Evacuation orders were also issued along the coast in Delaware, New Jersey and Connecticut. Some of those evacuated will be housed in shelters. Sandy, which is on a collision course with two other storms, could bring a foot of rain, 80 mph winds and a deadly storm surge – up to 11 feet, according to National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb. The 'Frankenstorm' could also dump heavy snow in the Great Lakes, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, and cause power outages.
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A major transit system to shut; evacuation orders issued; election campaigns hit – all in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, the monstrous superstorm that's making its way to the U.S. East Coast.
Sandy was headed north Sunday from the Caribbean, where it left more than 50 people dead. It was expected to come ashore late Monday or early Tuesday after colliding with a wintry storm from the west and cold Arctic air from the north. It's expected to make landfall along the New Jersey coast.
The Category 1 storm, which packs 75 mph winds, is about 250 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., as of 11 a.m. Sunday. It was moving northeast at 14 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
New York City announced Sunday that its transit system – subway, buses and trains – would stop running Sunday. Subways would stop running at 7 p.m.; buses at 9 p.m. NPR's Joel Rose filed a spot for our Newcast unit. Here's what he had to say:
"New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered New York City's transit system to suspend bus, subway and commuter rail service starting this evening. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that New York City schools will be closed Monday, and ordered residents in some low-lying areas of the city to evacuate their homes.
"New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had already ordered a mandatory evacuation for barrier islands up and down the Jersey Shore.
"Forecasters say Hurricane Sandy is still over the Atlantic Ocean. It's likely to turn toward land by tomorrow night, bringing the potential for major flooding and hurricane-force winds from Chincoteague Island in Virginia to Massachusetts."
Bloomberg said New York City's school system would be closed Monday, affecting 1.1 million students; 375,000 people in the city's low-lying areas were also ordered to evacuate.
The planning wasn't restricted to New York City. Here's more from The Associated Press: "States of emergency were declared from North Carolina, where gusty winds whipped steady rain on Sunday morning, to Connecticut. Delaware ordered 50,000 people in coastal communities to clear out by 8 p.m. Sunday."
At the National Hurricane Center in Miami, director Rick Knabb told the AP the storm was so big, and the convergence of the three storms so rare, that "we just can't pinpoint who is going to get the worst of it."
We'll keep this blog updated through the day and chart Sandy's path.
The approaching storm forced the two presidential campaigns to alter their plans.
President Obama canceled appearances in northern Virginia on Monday and Colorado on Tuesday. His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, canceled plans to campaign Sunday in Virginia. He instead went to Ohio.
Update at 3:33 p.m. ET Impact On Voting
Sandy could hit early voting and get-out-the-vote efforts in states such as Virginia, which both campaigns view as critical in their quest for 270 electoral votes in the Nov. 6 election.
"We've got about 2,000 additional people that are coming into Virginia to help our power suppliers," said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, A republican. "The state board of elections is already planning for extended hours in advance for absentee voting, and it's now a priority, moved up to the same level as hospitals and police stations to have power restored."
In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley said the state was canceling early voting Monday.
Both campaigns assessed the storm's impact on their efforts.
Here's David Axelrod, a top Obama aide: "Obviously, we want unfettered access to the polls, because we think the more people that come out, the better we're going to do. To the extent that it makes it harder, that's a source of concern." His comments were reported by the AP.
And, also from AP, here's what Sen. Rob Portman, a Romney surrogate, said in Dayton, Ohio, when asked if Sandy could affect turnout in his hotly contested state: "We'll see. On early voting, it might."
Update at 2:45 p.m. ET Obama On Sandy
Obama had a meeting at the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the various agencies involved in preparing for Sandy.
He said his "main message is ... we have to take this seriously."
Obama also had a message for those who might be affected by the storm: "Anything they need, we will be there."
He also said he doesn't expect at this point the Nov. 6 election to be affected, "but we're obviously going to have to take a look."
Update at 2 p.m. ET 'Life-Threatening Storm Surge'
Here's the latest at 2 p.m. from the National Hurricane Center:
"SANDY EXPECTED TO BRING LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE FLOODING TO THE MID-ATLANTIC COAST...INCLUDING LONG ISLAND SOUND AND NEW YORKHARBOR... ...WINDS FORECAST TO BE NEAR HURRICANE FORCE AT LANDFALL... ...HEAVY SNOW EXPECTED IN PORTIONS OF THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS..."
At 2 p.m., Sandy was moving toward the northeast near 14 mph. It's expected to turn north then northwest Sunday night and early Monday. The center of Sandy is forecast to be near the mid-Atlantic Coast Monday night with maximum sustained winds near 75 mph.
"Sandy is expected to transition into a frontal or wintertime low pressure system prior to landfall," the center said. "However, this transition will not be accompanied by a weakening of the system, and in fact a little strengthening is possible during this process. Sandy is expected to weaken after moving inland."
The center adds that hurricane-force winds are expected along portions of the coast between Chincoteague, Va., and Chatham, Mass. including "the middle and upper Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and the coasts of the northern Delmarva Peninsula, New Jersey, the New York City Area, Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island."
It adds: "Tropical-storm-force winds are expected north of Chatham to Merrimack River, Mass., the lower Chesapeake Bay andsouth of Chincoteague to Duck, N.C., the northern endpoint of the tropical storm warning."
— New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces full suspension of the state's transit service, beginning this afternoon.
— New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the Port Authority to prepare for potential flooding at the World Trade Center site.
— The New York Stock Exchange plans to open for trading as usual on Monday.