New Yorkers' lives threatened as megastorm Sandy approaches

Hurricane throws presidential election into disarray as hundreds of thousands evacuate New York

LAST UPDATED AT 10:09 ON Mon 29 Oct 2012

US AUTHORITIES fear a combination of Hurricane Sandy, a full moon, a wintry storm coming in from the west and a blast of Arctic air from the north will cause "life threatening" storm surge floods to the mid-Atlantic coast.

The category 1 hurricane, dubbed 'Frankenstorm' by some Americans and a 'megastorm' by others, is around 500 miles across and has sustained winds of 85mph with higher-speed gusts.

At 8am local time today, it was 310 miles southeast of New York, and is expected to make landfall at Atlantic City, New Jersey late tonight. Sandy is moving very slowly, at just 20mph, the BBC reports. It could linger over as many as 12 states for up to 36 hours, bringing up to 25cm of rain, 60cm of snow and extreme storm surges.

New York is braced for a surge of up to 11ft, which could breach the Manhattan flood wall and inundate the Subway system, while New Jersey is expecting a surge of up to 14ft.

Here's how the authorities have been preparing:

  • THOUSANDS EVACUATED

Hurricane Sandy is heading for the most heavily populated part of the US, with 50 million people threatened. Hundreds of thousands of people from Maryland to Connecticut have been ordered to evacuate low-lying coastal areas, according to CBS, including 375,000 in lower Manhattan and other parts of New York City, 50,000 in Delaware and 30,000 in Atlantic City.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "If you don't evacuate, you are not only endangering your life, you are also endangering the lives of the first responders who are going in to rescue you. This is a serious and dangerous storm."

  • PRESIDENTIAL EVENTS CANCELED

President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney have been forced to cancel election events because of Hurricane Sandy.

Obama promised the government would "respond big and respond fast" in the aftermath of the storm.

"My message to the governors as well as to the mayors is anything they need, we will be there, and we will cut through red tape. We are not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules," he said.

Yesterday, Romney cancelled three events in the swing state of Virginia to ensure he didn't get in the way of emergency preparations.
Instead, he flew to another battleground state, Ohio.

The impact of this 'October surprise' on the election remains to be seen. As The Guardian observes: "No one can predict the impact of Hurricane Sandy on this election. What will play better? Obama being presidential in Washington, seemingly in command of the emergency operations, while Rommey continues campaigning? Or will Obama be unable to resist the lure of rushing back to campaigning prematurely?"

  • NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE CLOSED

The New York Stock Exchange will remain closed today ­ and possibly Tuesday ­ because of concerns about the market's ability to function without disruption and the safety of staff. The Nasdaq and New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), whose trading floor is located within the mandatory evacuation zone, are also suspending operations. Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, whose offices are in the evacuation zone, are recommending employees work from home. · 

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