In Virginia Beach, VA, restaurant owner Denice Shafiee is shuttering her restaurant as Hurricane Sandy bears down. WSJ's Cameron McWhirter reports via #WorldStream.
"I know that we get accustomed to hearing weather forecasts and sometimes we're dubious about the weather forecasts, but this is nothing to play with, and this is nothing to take lightly, so take this seriously," Mr. Cuomo said. "In a situation like this, you prepare for the worst and hope for the best."
Howard Glaser, Mr. Cuomo's director of state operations, said storm surges were projected to be five to 11 feet, "which would be record levels," beginning midday Monday and running through Tuesday. He also said winds are projected to reach a sustained 35 to 50 miles per hour during that period.
Trading in securities listed on the New York Stock Exchange will be moved to an electronic trading platform, the exchange said Sunday. CME Group, CME +0.76% the world's largest futures-exchange operator by volume, also said its New York commodity trading floor would be closed Monday because it is in an area subject to a mandatory evacuation.
New Jersey Transit planned to shut down its transportation service starting at 4 p.m Sunday. Philadelphia opened three high schools Sunday to serve as shelters during Sandy for people living in flood-prone areas. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley warned residents not to underestimate the potential danger from, predicting days of power outages and announcing a disruption in the state's early voting program. Officials expect some flooding along the Chesapeake Bay and waves in Ocean City could reach levels not seen since Hurricane Gloria, the 1985 storm that resulted in multiple fatalities, he said.
"This is a serious, killer storm. It will likely take more lives as it hits the mid-Atlantic," Mr. O'Malley said.
Baltimore officials set up shelters and handed out sandbags to residents who live near the water. "We are treating it like it's going to be a catastrophic event," said Connor Scott, the city's director of emergency preparedness.
Tourists in Atlantic City, N.J., placed their last few bets Sunday morning before gambling was shut down and casinos evacuated. Gov. Chris Christie had ordered the casinos to cease gambling by 3 p.m. Sunday and evacuate by 4 p.m., but several casinos closed tables earlier than that.
Downtown Atlantic City was soaked by the afternoon. Retail stores had taped or boarded up their windows and placed sandbags against their doors. Some hospital and casino workers said they were staying in the hotels through the storm.
Dominion Power, which provides electricity in both Virginia and North Carolina, reported Sunday afternoon that 2,524 customers and businesses were without power.
In Norfolk, Va., homes and streets along the shore and inlets were flooding by 11 a.m. as people made their way to stores to stock up on supplies amid increasingly heavy rains and winds.
Norfolk Naval Base moved ships offshore away from the storm, and the commander of the Navy's mid-Atlantic region, Rear Admiral Tim Alexander, ordered staff at bases in the area to batten down. Commercial port operations in the area were closed.
In Virginia Beach, Denice Shafiee, who owns the restaurant Alexander's on the Bay with her husband, spent Sunday anxiously securing the kitchen and other parts of the restaurant while her husband and workers drilled in large pieces of plywood over the windows which look out on where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Chesapeake Bay. Gray roiling waves surged and pounded the beach, and hard rain pelted the windows.
The couple first bought the restaurant on Ocean View Avenue in 2007, but they were almost wiped out in 2009 when a storm destroyed the restaurant and its parking lot, causing about $800,000 in damages. If the power goes out, she said, the couple would guard their store against looters and risk being hurt in the storm. "I'm more afraid to not be here and not defend it, because then I'm at home worrying," she said.
The storm flooded some roadways in North Carolina, according to Jamie Kritzer, a spokesman for the state's emergency operations center, including reports of water surging over parts of Highway 12, the main artery for the Outer Banks. Gov. Bev Perdue declared North Carolina's eastern counties to be in a state of emergency, and the state opened two shelters.
In Washington, D.C., the Marine Corps Marathon went on as planned in the morning under gray gusty skies, while residents heeded warnings such as one from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to stock up on enough food and water for a three-day power outage. Some area grocery stores ran out of staples like bottled water and canned goods.

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