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Shelters flood as Sandy barrels inland

Many reported trapped along NJ coast as power fails, roads and bridges close

NEW YORK (UPI) | October 29, 2012

Emergency responders spent much of Monday transporting people from southern New Jersey seacoast communities until weather deteriorated so much that no more rescues were safe. Many of those who were moved by National Guard vehicles Monday said they had planned to stay in their homes until severe flooding hit their towns.

A reporter for the Press of Atlantic City reported that a canal that cuts through the tip of the southern-most Cape May County looked like a white water river.

As the hurricane crossed the shore about 6 p.m., there were reports of a number of people trapped in Atlantic City shelters that were experiencing flooding. According to the NBC television affiliate in Philadelphia, New Jersey Gov. Chis Christie, said "a large number of people" were trapped in the city and that they would not be rescued until Tuesday. Christie blamed Atlantic City's mayor Lorenzo Langford for not being more proactive.

In New York City, the strong winds from the storm were blamed for a partial crane toppling near Carnegie Hall in New York.

Millions of homes were without power, travel plans were on hold, schools were canceled and government offices were shuttered in anticipation of Sandy's making landfall. The storm is expected to affect as many as 60 million people.

More than 91,000 power outages were reported in Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey, with 40,000 in the Atlantic City and Cape May areas as of 3 p.m., The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported.

According to Accuweather.com, more than 2.2 million outages were reported across 11 states and District of Columbia.

Forecasters said Sandy likely would collide with a cold front, spawning a superstorm capable of generating flash floods, snowstorms and massive power outages.

President Obama said he spoke with governors of a number of states in Hurricane Sandy's wide, wide path along the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to the New England states. Even Florida was affected Monday by dangerous surf generated by Sandy.

"They have issues emergency declarations. Those have been turned around quickly here in the White House," Obama said. "We have prepositioned assets so that FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] personnel are working closely with state and local governments. We're making sure that food and water and emergency generation is available for those communities that are going to be hardest hit."

In New York, authorities said they're concerned that the partial collapse of a crane could plunge onto the street, WABC-TV, New York, said.

Sandy forced construction work to be suspended, so it was unclear whether anyone was at the job site at one what WABC said is one of the tallest towers in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that New York City schools would be closed Tuesday. Classes were canceled in several cities for about 2 million students.

The New York Stock Exchange posted on its website it would be closed for a second straight day Tuesday.

"In consultation with other exchanges and market participants, NYSE ... will close its markets in coordination with all U.S. equities, bonds, options and derivatives markets on Tuesday," the statement said. "We intend to re-open our U.S. markets on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, conditions permitting ... ."

The Office of Personnel Management said on its website that federal offices in Washington would be closed to the public for a second day Tuesday.

WABC said the Brooklyn Battery and Holland tunnels were closed, and that speeds were reduced on the George Washington Bridge and three Staten Island crossings.

Amtrak said its Northeast Corridor services were canceled through Tuesday because of Sandy. Airports reported more than 10,000 flights had been canceled.

Obama said his team knows "this is going to be a slow-moving process through a wide swath of the country, and millions of people are going to be affected."

"So the most important message that I have for the public right now is, please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate," Obama said. "Do not delay, don't pause, don't question the instructions that are being given because this is a serious storm and it could potentially have fatal consequence[s] if people haven't acted quickly."

"But keep in mind that for folks who are not following instructions, if you are not evacuating when you've been asked to evacuate, you're putting first responders at danger," Obama said, a sentiment echoed by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.

Fugate said one of his key concerns was "people who didn't evacuate" but later needed to be rescued, putting responders "in harm's way."

Obama said he wasn't worried about Sandy's impact on the election.

"I'm worried about the impact on families, and I'm worried about the impact on our first responders. I'm worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation," he said. "The election will take care of itself next week."

Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb said Sandy would be a "long-duration" event.

"Time has run out, or is running out, for preparations," Knabb said.

Hurricane-force and tropical storm-force gusts could last in some areas "into Tuesday night or Wednesday morning." Forecasters also warned winds would be much higher at the upper floors of high-rise buildings than at ground level.

Rainfall in some areas could be "measured in feet," not inches, Knabb said, while 2-3 feet of snow could fall in the mountainous regions of West Virginia.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on his website said he and his wife were keeping those in Sandy's path in their prayers.

"I hope that if you can, you'll reach out to your neighbors who may need help getting ready for the storm -- especially your elderly neighbors," he said in the post. "And if you can give of your resources or time, please consider supporting your local Red Cross organization."

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, which was built for the 1962 movie "Mutiny on the Bounty" and also used in "Pirates of the Caribbean," who were in life rafts. Two crew members were reported missing.

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 vessel, which sank.

Weather advisories were posted along the Eastern Seaboard and inland into West Virginia, western Virginia, Kentucky and western Maryland.

On its forecast track, the center of Sandy was expected to make landfall along or just south of the southern New Jersey coast. Hurricane-force winds extended outward from center as far as 175 miles while tropical storm-force winds extended as far as 485 miles.

"It could be bad," Coast Guard Rear Adm. Steven Rattior told CNN, "or it could be devastation."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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