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Eastern US braces for dangerous superstorm

 President Barack Obama, left, listens as Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate speaks to the media at FEMA Headquarters in W...
 Map shows predicted rain across the northeast
 Utilities and state road workers monitor the situation on Virginia Dare Trail as rain and wind from Hurricane Sandy engulf the beachfront road in Kil...
 This NOAA satellite image taken Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 shows Hurricane Sandy off the Mid Atlantic coastline moving toward the north with maximum susta...
 Jessie Rivera, 10, of New York, a young customer of the Lola Star Gift Shop on the Coney Island boardwalk, brings pink sandbags to the door of the sh...
 Molly White, 9, from Frankford, Del., covers her head as she is pelted by blowing sand on the beach, as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast,...

Obama Superstorm

President Barack Obama, left, listens as Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate speaks to the media at FEMA Headquarters in W...

SUPERSTORM

Map shows predicted rain across the northeast

Superstorm

Utilities and state road workers monitor the situation on Virginia Dare Trail as rain and wind from Hurricane Sandy engulf the beachfront road in Kil...

Superstorm

This NOAA satellite image taken Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 shows Hurricane Sandy off the Mid Atlantic coastline moving toward the north with maximum susta...

Superstorm ,

Jessie Rivera, 10, of New York, a young customer of the Lola Star Gift Shop on the Coney Island boardwalk, brings pink sandbags to the door of the sh...

Superstorm

Molly White, 9, from Frankford, Del., covers her head as she is pelted by blowing sand on the beach, as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast,...

Big cities from Washington to Boston braced Sunday for the onslaught of a superstorm that could menace some 50 million people in the most heavily populated corridor in the U.S., with forecasters warning New York could be in particular peril.
"The time for preparing and talking is about over," Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate warned as Hurricane Sandy made its way up the Atlantic on a collision course with two other weather systems that could turn it into one of the most fearsome storms on record in the U.S. "People need to be acting now."
Forecasters warned that the megastorm could wreak havoc over 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. States of emergency were declared from North Carolina to Connecticut.
Airlines canceled more than 5,000 flights and Amtrak began suspending passenger train service across the Northeast. New York and Philadelphia moved to shut down their subways, buses and trains Sunday night and announced that schools would be closed on Monday. Boston, Washington and Baltimore also called off school.
President Barack Obama met with federal emergency officials for an update on the storm's path and the danger it poses. Obama said that Sandy is a "serious and big storm" that will be slow-moving and might take time to clear up. The government would "respond big and respond fast" after it hits, he said.
As rain from the leading edges of the hurricane began to fall over the Northeast, tens of thousands of people in coastal areas from Maryland to Connecticut were under orders to clear out Sunday. That included 50,000 in Delaware alone and 30,000 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the city's 12 casinos were forced by Gov. Chris Christie to shut down for only the fourth time in the 34-year history of legalized gambling there.
Sandy, a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) as of Sunday afternoon, was blamed for 65 deaths in the Caribbean before it began churning up the Eastern Seaboard. It was expected to hook left toward the mid-Atlantic coast and come ashore late Monday or early Tuesday, most likely in New Jersey, colliding with a wintry storm moving in from the west and cold air streaming down from the Arctic.
Forecasters said the monster combination could bring close to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain, a potentially lethal storm surge and punishing winds extending hundreds of miles (kilometers) outward from the storm's center. It could also dump up to 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow in Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia.
Sandy was at Category 1 strength, packing 75 mph (120 kph) winds, about 270 miles (435 kilometers) southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and moving northeast at 15 mph (24 kph) as of 5 p.m. (2200 GMT) Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was about 530 miles (850 kilometers) south of New York City. But the storm was so big that forecasters could not say with any certainty which areas would get the worst of it.
Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press that given Sandy's east-to-west track into New Jersey, the worst of the storm surge could be just to the north, in New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey. By some estimates, the metropolitan area could get slammed with an 11-foot (3.3-meter) wall of water.
"Yes, this is the worst-case scenario," Uccellini said.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned people in low-lying areas of lower Manhattan and Queens to get out.
"If you don't evacuate, you are not only endangering your life, you are also endangering the lives of the first responders who are going in to rescue you," he said. "This is a serious and dangerous storm."
New York called off school Monday for the city's 1.1 million students and announced it would suspend all train, bus and subway service Sunday night because of the risk of flooding, shutting down a system on which more than 5 million riders a day depend.
The New York Stock Exchange will close its trading floor Monday, but Big Board trading will continue electronically. NYSE Euronext said Sunday it is putting in place its contingency plans and will announce later when the trading floor will reopen. Even if the storm knocks out power for lower Manhattan, the NYSE can switch to its backup power generators for electricity. The servers that handle the exchange's transactions are housed in Mahwah, New Jersey.
The danger was hardly limited to coastal areas, with forecasters worried about inland flooding. They also warned that the rain could saturate the ground, causing trees to topple onto power lines and cause blackouts that could last for several days.
The storm forced President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to rearrange their campaign schedules in the crucial closing days of the presidential race. And early voting on Monday in Maryland was canceled.
"In times like this, one of the things that Americans do is we pull together and we help out one another," the president said in Washington. "And so, there may be elderly populations in your area. Check on your neighbor, check on your friend. Make sure that they are prepared. If we do, then we're going to get through this storm just fine."
Shelters across the region began taking in people.
In the 40 years she has lived in her working-class neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware, Bobbie Foote had never run. But the 58-year-old fitness coach decided to heed an evacuation order and head to her daughter's home.
"My daughter insists that I leave this time," Foote said as she prepared to leave her apartment building near the Delaware River. "She said I should never put myself in that predicament where I cannot get in or out of where I live."
At least twice as many train passengers as usual crowded the Amtrak waiting area Sunday morning at New York's Penn Station. Many were trying to leave New York earlier than planned.
The noon and 1 p.m. trains to Boston were sold out. Randall Ross, a bookseller from Shreveport, Louisiana, and his traveling companion, Mary McCombs, were waiting for an Amtrak train to Syracuse, the destination they chose after attempts to book flights through eight other cities failed.
"I just want to be somewhere else except New York City," said McCombs, who will stay with friends in Syracuse until she and Ross can get a flight. "I don't want to risk it."
Despite the dire warnings, some souls were refusing to budge.
Jonas Clark of Manchester Township, New Jersey_ right in the area where Sandy was projected to come ashore _ stood outside a convenience store Sunday, calmly sipping a coffee and wondering why people were working themselves "into a tizzy."
"I've seen a lot of major storms in my time, and there's nothing you can do but take reasonable precautions and ride out things the best you can," said Clark, 73. "Nature's going to what it's going to do. It's great that there's so much information out there about what you can do to protect yourself and your home, but it all boils down basically to `use your common sense.'"
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Breed reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Contributing to this report were AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington; Emery Dalesio in Nags Head, North Carolina; Wayne Parry in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey; and Dave Dishneau in Wilmington, Delaware.
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Updated : 2021-03-01 18:21 GMT+08:00