SHIP BOTTOM, New Jersey (AP):
Tens of thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate coastal areas Sunday as big cities and small towns across the eastern United States buttoned up against the onslaught of a superstorm threatening some 50 million people in the most heavily populated corridor in the nation.
"The time for preparing and talking is about over," Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate warned as Hurricane Sandy headed up the Eastern Seaboard on a collision course with two other weather systems.
New York City and Philadelphia both announced that mass-transit systems would close, and schools were closed Monday in both cities as well as in Washington, Baltimore, Boston and elsewhere. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also ordered the evacuation of part of lower Manhattan and other low-lying neighbourhoods.
"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."
ORDERED TO CLEAR OUT
Tens of thousands of people along the coast in Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut and other threatened areas were also under orders to clear out because of the danger of as much as a foot of rain, punishing winds of 80 mph or higher and a potentially deadly wall of water four to 11 feet high. Communities opened shelters across the region.
Sandy was headed north from the Caribbean, where it left nearly five dozen people dead, and was expected to hook left toward the mid-Atlantic coast and come ashore late Monday or early Tuesday, colliding with a wintry storm moving in from the west and cold air streaming down from the Arctic.
Forecasters warned that the resulting megastorm could wreak havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. Parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina could get snow.
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.
States of emergency were declared from North Carolina, where gusty winds whipped steady rain on Sunday morning, to Connecticut. Delaware ordered 50,000 people in coastal communities to clear out by 8 p.m. yesterday.
Officials in New York City were particularly worried about the possibility of subway flooding. The city closed the subways before Hurricane Irene last year, and a Columbia University study predicted that an Irene surge just one foot higher would have paralysed lower Manhattan.