Posted on 29 Oct 2012 by Neilson
Hurricane Sandy strengthened early Monday, packing 90-mile-an-hour winds as it churned up the Atlantic coast and was expected to make landfall late Monday, unleashing life-threatening storm surges along the Eastern Seaboard.
Sandy triggered evacuation orders for hundreds of thousands of residents, the cancellation of nearly 9,000 airline flights, the mass closure of schools and public-transit systems and the closure of U.S. stock and options markets.
The latest storm projection map by the National Weather Service indicated the Category 1 hurricane would make landfall between Delaware and New Jersey, but forecasters warned the large, slow-moving storm will deliver gale-force winds, rain, flooding and even snow across a much broader swath stretching from North Carolina to New England.
Sandy was located about 205 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J., and about 260 miles south-southeast of New York City Monday morning, moving north-northwest at about 18 miles an hour, according to the weather service. The storm is expected to turn toward the northwest soon.
Tropical storm conditions were already occurring Monday over parts of the mid-Atlantic states from North Carolina to Long Island in New York state, with hurricane-force winds expected to arrive in areas including New York City later in the day. Forecasters warned winds on the upper floors of high-rise buildings will be significantly stronger than at ground level. Hurricane-force winds are expected along portions of the coast from Chincoteague, Va., and Chatham, Mass.
Some mid-Atlantic states are expected to see as much as 12 inches of rain, while mountainous areas of West Virginia could get as much as three feet of snow.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the state will close the Holland Tunnel and the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel between Brooklyn and the Battery in Manhattan at 2 p.m., due to the risk of flooding. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said it planned to suspend all service by 2 p.m.
Earlier Monday, the Coast Guard rescued 14 members of a crew forced to abandon the tall ship HMS Bounty caught in the storm off the North Carolina Outer Banks. A search was still going on for two other crew members. The ship was used in the films "Mutiny on the Bounty" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."
U.S. stock and options markets were closed Monday, the first unscheduled, market-wide shutdown since September 2001. Markets may remain closed Tuesday, exchange officials and traders said. An earlier plan to only close floor trading was deemed too complicated, people with knowledge of the matter said. Other investors said half-empty trading desks and thin trading volume could have made the market susceptible to swings.
The National Weather Service said two cold fronts, one west of Hurricane Sandy and another north, were drawing the warm-air hurricane toward the populous coast and expected to fortify Sandy's reach and intensity.
The unusual weather confluence will turn Sandy into a post-tropical cyclone, or nor'easter, unleashing record low-pressure readings and wind gusts to 70 miles an hour as far inland as western Pennsylvania and western New York, the weather service said. Under normal conditions, similar tropical storms would be expected to drift east and dissipate over the Atlantic.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie warned residents along the coast: "Don't be stupid. Get out and go to higher, safer ground."
The National Weather Service said Sandy's hurricane-force winds could bring power outages for millions of residents. On Monday, thousands were without power in New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island, according the Associated Press. Dominion Power, which provides electricity in both Virginia and North Carolina, reported Sunday that 2,524 homes and businesses were without power.
New York officials closed down public transit Sunday evening, a bus- and rail-system that normally ferries about 8.5 million passengers a day during the workweek. New York city schools, which serve more than a million students, also were ordered shut until the storm cleared. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told an estimated 375,000 residents to leave flood-prone neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Amtrak canceled all Northeast Corridor and Keystone Service route trains on Monday, as well as other inland routes along the East Coast. New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington also shut down local transit systems.
The storm interrupted the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, with the election a little more than a week away. Mr. Romney canceled campaign stops in Virginia and New Hampshire. Mr. Obama canceled his campaign event Monday in Florida with former President Bill Clinton. The campaign also canceled events Monday in Ohio and Virginia, as well as Tuesday trips to Colorado and Wisconsin.
Mr. Obama will remain in Washington to "closely monitor the impact of and response to Hurricane Sandy," the White House said in a statement.
Federal government offices in the Washington area were closed Monday to the public, the Office of Personnel Management said Sunday. The forecast in the region called for 35- to 40-mile per hour winds Monday, along with five to 10 inches of rain.
Hurricane Sandy has already begun disrupting business. Google Inc. canceled a major event in Manhattan at which it was expected to promote a new mobile phone and a rumored redesign of its Nexus tablet. Citibank closed branches in flood-prone parts of New York City, waiving fees for its customers who use the ATMs of competing banks.
Temperatures could drop below 30 degrees in coming days across the eastern U.S., bringing further misery to those without power. West Virginia, Kentucky and other states could get up to three feet of snow in mountain areas.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy urged residents along the state's coastline to heed evacuation warnings. "It appears as the worst case scenario for Connecticut is the most likely one to play itself out in the coming days," he said. "We are talking about extensive flooding, maybe the worst that we've seen in 70 years."
The weather service warned of potential flooding in coastal areas as rising waters from the Atlantic Ocean are pushed toward shore. It said storm surges could reach 6 to 11 feet in Long Island Sound, Raritan Bay and New York harbor. Such surges in the New York area "would be record levels," said Howard Glaser, director of state operations for Gov. Cuomo.
"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."
Elsewhere, surges could reach eight feet in along parts of the coast from Ocean City, Maryland to the border of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and 6 feet in parts of North Carolina and on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
As the forecasts for Sandy grew over the weekend, residents in North Carolina to Maine boarded up houses, tied up boats and belongings, and stocked up on food and batteries. In Norfolk, Va., some drivers showed up at gas stations before dawn Sunday to fill their tanks.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley predicted several days of power outages and said that early voting planned for Monday would be rescheduled. Baltimore city officials set up shelters and gave away sandbags to residents who live near the water.
"There will be people who die and are killed in this storm," Mr. O'Malley said Monday morning at a press briefing, urging residents to stay inside for at least the next 24-36 hours.
Tourists in Atlantic City, N.J., placed their last few bets Sunday morning before gambling was shut down and casinos evacuated. By Monday morning, widespread flooding was reported in Atlantic County, N.J.
Many of Atlantic City's 40,000 residents appeared to be following Mr. Christie's advice. Plywood covered the windows at Mel's Furniture Factory Direct Bedding on Atlantic Avenue, with the message "GO AWAY SANDY" in spray paint. Jamal English said he was picking up his grandchildren, who were staying at a hotel with their mother, and leaving town.
"A lot of people are staying," he said. "It's crazy, but they just don't know. I was born and raised here, so I know how this weather is, and it's going to get bad."