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Fear, Uncertainty Grip East Coast Waiting for Hurricane Sandy

Fear and uncertainty gripped the East Coast today as residents along the Atlantic Coast braced for a storm that appears to be building into epic proportions, with states and cities responding for Hurricane Sandy by evacuating hundreds of thousands, canceling nearly 8,000 flights and closing schools, public transit and even the U.S. stock market.

After killing 66 in the Caribbean, Sandy is churning toward the Eastern seaboard, combining with two other fronts in the Atlantic to create a massive weather force that is only listed as a category 1 hurricane but whose width is so large that it could deliver gale-force winds, torrential rains and even snow over the course of several days to an area stretching from North Carolina to New England.

As of Monday morning, Sandy was about 265 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J., and 310 miles south-southeast of New York City, moving north-northwest at a speed of 20 miles an hour, according to the National Weather Service.

The hurricane-force winds were expected to hit New York City later on Monday, but much of the mid-Atlantic was already feeling tropical storm conditions. Residents of high-rise buildings should not that forecasters predicted the winds will be significantly stronger on upper floors than at ground level.

In Sandy’s strange mix, some states are expected to get as much as 12 inches of rain, while some of the mountainous areas of West Virginia could get as much as three feet of snow.

As the stock and options markets decided to close on Monday, it was the first unscheduled, market-wide shutdown since September 2001. They may stay closed tomorrow too.

 Sandy is unusual because of how far inland it is expected to reach—all the way to western Pennsylvania and western New York. That’s because Sandy will transform into a nor’easter and bring record low-pressure readings and wind gusts up to 70 miles an hour instead of fading out over the Atlantic.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a blunt warning to residents along the coast: “Don’t be stupid. Get out and go to higher, safer ground.”

Power outages in the millions is one of the most serious consequences being anticipated. Already thousands of homes in Virginia, North Carolina and New Jersey were without power.

In New York City, the public transit system and the schools were shut down, while 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, while New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington also shut down local transit systems.

The storm even stalled the presidential campaigns just eight days before the election. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romne canceled campaign stops in Virginia and New Hampshire while President Obama canceled his campaign event Monday in Florida with former President Bill Clinton. The campaign already canceled events Monday in Ohio and Virginia, as well as a Tuesday trip to Colorado.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy told 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 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 New York Gov. Andrew 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,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “In a situation like this, you prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”


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