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NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE, WUNDERGROUND.COM, BALTIMORE SUN, STRATFORD PATCH (U.S.), INDEPENDENT (U.K.), STERN (Germany)

Worldcrunch

NEW YORK - As day breaks, Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the east coast of the United States, with schools, stock exchanges, airports, subways and a presidential election on lockdown, as residents and rescue personnel brace for what may be the worst storm in a generation.

Sandy's full force is expected to strike New York City and other major population areas on Monday night. The slow-moving storm is more than 500 miles wide, the largest storm since recording of the size of hurricanes began in 1988—even larger than some that caused billions of dollars of damage, like Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The U.S. National Weather Service site announces that the hurricane will bring a “life-threatening storm surge to the mid-Atlantic coast.” Sandy will affect the seacoast from South Carolina to Maine and its effects will reach hundreds of miles inland. Heavy snows of up to two feet are possible in the mountains of West Virginia.

The storm has already caused billions of dollars in damage in the Caribbean and killed 66 people in Cuba, Jamaica and other places where it has touched down. Sandy is more dangerous than other storms not only because of its size, but because, as the Baltimore Sun explained, “A full moon will drag tides up the shore,” and the storm’s slow progress means more flooding.

Meanwhile, air traffic around the world has already been affected by the “Frankenstorm,” as airports were closed and flights canceled along the entire eastern seaboard, stranding thousands of passengers worldwide, the Los Angeles Times reports. Traffic is not expected to get back to normal until Wednesday at the earliest.

The storm is headed for the most populated region of the United States, right before the U.S. elections next Tuesday. Sixty million people and dozens of large cities will be in the storm’s range, including Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Providence and Boston. Lower Manhattan, which is only about five feet above sea level, was issued a mandatory evacuation warning for low-lying areas (see map here for more detail) and warned that power outages are to be expected.

The city is on “lockdown,” like other cities up and down the east coast, reported the U.K. Independent, with schools, stores, private and government offices, the United Nations headquarters, and the New York Stock Exchange all closed. The subway is closed as workers try to shore up tunnels against flooding with sandbags and dams; the buses have been ordered to stop at 7 p.m. tonight, reports Germany’s Stern.

The Chesapeake Tunnel, connecting the Washington area to Baltimore, reported Monday morning that the water in the tunnel was already more than three feet higher than predicted. A state of emergency was declared in Washington, D.C. John Hopkins University issued a news release saying that computer models based on past hurricanes show that ten million people are likely to lose power.

In the worst-case scenario, which meteorologists hope will be avoided, the storm could combine with the peak of a full-moon high tide at 9 p.m Monday night, and with a nor’easter, a fierce ocean storm from the northeast.

As in most hurricanes, the storm surge, or flooding, is more dangerous than the wind itself. Manhattan’s sea walls, which protect the city, are only five feet above sea level, while the storm surge could go as high as eleven feet, flooding the city’s subway and tunnel system and causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage. In 2011, Hurricane Irene, caused more than $15 billions of damage, killed at least 50 people, and caused power outages that continued in some places for weeks.

The Stratford Patchreported Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy leaving no doubt about his view of the storm: “It is the largest threat to human life that our state has experienced in anyone's lifetime… The last time we saw anything like this was never."

The storm could have a big impact on the election, the Independent points out. “Four of the eight most hotly contested swing states are in the storm's sight: Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire and even parts of Ohio.”

*Note: a photograph of the New York skyline that initially appeared in this post appears to have not been a current/authentic image. Sorry about that.

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