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1:31 pm
Sun October 28, 2012

'Time For Preparing And Talking Is About Over,' FEMA Chief Says

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 2:48 pm

"The time for preparing and talking is about over." That's the message from Craig Fugate, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency as Hurricane Sandy, the monstrous superstorm that's churning its way to the U.S. East Coast, threatening millions of people.

In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of low-lying neighborhoods, including lower Manhattan. Both New York and Philadelphia ordered their transit systems closed — as did Washington, D.C. Amtrak said it was canceling its Northeast Corridor service Monday, and thousands of flights were canceled throughout the East Coast.

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.

Here's our original post (updates below):

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, was 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 Newscast 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 3:30 a.m. ET Monday. Storm Turns North:

The National Hurricane Center says Sandy began "turning toward the north" early Monday, and is "expected to bring life-threatening storm surge," along with "coastal hurricane winds and heavy Appalachian snows."

Update at 11:42 p.m. ET. Track The Storm On Twitter:

Here's a Twitter list NPR compiled of public media stations and NPR reporters covering #Sandy.

Update at 11:30 p.m. ET. Clarifying U.S. Markets Status:

The Wall Street Journal reports:

"U.S. stock and options markets will close Monday due to Hurricane Sandy, exchanges and regulators said, and there was a chance the markets would remain closed through Tuesday."

Exchanges initially said Sunday only the trading floors would close and that digital trading would continue. But, the Journal says, "exchanges, regulators and trading firms agreed late Sunday to close all U.S. stock markets."

Update at 11:20 p.m. ET. A Shift To the North, Closing Stock Exchange:

In its latest advisory, the National Hurricane Center says Sandy is "about to start its northward turn" and is expected to shift to the northwest on Monday. Winds are near 75 mph, with higher gusts.

Adding to a list of transit disruptions, Delaware will have a driving ban beginning at 5 a.m. Monday.

Update at 7:03 p.m. ET. More Obama Campaign Changes:

The White House says Obama will return to the White House after his event in Orlando, Fla., and monitor Sandy. He was previously scheduled to attend a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, which will now proceed with President Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.

Update at 6:55 p.m. ET. Some Federal Workers Get Monday Off:

The Office of Personnel Management says non-emergency employees will be granted administrative leave.

Update at 5:22 p.m. ET. Update From National Hurricane Center:

There's little new in the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.

But here's what the alert has to say about the effects Sandy is already having:

"TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE ALREADY OCCURRING OVER COASTAL NORTH CAROLINA AND SOUTHEASTERN VIRGINIA. GALE FORCE WINDS ARE EXPECTED TO ARRIVE ALONG PORTIONS OF THE MID-ATLANTIC COAST LATER TODAY...AND REACH LONG ISLAND AND SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND BY MONDAY MORNING. WINDS OF HURRICANE FORCE COULD REACH THE MID-ATLANTIC STATES...INCLUDING LONG ISLAND...BY LATE MONDAY."

It says normally dry areas along with coast will likely be flooded by rising waters caused by the storm surge. Between 3 and 8 inches of rain are expected over the affected areas. Snow accumulations of 2 to 3 feet are expected in the mountains of West Virginia; snow is also expected in the mountains of southwestern Virginia and the in the mountains near the North Carolina-Tennessee border.

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 and south of Chincoteague to Duck, N.C., the northern endpoint of the tropical storm warning."

Other updates:

-- 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.

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