After whipping through the Caribbean, killing 65 people, massive Hurricane Sandy is threatening to strike a devastating blow to the Eastern seaboard, from North Carolina all the way up to New England.
As estimated 60 million people on the Atlantic coast could be affected by this hurricane, which is still rated as a category 1 storm but is expected to meet up with two powerful winter storms on the East Coast. Officials are warning residents in coastal areas to evacuate to avoid danger.
Because of the size of the storm, experts predict that it’s not as important how strong Sandy is when it makes landfall because of its reach—800 miles, from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. States from North Carolina up to New England have already declared states of emergency.
Sandy is expected to hit land on Tuesday morning in Delaware, with storm surges of 4 to 8 feet.
In the Caribbean, 65 people had been killed as of early this morning—with 51 of the deaths coming in still-fragile Haiti. There have also been reported deaths in Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.
From state to state, governors and local officials were moving to warn residents and put measures in place to protect their states, even bringing in National Guard troops in Virginia National for debris removal and road-clearing. In coastal towns, homeowners stacked sandbags at their front doors.
“You never want to be too naive, but ultimately, it’s not in our hands anyway,” said Andrew Ferencsik, 31, as he purchased plywood and 2-by-4 lumber from a Home Depot in Lewes, Del.
Officials told residents to prepare for several days without power, as they expected rains to saturate the ground, causing trees to topple into power lines.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, criticized for not interrupting a vacation in Florida while a snowstorm pummeled the state in 2010, broke off campaigning for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in North Carolina on Friday to return home.
“I can be as cynical as anyone,” said Christie, who declared a state of emergency Saturday. “But when the storm comes, if it’s as bad as they’re predicting, you’re going to wish you weren’t as cynical as you otherwise might have been.”
The path of the storm was expected to move parallel to the Southeast coast and move to the mid-Atlantic coast by Monday night and southern New England later in the week. But because if its enormous size, “we just can’t pinpoint who is going to get the worst of it,” said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
In New York City, officials are particularly worried about the possibility of subway flooding. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prepare to shut down the city’s subways, buses and suburban trains. Last year the city closed the subways before Hurricane Irene—and according to a Columbia University study, an Irene surge just 1 foot higher would have paralyzed lower Manhattan.
On Saturday evening, Amtrak began canceling train service to parts of the East Coast, including between Washington, D.C., and New York, while airlines began moving planes out of airports to avoid damage and adding Sunday flights out of New York and Washington in preparation for flight cancellations on Monday.