Hurricane Sandy Menaces East Coast, Closing Schools, Markets, Businesses

US authorities released orders over mass evacuations and airlines cancel transatlantic flights as the powerful hurricane bears down on the east coast.

From Washington to Boston, big cities and small towns Sunday buttoned up against the onslaught of Sandy that is predicted to affect up to 60 million people in the most heavily populated region, with forecasters warning that the New York area could get the worst of it – an 11-foot wall of water. Photo: EUMETSAT/Flickr

The destructive nature phenomenon gained some strength on Monday after hundreds of thousands were evacuated to higher ground, public transport shut down and the stock market was closed for the first time in 27 years.

About 50 million people from the Mid-Atlantic to Canada were reported to be in danger due to the nearly 1,000-mile-wide (1,600-km-wide) storm, which is expected to be the largest one to ever hit the mainland in American history.

Forecasters said that the hurricane would topple trees, damage buildings, cause power outages and trigger heavy flooding, Reuters writes.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported Monday that the Category 1 disaster had become stronger as it turned toward the coast and was moving at 20 miles per hour (32 km per hour).

Sandy was predicted to bring a “life-threatening storm surge,” coastal hurricane winds and heavy snow in the Appalachian Mountains, the NHC added.

Nine U.S. states have declared states of emergency, and President Obama was forced to cancel Florida campaigning in order to return to Washington and monitor the government’s response to the storm.

“This is a serious and big storm,” Barack Obama said on Sunday after a briefing at the federal government’s storm response center in Washington. “We don’t yet know where it’s going to hit, where we’re going to see the biggest impacts.”

It’s forecast that the devastating storm could blow ashore Monday night or early Tuesday along the New Jersey coast, then cut across into Pennsylvania and travel up through New York State on Wednesday.

State officials ordered people in coastal regions and low-lying areas to evacuate, explaining to them they would put emergency workers’ lives at risk if they stayed.

“Don’t be stupid, get out, and go to higher, safer ground,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told a news conference.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also warned: “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. This is a serious and dangerous storm.”

New York, which is said to be the city which never sleeps, seems to bed down due to Sandy. On Sunday many businesses were preparing to tuck in, perhaps for days.

In Times Square, restaurants, electronics shops and perfumeries let their employees go home before 7 p.m., when the city’s subways were set to close.

In Washington, President Obama promised the government would “respond big and respond fast” after the storm hits, The Huffington Post reports.

“My message to the governors as well as to the mayors is anything they need, we will be there, and we will cut through red tape. We are not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules,” he said.

He also pleaded for neighborliness: “In times like this, one of the things that Americans do is we pull together and we help out one another And so, there may be elderly populations in your area.”

“Check on your neighbor, check on your friend. Make sure that they are prepared. If we do, then we’re going to get through this storm just fine,” Obama added.

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