As Hurricane Sandy continues to churn closer towards the United States, authorities along the east coast are issuing evacuation orders and residents are bracing themselves for the "megastorm" some forecasters are already calling "historical".
On Friday, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency, saying:
"We are issuing this state of emergency today as a precautionary measure in order to ensure that we are ready for any potential effects of Hurricane Sandy in the Commonwealth.....we could see severe weather lasting for 48 hours or more in the state. Now is the time for all Virginians to prepare for those possible power outages and disruptions to public services."
Rear Admiral Tim Alexander, Commander Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, issued a statement ordering:
"all installations in the Hampton Roads area, as well as Naval Weapons Station Earle (NJ) and Naval Support Activity Mechanicsburg (PA) to set Tropical Cyclone Condition Three as Hurricane Sandy is forecast to have an impact on the Mid-Atlantic coast. Tropical Cyclone Condition Threemeans destructive winds of greater than 50 knots associated with a tropical system, are expected within 48 hours."
Navy personnel stationed at Norfolk Naval Station prepare sandbags in anticipation of possible flooding from Hurricane Sandy.
Naval personnel at the Norfork Naval Station are on 24 hour watch, but the fleet remains in port at this time.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued an executive order on Saturday announcing the "suspension of gaming activity" at all Atlantic City casinos by 3:00 p.m. Sunday. All casino properties must be closed by 4:00 p.m. according to the order. There is also a mandatory evacuation order in place for all of the barrier islands from Cape May northward to Long Beach. All tolls will be suspended on the northbound Garden State Parkway and on the westbound Atlantic City Expressway, beginning at 6 a.m. Sunday. This measure is to "facilitate the travel of residents" leaving the coastal area according to a press release issued by the governor's office.
Tom Croci, Supervisor for the Suffolk County New York town of Islip, issued an evacuation order for Fire Island and urged all residents of the island to evacuate no later than 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.
During a news conference on Saturday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated that Lower Manhattan will be the most vulnerable to storm surge. He noted that there are 6 hospitals and 41 chronic care facilities in the area and that all "ventilator-dependent" patients will be transferred from these facilities by 5 p.m. Sunday.
Amtrak began canceling train service to parts of the East Coast, including between Washington, D.C. and New York, on Saturday. Many airlines began moving planes from east coast airports to avoid damage, Several flights out of New York and Washington were added to help residents and visitors leave the area ahead of planned flight cancellations on Monday.
Peak wind gust forecast for Hurricane Sandy
Digital Journal spoke with residents from the New York and New Jersey area, asking how they are preparing for the storm. P.J. from South River New Jersey stated:
"I am not in an area prone to flooding, but there are a lot of trees in the area. I went and got a generator and plenty of fuel in case the power does go out of an extended period, and I also bought an extra battery for my cell phone. I stocked up on candles and batteries, and got food that does not require a lot of cooking...bread, peanut butter and jelly, instant coffee and soup which can be heated up pretty quickly. I also got some hot dogs and beans that we can cook on the grill once the rain is through."
Ren from New York City told Digital Journal:
"I got plenty of extra gas for the car just in case, along with fuel for the generator and plenty of extra firewood, batteries and candles. We are going to try and make this as "fun" as we can. We got some bottles of wine, cheese, grapes, apples, bread and crackers, along with other easy to prepare food. I am going to think of it as an extended date night and we will just make the best of it."
Projected rainfall and flooding from Hurricane Sandy
Wind Damage and Flooding Potential
According to The Weather Channel, sustained winds of 30-50 mph and wind gusts of up to 75 mph could extend from Richmond, Virginia northward to the Canadian boarder, and as far west as Ohio. These winds have the potential of downing trees and "blowing out windows in skyscrapers." Widespread power outages are expected to last several days.
Rainfall is expected to range from 3-6 inches from Hatteras, South Carolina to New York City and westward through Pittsburgh and into Ohio. Areas along the coast line could see 10 inches or more of rainfall. The heaviest storm surge is expected between Ocean City, Maryland northward into Connecticut. According to The National Hurricane Center, storm surge estimates of 4 to 8 feet above ground level from Ocean City to the Connecticut/Rhode Island border are expected.
Due to the cold front that will be combining with Sandy, heavy snows with a foot or more of accumulation is possible in some parts of the central Appalachian mountains of West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania.
Historical StormAccuWeather has stated if Sandy remains on the current track, she could become a historical storm, impacting as many as 60 million people and causing up to a billion dollars in damage.
Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters said once the storm makes landfall it will "likely be a billion-dollar disaster." With tropical storm-force winds now extending outward for 450 nautical miles, Sandy is already ranked as the second largest Atlantic Tropical Cyclone in history. As she continues to gain strength, Weather Underground predicts she will take over the top spot as the largest ever recorded.
Dr. Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction, told ABC News: "This storm has -- it certainly has the potential to stand on its own. We are dealing with categories we don't normally see here."