State emergency managers rallied their resources as the unique megastorm Sandy swirled closer to landfall Monday (Oct. 29), threatening to bring a potentially deadly combination of hurricane force winds and historic surge levels to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coast, along with heavy Appalachian snows.
The far-reaching storm is expected to impact millions of people in some of the country's largest cities and could last for days.
Governors in 10 states have declared states of emergency, while tens of thousands of people from Connecticut to Maryland are under orders to flee. That includes 375,000 in New York, 50,000 in Delaware and 30,000 in New Jersey.
“It's just plain stupid to stay,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said at a press conference Sunday evening. “For any folks on barrier islands right now and you still have power, yes, I'm calling you stupid. It's very difficult for us to order first responders to go in there and try to save folks.”
Schools, government offices and mass transit systems have been shut down in anticipation of high winds, flooding and power outages. Sandy has even affected the democratic process, prompting elections officials in Maryland and the District to suspend early voting.
The storm strengthened Monday, turning northwest with winds reaching speeds of 85 miles per hour. Sandy is expected to grow even stronger as it makes landfall in the Mid-Atlantic this evening, the National Weather Service said in a 5 a.m. update.
The storm is also expected to collide with artic air sweeping in from the northwest, which could blanket parts of Appalachia with up to three feet of snow.
“My main message to everybody involved is that we have to take this seriously,” President Obama said in a conference call with governors. “It's going to be very important that populations in all the impacted states take this seriously, listen to your state and local elected officials."
Obama declared states of emergency in Connecticut, the District, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, directing federal resources to the storm response.
“My message to the governors, as well as to the mayors, is anything they need, we will be there,” the president said. “And we're going to cut through red tape. We're not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules. We want to make sure that we are anticipating and leaning forward into making sure that we've got the best possible response to what is going to be a big and messy system.”