Oct 28, 2012 / 8:00 pm
The U.S. East Coast braced on Sunday for the fury of hurricane Sandy as the monster storm churned menacingly toward the most populous region of the country, threatening massive flooding, mighty winds and widespread power outages for 60 million Americans.
"This is certainly the biggest thing I've covered in my career," Jim Cantore, a meteorologist at The Weather Channel who reported extensively on 2005's devastating hurricane Katrina, told viewers hours before the storm was set to make landfall.
Added Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley at an afternoon news conference: "This is a serious, killer storm."
Sandy was forecast to pummel eight U.S. states over the next couple of days as it marches towards Canada, where it's expected to wreak the most havoc in eastern Ontario and western Quebec.
If, as expected, the hurricane collides with a cold front to the west and a high-pressure system from Greenland, the trio of clashing weather systems could create a "perfect storm" with the potential to pummel the Eastern Seaboard for days.
U.S. President Barack Obama visited the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the D.C., urging Americans to heed the advice of officials.
"This is a serious and big storm," he said.
"You need to take this very seriously and follow the instructions of your state and local officials, because they are going to be providing you with the best advice in terms of how to deal with this storm over the coming days."
Both Obama and Mitt Romney, his Republican rival for the White House, cancelled events Sunday as they headed into the last full week of the presidential election campaign.
That included scrubbing appearances in Virginia, a key swing state where the men are running neck and neck with just 10 days until the presidential election.
Both Republican and Democratic officials are worried that the mega-storm could dramatically affect voter turnout on Nov. 6 in the states of Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, all of them critical battleground states.
That's a particular concern if those states experience extensive, long-lasting power outages of the type that occurred when a monumental summer storm pounded the Eastern Seaboard just five months ago.
"Obviously we want unfettered access to the polls because we believe the more people who come out, the better we're going to do," David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, said Sunday.
"The best thing we can do is to focus on how we can help people, and hope it all clears out by next weekend."
In the U.S. capital, the city's public transit system announced it was shutting down entirely on Monday. The federal government also told its employees to stay home.
Elsewhere on the East Coast, New York City shut down its subway system. The hurricane has the potential to create a storm surge that could overwhelm Manhattan's flood walls and swamp its subway tunnels.
"The storm is coming ... and now it is time to take action," Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a news conference. "This is nothing to play with, and this is nothing to take lightly. So take it seriously."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of parts of lower Manhattan and the Rockaways, a peninsula on Long Island. He also ordered New York harbour closed.
"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," Bloomberg said.
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