East Coast saturated as superstorm Sandy nears shores
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.
"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.
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."