We're going to have a lot of impact, starting with the storm surge. . .Think, 'big.'
Craig Fugate, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator
Hurricane Sandy strengthened and sped up as it hurtled toward the southern New Jersey coast Monday afternoon.
As the storm came closer to land, flooding, high winds and power outages were reported across the Mid-Atlantic.
Off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., the U.S. Coast Guard reported rescuing 14 of 16 people from the replica tall ship HMS Bounty who were in life rafts. Two others were reported missing.
The storm, expected to affect as many as 60 million people from North Carolina to Maine, forced the closing of stock markets, schools and transit systems and the cancellation of nearly 9,000 flights and hundreds of trains.
It was about 110 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J., and 175 miles south-southeast of New York, moving northwest at 28 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its 2p.m. EDT weather advisory.
A UPI-CVoter poll indicated 1 percent of the 1,585 adults polled last week before the threat of Sandy became imminent said natural disasters were the top issue facing the country, compared with 5 percent who cited healthcare and 3 percent who named the war on terror. Pollsters said the issue was expected to grow in importance in advance of the Nov. 6 balloting since Sandy is on track to devastate several swing states.
Warning that the flooding would be "life-threatening," forecasters and government officials pleaded with residents in areas designated for evacuation not to stay put, The New York Times reported.
"We're going to have a lot of impact, starting with the storm surge," Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said. "Think, 'big.'"
Weather advisories were posted along the Eastern Seaboard and inland into West Virginia, western Virginia, Kentucky and western Maryland.
Forecasters said Sandy, already responsible for at least 67 deaths in the Caribbean, likely would collide with a cold front, spawning a superstorm capable of generating flash floods, snowstorms and massive power outages, CNN reported.
The Coast Guard said in a release the 16 Bounty crew members had abandoned ship after it lost power 90 miles from Cape Hatteras and began taking on water. It originally reported 17 people were on board.
The 14 people rescued are being flown to Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., where for medical treatment, officials said. A C-130 Hercules aircraft was searching for the two missing crew members and was being assisted by a Jayhawk helicopter crew.
Forecasters said Hurricane Sandy remained on target to impact the New Jersey shore, directly, bringing with it life-threatening flooding and devastating winds, The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported.
Rain and tropical storm-force winds were reported in Atlantic City, where casinos were closed Sunday after Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency.
By 7:30 a.m., streets near the new Revel casino resort were flooded with more than a foot of water, witnesses said.
In low-lying Salem County, which runs along the Delaware River, poor weather conditions were reported Monday morning, but some drivers were on the roads, The Star-Ledger said.
In New York, residents in low-lying areas were ordered evacuated, transit systems were shut down and the stock exchanges were closed in advance of the storm. On Monday, New York Gov. Anthony Cuomo announced the Holland and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels would be closed.
President Obama signed emergency declarations for several states during the weekend, which allows the states to seek for federal funding and other help as the storm arrives.
Obama, who canceled an appearance in Orlando, Fla., to return to Washington Monday, also canceled a campaign visit to Green Bay, Wis., Tuesday so he can monitor the impact and response to Hurricane Sandy, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
"The president's priority right now is the safety and security of Americans who are in the path of the storm and who will be affected by it. It's essential in his view that he be in Washington, one of the areas that will be affected, and where his team is to oversee that effort," Carney said during a news briefing.
On its forecast track, the center of Sandy was expected to make landfall along or just south of the southern New Jersey coast Monday evening or night. Hurricane-force winds extended outward from center as far as 175 miles while tropical storm-force winds extended as far as 485 miles.
Forecasters said Sandy was expected to join up with another storm system, creating a superstorm before weakening as it moves inland.
"It could be bad," U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Steven Rattior told CNN, "or it could be devastation."
In many states, government officials told residents to clear out and some communities were described as near ghost towns as the hurricane bore down on the Mid-Atlantic coastline.
Storm-surge and high tide could raise water levels anywhere from 1-to-11 feet above normal along the East Coast to the Canadian border.
Varying amounts of rainfall were forecast along the East Coast.
Snow accumulations of 2-3 feet were expected in the mountains of West Virginia, with lesser amounts in the mountains of southern Virginia and North Carolina near Tennessee and in western Maryland.
Dangerous surf conditions were expected from Florida through New England for the next couple of days.
Classes were canceled for more than 2 million public school students in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore Monday. Numerous universities, along with federal and state offices also were shuttered.
The U.S. stock exchanges were to be closed Monday and possibly Tuesday.
The United Nations canceled all meetings at its New York headquarters. Broadway shows were canceled, as were performances at New York's Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera.
Thousands of flights were canceled, Amtrak canceled runs and hundreds of roadways were expected to flood, CNN said.
Early voting was canceled in several states. Virginia's governor said Sunday his state would take measures to ensure residents could vote, despite potential hurdles created by the storm.
Copyright 2012 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
All rights reserved.
More links on Hurricanes