East Coast saturated as superstorm Sandy nears shores (PHOTOS)
The storm, which the National Hurricane Center now ranks as a category 1, is set to make landfall along the New Jersey coast Monday evening, with hurricane-force winds already hitting the coast there. Fourteen states can expect to see sustained 75-mile-per-hour winds, as much as ten inches of rain and two to three feet of snow beginning late Monday night.
The colossal storm has already brought storm-force winds as high as 73 mph all the way from southern Maine to North Carolina's Outer Banks – without its center having hit land. The Outer Banks' residents were bracing for more flooding Monday.
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has warned that conditions are expected to worsen, urging New Yorkers to stay inside. “Conditions outside are dangerous, and they are only going to get worse in the hours ahead,” he told a press conference.
The hurricane has left more than 1.5 million customers in eleven states without power. The affected states include NY, NJ, MA, PA, CT, DE, MD, RI, NH, ME and Washington, DC.
"It's changing by the quarterhour," Keith Voight of the Edison Electric Institute, the association of companies that provides 75% of the country's power, told USA Today. "Forecasters predicted it could become the worst storm to hit the East Coast in 100 years."
Atlantic City, New Jersey is already feeling the effects of the storm, with streets flooded, boardwalk sections broken up and first responders fielding scores of calls from locals who thought they could ride out the storm.
A man walks down a flooded street ahead of Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (AFP Photo / Mario Tama)
"Most of the city is underwater," Atlantic City's public safety director Willie Glass said.
With water already reaching the levels of last year's Hurricane Irene, parts of New York City and the surrounding areas are already flooded too. Highways, public transit and bridges were closed early on. The city's public schools will remains closed Tuesday, as will the New York Stock Exchange. Some of the city's universities and museums have opted to shut their doors until further notice as well.
Virginia residents had already begun to feel the storm Saturday, with about 53,000 residents losing power. As of Monday as much as eight inches of rain have hit the state. Nearly 6,000 Virginians are still without power, local utilities official David Botkins said.
At least 9,000 commercial airline flights have been canceled as of Monday due to the storm, according to numbers posted by FlightAware. The figure looks certain to grow – probably bypassing the 14,000 cancellations due to last year's Hurricane Irene – as Sandy approaches the coast.
Ocean City, New Jersey. (Image from twitter user@digitaldb)
Thousands of electric workers are on their way from as far as California to help out on the East Coast.
Chicago officials are also preparing for high winds and out-of-control waves surging off of Lake Michigan.
The storm is set to hit during a full moon, which means tides will already be at their highest for the month, increasing flood risks.
The Red Cross is setting up shelters and supplies to help the residents of coastal areas across several states. "We want to make sure we're ready to spring into action as soon as we're needed," spokeswoman Anne Marie Borrego said.
In North Carolina, the Coast Guard was called out to rescue survivors of a capsized boat about 90 miles southeast of the Outer Banks town of Hatteras. Fourteen of 16 people were saved, but two remain missing.
Stu Ostro, a meteorologist at the Weather Channel said the storm "will occupy a place in the annals of weather history as one of the most extraordinary to have affected the United States."
A car drives through water driven onto a roadway by Hurricane Sandy in Southampton, New York, October 29, 2012. (Reuters / Lucas Jackson)
Atlantic City, New Jersey (Image from twitter user@KevinJRawlinson)
High tide begins to flood a street on the shoreline area of Milford, Connecticut as Hurricane Sandy approaches October 29, 2012. (Reuters / Michelle McLoughlin)
Atlantic City, New Jersey (Image from twitter user@Hoeboma)
Hoboken, New Jersey. (Image from twitter user@scooterbeanbag)
Hoboken, New Jersey. (Image from twitter user@PiersTonight)
An empty Boardwalk before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy October 29, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (AFP Photo / Stan Honda)
Atlantic City, AC Coast Guard base (Image from twitter user@twc_hurricane)
A man walks through flood waters caused by Hurricane Sandy, on October 29, 2012 in Cape May, New Jersey. (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)
Joe Wagner (L), and Donald Wistozt (R), walk on the docks flooded by Hurricane Sandy, on October 29, 2012 in Cape May, New Jersey. (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)
A man walks through the flooded street in Ocean City, Maryland, on October 29, 2012 as Hurricane Sandy nears landfall in the area. (AFP Photo / Jim Watson)
A wall of water makes its way to shore as residents take a dip in the big surf in Ocean City, Maryland, as Hurricane Sandy intensifies October 29, 2012. (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)