Monster Storm Targets East


Hurricane Sandy loomed Sunday over the northeastern U.S., triggering evacuation orders for hundreds of thousands of residents, the cancellation of nearly 8,000 airline flights, the mass closure of schools and public transit systems and the closure of U.S. stock and options markets, as authorities warned of heavy rains, high winds and flooding when the storm reaches land late Monday or early Tuesday.

U.S. stock and options markets will close Monday, exchanges and regulators said late Sunday night, the first unscheduled, market-wide shutdown since September 2001. Markets may remain closed Tuesday, exchange officials and traders said. An earlier plan to only close floor trading was deemed too complicated, people with knowledge of the matter said. Other investors said half-empty trading desks and thin trading volume could have made the market susceptible to swings.
The Category 1 hurricane was forecast to drop 8 inches of rain on northeastern North Carolina and up to a foot in parts of the mid-Atlantic states over the next few days. Forecasters described a storm footprint expected to stretch from Washington, D.C., north to Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. The National Weather Service said two cold fronts, one west of Hurricane Sandy and another north, were drawing the warm-air hurricane toward the populous coast and expected to fortify Sandy's reach and intensity.
The unusual weather confluence will turn Sandy into a post-tropical cyclone, or nor'easter, unleashing record low-pressure readings and wind gusts to 70 miles an hour as far inland as western Pennsylvania and western New York, the National Weather Service said.
Under normal conditions, similar tropical storms would be expected to drift east and dissipate over the Atlantic. Instead, Sandy could make landfall anywhere from the Delmarva Peninsula to Long Island. Authorities late Sunday expected the storm to strike in southern New Jersey.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie warned residents along the coast: "Don't be stupid. Get out and go to higher, safer ground."
New York officials closed down public transit Sunday evening, a bus- and rail-system that normally ferries about 8.5 million passengers a day during the workweek. New York city schools, which serve more than a million students, also were ordered shut until the storm cleared. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told an estimated 375,000 residents to leave flood-prone neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Amtrak canceled all Northeast Corridor and Keystone Service route trains on Monday, as well as other inland routes along the East Coast. New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington also planned to shut down local transit systems.
The storm interrupted the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, with the election a little more than a week away. Mr. Romney canceled campaign stops in Virginia and New Hampshire. Mr. Obama moved up a planned trip to Florida for a campaign event and canceled campaign stops planned for Monday in Ohio and Virginia, as well as a Tuesday trip to Colorado.
Federal government offices in the Washington area will be closed Monday to the public, the Office of Personnel Management said Sunday. The forecast in the region called for 35- to 40-mile per hour winds Monday, along with five to 10 inches of rain.
Hurricane Sandy has already begun disrupting business, with many companies planning to close Monday. Google Inc.canceled a major event in Manhattan at which it was expected to promote a new mobile phone and a rumored redesign of its Nexus tablet. Citibank closed branches in flood-prone parts of New York City, waiving fees for its customers who use the ATMs of competing banks.
The National Weather Service said Sandy's hurricane-force winds, which extended 175 miles out from its center Sunday, could bring power outages for millions of residents. Temperatures could drop below 30 degrees in coming days across the eastern U.S., bringing further misery to those without power. West Virginia, Kentucky and other states could get up to three feet of snow in mountain areas.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy urged residents along the state's coastline to heed evacuation warnings. "It appears as the worst case scenario for Connecticut is the most likely one to play itself out in the coming days," he said. "We are talking about extensive flooding, maybe the worst that we've seen in 70 years."
Once ashore, Sandy could trigger storm surges of six to 11 feet in Long Island Sound, Raritan Bay and New York harbor, as well as extensive flooding many miles inland, the National Weather Service said. Such surges in the New York area "would be record levels," said Howard Glaser, director of state operations for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"I know that we get accustomed to hearing weather forecasts and sometimes we're dubious about the weather forecasts, but this is nothing to play with, and this is nothing to take lightly, so take this seriously," Mr. Cuomo said. "In a situation like this, you prepare for the worst and hope for the best."
Elsewhere, storm surges could reach six feet in parts of North Carolina, four feet in Virginia's Chesapeake Bay and six feet in Cape Cod, the weather service said. At the Norfolk Naval base, the U.S. Navy's Atlanta fleet moved ships off shore for safety.
As the forecasts for Sandy grew over the weekend, residents in North Carolina to Maine boarded up houses, tied up boats and belongings, and stocked up on food and batteries. In Norfolk, Va., some drivers showed up at gas stations before dawn Sunday to fill their tanks.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley predicted several days of power outages and announced that early voting planned for Monday would be rescheduled. Baltimore city officials set up shelters and gave away sandbags to residents who live near the water.
"This is a serious, killer storm," Mr. O'Malley said. "It will likely take more lives as it hits the mid-Atlantic."
Tourists in Atlantic City, N.J., placed their last few bets Sunday morning before gambling was shut down and casinos evacuated.
Many of Atlantic City's 40,000 residents appeared to be following Mr. Christie's advice. Plywood covered the windows at Mel's Furniture Factory Direct Bedding on Atlantic Avenue, with the message "GO AWAY SANDY" in spray paint. Jamal English said he was picking up his grandchildren, who were staying at a hotel with their mother, and leaving town.
"A lot of people are staying," he said. "It's crazy, but they just don't know. I was born and raised here, so I know how this weather is, and it's going to get bad."
In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on Sunday afternoon, Lakhi Nainani boarded up his jewelry shop, Touch of Class. The 69-year-old man and his brother, who owns a sports shop next door, said this was only the second time they have had to board up their windows in 21 years on the boardwalk. "I'm worried," Mr. Nainani said, "but what can you do? It's Mother Nature."
Dominion Power, which provides electricity in both Virginia and North Carolina, reported Sunday that 2,524 homes and businesses were without power.


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