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Monday, October 29, 2012
Hurricane Sandy set to make history as it aims at US coast
October 28, 2012
A wave crashes over the sandbags in front of the houses on the east side of Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina as Hurricane Sandy hit on October 27, 2012. — Reuters pic
HATTERAS ISLAND, North Carolina, Oct 28 — Weather forecasters worked to pinpoint the likely landfall of the monstrous Hurricane Sandy as it closed in on the US East Coast today, with the potential to be the biggest storm to hit the mainland.
Government officials faced tough decisions on emergency plans as residents scrambled to purchase supplies. Governors of several states in the hurricane’s path declared emergencies and ordered mandatory evacuations of vulnerable coastal areas.
On its projected track, Sandy is most likely to make US landfall tomorrow night between Delaware and the New York/New Jersey area, forecasters said.
While Sandy’s winds are not overwhelming for a hurricane, its width is exceptional. The hurricane-force winds extended 165 km from its centre while its lesser tropical storm-force winds reached across 1,125 km.
Sandy could have a brutal impact on major cities in the target zone. In New York, city officials discussed whether to shut the subway system today in advance of the storm, which could bring the county’s financial nerve centre to a standstill.
A man salvages bricks from rubble on a street in Santiago de Cuba, in Cuba, October 27, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy hit. — Reuters pic
The storm could cause the worst flooding Connecticut has seen in more than 70 years, said Governor Dannel P. Malloy.
Government forecasters at the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre said as the storm approached land it became increasingly pointless to predict the precise landfall.
“It is still too soon to focus on the exact track ... both because of forecast uncertainty and because the impacts are going to cover such a large area away from the centre,” the NHC said in an advisory.
Sandy was located about 445 km south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with top sustained winds of 120 km/h early today, the NHC said.
The storm was moving over the Atlantic parallel to the US coast at 22 km/h, but was forecast to make a tight westerly turn towards the US coast tonight.
Sandy could be the largest storm to hit the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website.
“The size of this alone, affecting a heavily populated area, is going to be history making,” said Jeff Masters, a hurricane specialist who writes a blog posted on the Weather Underground.
Sandy could hit the cities of Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, one of the most densely populated regions of the country, home to tens of millions of people.
Forecasters said Sandy was a rare, hybrid “super storm” created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm, possibly causing up to 30 cm of rain in some areas, as well as heavy snowfall inland.
Sandy killed at least 66 people as it made its way through the Caribbean islands, including 51 in Haiti, mostly from flash flooding and mudslides, according to authorities.
The approaching storm forced a change of plans for both presidential candidates ahead of the November 6 election. The White House said President Obama cancelled a campaign appearance in Virginia tomorrow and another stop in Colorado on Tuesday, and will instead monitor the storm from Washington.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney rescheduled campaign events planned for Virginia today and was flying to Ohio instead.
All along the US coast, worried residents packed stores, buying generators, candles, food and other supplies in anticipation of power outages. Some local governments announced schools would be closed tomorrow and on Tuesday.
“They’re freaking out,” said Joe Dautel, a clerk at a hardware store in Glenside, Pennsylvania. “I’m selling people four, five, six packs of batteries — when I had them.” — Reuters