Eastern US braces for dangerous superstorm

Credit: AP

Eastern US braces for dangerous superstorm

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by ANN SHERIDAN / NBC Charlotte & Associated Press

Bio | Email | Follow: @SheridanWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on October 27, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 28 at 8:01 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Forecasters say Hurricane Sandy is about 530 miles southeast of New York City and the center of the storm is expected to be near the mid-Atlantic coast on Monday night. 

The National Hurricane Center said Sunday afternoon that the storm has winds of 75 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 175 miles from the storm's center. 

Sandy is on track to collide with a wintry storm moving in from the west and cold air streaming down from the Arctic. 

Big cities from Washington to Boston are buttoning up in advance of what is expected to be a superstorm that could menace some 50 million people in the most heavily populated corridor in the nation.
 

Amtrak Cancels Service

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- Amtrak says it is canceling service across the northeastern U.S. on Monday as Hurricane Sandy threatens to create a wet, windy mess in the region. 

Amtrak said in a news release Sunday that it was canceling all service north of New York at 7 p.m. Nearly all service across the Eastern Seaboard will be canceled starting Monday.  

Amtrak says it has not yet determined when train services will resume. Alternate transportation is not available. 

Some trains will continue to run in Florida and the Carolinas.  

The news release says customers can receive a refund or voucher for future travel.
 

Sandy Treking North

KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. -- As a deadly Hurricane Sandy treks north from the Caribbean to meet two other powerful winter storms, experts say it doesn't matter how strong the storm is when it hits land: The rare hybrid storm that follows will cause havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.

"We're looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people," says Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Category 1 storm, packing sustained winds of 75 mph, is expected to continue moving parallel to the Southeast coast most of the day Sunday and approach the coast of the mid-Atlantic states by Monday night.

Governors from North Carolina, where steady rains were whipped by gusting winds Saturday night, to Connecticut declared states of emergency. Delaware ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal communities by 8 p.m. Sunday.

Heavy rain is pounding the Outer Banks as Hurricane Sandy's reach affects the quaint beach community.  Residents say they'll ride this one out.  Most have not even boarded windows, and are carrying on with weekend rituals of eating out and visiting with friends and family.  

"It's rain and it's wind," said Doug Nikels as he ate at a popular beach side bar.  "It's like any fall or winter on the beach."

Tom Henderson and his wife said they only brought in their outside grill.  

"She was afraid I was going to turn it on," Tom joked. "This is routine weather for us."

In some parts of the Outer Banks, wind continued to hammer hard, with some gusts reaching 64 miles per hour in the Southern most parts of the Outer Banks.

There is no evacuation order in Kill Devil Hills and no shelters have opened.  

On Saturday night, most residents and emergency crews worried about beach erosion and eventual flooding.

 


Dare Co. Emergency Management: "There's no turning back"

Emergency Management volunteers and workers say visitors to the Outer Banks should realize there's "no turning back" once you're here this weekend. 

State transportation officials suspended all ferry service to Ocracoke Island on  Saturday, leaving hundreds of residents and guests no way to reach higher ground as Hurricane Sandy threatened the coast with heavy winds and rain.

Also, more than a dozen people were stranded on an isolated barrier island with no way to get off after private ferry service was halted.

Hyde County manager Mazie Smith said in a statement that unsafe travel conditions and flooding on N.C. 12 - the main artery for traffic on the Outer Banks - forced the county to suspend emergency ground transportation. Residents were told to take additional precautions when the storm got close.

"Our biggest concern obviously is the length of time the storm may sit on our coastline and how well the temporary bridge on Hatteras Island will hold up," Smith said.

The N.C. Department of Transportation suspended ferry service to Ocracoke Island, leaving residents and visitors without access to the mainland or to Hatteras Island, which is about 50 miles south of Nags Head.

The route from the south end of Hatteras Island was suspended due to high water covering N.C. 12. The Cedar Island-Ocracoke run was also suspended, and the Swan Quarter-Ocracoke ferry made its last run at 4 p.m.

Other ferries on the coast halted service as conditions got worse.

Hyde County was one of four counties to declare states of emergency ahead of the storm. Gov. Beverly Perdue on Friday declared a state of emergency for 40 counties east of Interstate 95.

The 11 p.m. Saturday advisory from the National Hurricane Center placed the center of Sandy about 360 miles east-southeast of Charleston, S.C. A tropical storm warning remained in effect from the South Santee River in South Carolina to Duck, N.C., including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. A tropical storm watch was lifted for the S.C. coast south of the South Santee River.

Sandy was moving to the northeast at 14 mph, along a path parallel to the southeastern U.S. It's expected to approach the Mid-Atlantic states late Monday. Light rain in the morning turned into steady rains whipped by gusting winds Saturday evening.

South of Ocracoke, a group of people was forced to wait out the storm on Portsmouth Island, a former fishing village that is now uninhabited and accessible only by private ferry.

"We tried to get off the island and the ferry service shut down on us," said Bill Rowley, 49, of Rocky Mount, N.C., adding that there were about 20 people on the island.

Rowley said he could see 15-foot seas breaking over the island's dunes, enough to bring water to the island's interior.

"We'll be inundated and it'll probably be worse tomorrow," he said.

Rowley said the U.S. Coast Guard was to bring supplies to the people riding out the storm, adding that the group is making the best of their situation.

"Everybody here that I've talked to, tomorrow night, we're having a fish fry," Rowley said.

"What are you going to do, cry about it? You can't. It's all good," he said.

At least one person shared Rowley's sentiment

"We might not get off here until Tuesday or Wednesday, which doesn't hurt my feelings that much because the fishing's going to be really good after this storm," said Warren Ellis, 44, of Amissville, Va. "It's always good after a storm."

Ellis was stranded because conditions prevented the ferry from carrying him inland. While he decided to stay in his 10-foot camper, his 73-year-old father took his larger camper off Portsmouth Island and retreated to the Coast Guard station at Cape Hatteras.

"This is my first taste of this," said Keith Paquin, 51, of Burton, Ohio, as he, Steven Ellis and his son Andrew disassembled the few fishing rod-and-reel sets they hoped might still land fish. "We're going far enough north that we can't get trapped."

Todd Butler, 44, rushed down from his home in Virginia Beach, Va., to tie down his 48-foot charter fishing boat at its dock in Hatteras. That done, he was returning home on Saturday.

"I was talking to some old fishermen this morning," he said. "I don't think it's going to be that bad." But better to take precautions and secure a boat too big to pull out of the water.

Retirees Larry, 72, and Jean Collier, 71, of Brantford, Ontario, were leaving their beachfront hotel in Kill Devil Hills and trying to plot their coming days of returning home, knowing they risked driving into a developing superstorm as they headed north through Pennsylvania.

"I'll try to split (the trip) right down the middle, not too close to Washington, not too far west," Larry Collier said. "The storm has kind of put a wrench in it."

While there are extra responders fielding calls and questions at Emergency Management, volunteer Joanne Selby says no shelters have been opened yet. 

Selby says forecasters expect flooding to become a major problem and they are especially worried about Highway 12, she says.
 

Megastorm could wreak havoc across 800 miles of U.S.

SHIP BOTTOM, N.J. (AP) -- Forget distinctions like tropical storm or hurricane. Don't get fixated on a particular track. Wherever it hits, the behemoth storm plodding up the East Coast will afflict a third of the country with sheets of rain, high winds and heavy snow, say officials who warned millions in coastal areas to get out of the way.

"We're looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people," said Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As Hurricane Sandy trekked north from the Caribbean - where it left nearly five dozen dead - to meet two other powerful winter storms, experts said it didn't matter how strong the storm was when it hit land: The rare hybrid storm that follows will cause havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.

Governors from North Carolina, where steady rains were whipped by gusting winds Saturday night, to Connecticut declared states of emergency. Delaware ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal communities by 8 p.m. Sunday.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was criticized for not interrupting a vacation in Florida while a snowstorm pummeled the state in 2010, broke off campaigning for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in North Carolina on Friday to return home.

"I can be as cynical as anyone," said Christie, who declared a state of emergency Saturday. "But when the storm comes, if it's as bad as they're predicting, you're going to wish you weren't as cynical as you otherwise might have been."

Eighty-five-year-old former sailor Ray Leonard agreed. And he knows to heed warnings.

Leonard and two crewmates in his 32-foot sailboat, Satori, rode out 1991's infamous "perfect storm," made famous by the Sebastian Junger best-selling book of the same name, before being plucked from the Atlantic off Martha's Vineyard, Mass., by a Coast Guard helicopter.

"Don't be rash," Leonard said Saturday from his home in Fort Myers, Fla. "Because if this does hit, you're going to lose all those little things you've spent the last 20 years feeling good about."

Sandy weakened briefly to a tropical storm Saturday but was soon back up to Category 1 strength, packing 75 mph winds. It was about 260 miles (420 kilometers) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and moving northeast at 13 mph as of 5 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The storm was expected to continue moving parallel to the Southeast coast most of the day and approach the coast of the mid-Atlantic states by Monday night, before reaching southern New England later in the week.

It was so big, however, and the convergence of the three storms so rare, that "we just can't pinpoint who is going to get the worst of it," said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Officials are particularly worried about the possibility of subway flooding in New York City, said Uccellini, of NOAA.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prepare to shut the city's subways, buses and suburban trains. The city closed the subways before Hurricane Irene last year, and a Columbia University study predicted that an Irene surge just 1 foot higher would have paralyzed lower Manhattan.

Up and down the Eastern Seaboard and far inland, officials urged residents and businesses to prepare in ways big and small.

On Saturday evening, Amtrak began canceling train service to parts of the East Coast, including between Washington, D.C., and New York. Airlines started moving planes out of airports to avoid damage and adding Sunday flights out of New York and Washington in preparation for flight cancellations on Monday.

The Virginia National Guard was authorized to call up to 500 troops to active duty for debris removal and road-clearing, while homeowners stacked sandbags at their front doors in coastal towns.

"You never want to be too naive, but ultimately, it's not in our hands anyway," said Andrew Ferencsik, 31, as he purchased plywood and 2-by-4 lumber from a Home Depot in Lewes, Del.

Utility officials warned rains could saturate the ground, causing trees to topple into power lines, and told residents to prepare for several days at home without power.

President Barack Obama was monitoring the storm and working with state and locals governments to make sure they get the resources needed to prepare, administration officials said.

In North Carolina's Outer Banks, a group of about 20 people was forced to wait out the storm on Portsmouth Island, a former fishing village that is now uninhabited and accessible only by private ferry.

"We tried to get off the island and the ferry service shut down on us," said Bill Rowley, 49, of Rocky Mount, N.C.

Rowley said he could see 15-foot seas breaking over the island's dunes, enough to bring water to the island's interior.

"We'll be inundated and it'll probably be worse tomorrow," he said.

In New Jersey, hundreds of coastal residents started moving inland. Christie's emergency declaration will force the shutdown of Atlantic City's 12 casinos for only the fourth time in the 34-year history of legalized gambling here. City officials said they would begin evacuating the gambling hub's 30,000 residents at noon Sunday, busing them to mainland shelters and schools.

The storm also forced the presidential campaign to juggle schedules. Romney scrapped plans to campaign Sunday in Virginia and switched his schedule for the day to Ohio. First lady Michelle Obama canceled an appearance in New Hampshire for Tuesday, and Obama moved a planned Monday departure for Florida to Sunday night to beat the storm. He also canceled appearances in Northern Virginia on Monday and Colorado on Tuesday.

 

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