A construction crane was left dangling from the top of a high-rise apartment building in midtown Manhattan Monday as Hurricane Sandy approached. MSNBC's Tamron Hall reports.
Utility companies said tens of thousands of customers were without electricity on Monday, and officials warned that millions could be without power for days following Hurricane Sandy. Hours before the Sandy was expected to make landfall, the storm lashed the region with furious winds, blinding rain and flooding. A mandatory evacuation of more than 375,000 people in low-lying parts of New York City was issued shortly after the entire transit system was brought to a slow, grinding halt Sunday.
At a news briefing Sunday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told residents that "if you don't evacuate, you're not just putting your own life in danger — you are also endangering the lives of our first responders who may have to come in and rescue you." A storm surge of 11 feet is possible, the highest of all coastal areas being hit by Sandy. The New York Stock Exchange and other U.S. financial markets shut down for Monday and Tuesday and thousands of flights were canceled at the city's major airports.
"Don't be fooled, don't look out the window and think it doesn't look so bad," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. "The worst is still coming. Irene levels are currently being seen in the region right now. These forecasts for this surge are really extraordinary. They are talking about surges we've never seen before."
Lucas Jackson / Reuters
After strong winds and heavy rain washed out bridges and damaged homes in multiple countries, the hurricane looks toward the northeastern U.S.
Hurricane Sandy was accelerating and expected to make landfall near Atlantic City as early as 4 p.m. on Monday, forecasters said. Sandy is already hammering the state with strong winds and flooding rains, bringing rail and road travel to a near standstill. Police in coastal towns were going door to door Monday as more than 1 million people were given mandatory evacuation orders, and thousands were already without power.
"Staying on the barrier islands for 36 hours is stupid. Don't be stupid; get out. Go to higher, safer ground," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said at a Sunday afternoon press conference, adding that residents should "be prepared to stay in your homes for an extended period of time ... perhaps without power or water."
One tenth of all Connecticut residents -- 360,000 people -- were asked to evacuate their homes as officials had warned the storm surge could cause massive flooding along the state's coastline. Power outages were also pervasive Monday, and state officials estimated more than 35,000 people could be without power for as long as 36 hours in the days to come.
"In order to ensure the safety of residents and their belongings, the town has coordinated to establish a strong police presence in evacuation areas," East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. told NBCConnecticut.com.
Water covered some major roads on Monday, and residents scrambled to prepare for a week of misery. Hundreds of people fled to shelters as rough surf pounded the coast. On Sunday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell ordered the evacuation of 50,000 coastal residents as the storm threatened to bring up to 12 inches of rain, winds of up to 80 mph and a wall of water as high as 11 feet.
Hugh Phillips, 69, and his wife, Martha, were among the first to leave their home in the Long Neck area of Sussex County, an area prone to flooding. "We were told to get the heck out," Hugh Phillips told The Associated Press. "I was going to stay, but it's better to be safe than sorry."
The region's entire public transit system was suspended Monday, the largest mass shutdown in the city since Hurricane Isabelle in 2003. Schools, colleges and universities also closed their doors in anticipation of power outages and dangerous road conditions. Some extended their closures into Tuesday and Wednesday. Winds in the city were blowing from about 20 to 36 mph and officials expected them to get stronger later in the day. Washington-area utility providers warned residents to prepare for power outages that could last for weeks.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter warned residents Sunday that the city was directly in the path of the storm and asked them to leave right now if they live in a flood-prone, low-lying area. Schools, businesses, and city governments were closed Monday and transit services were suspended, as many residents took shelter at evacuation centers.
"This is a great, old northeastern city, which is one of our great qualities," Mayor Nutter said. "But one of the challenges is it's a great, old northeastern city with old infrastructure, tons of trees and power lines, all of that can be affected by a storm like this. This is all hands on deck."
Officials predict coastal flooding and beach erosion, and utility crews have been brought in from Canada to handle anticipated power failures. Many Mainers hustled with their worst-case scenario preparations, scooping up generators, flashlights and bottles of water. Many schools and universities closed.
But some residents on Maine's islands took a wait-and-see approach. "They'll pretty much stay in denial until they see it arrive," Al Bleau, head of Peaks Island's Community Emergency Response Team, told the Bangor Daily News. "They see all these big storms that form and then nothing happens (locally)."
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee urged residents to "make the decision now" to evacuate from coastal and low-lying areas ahead of the storm. Chafee toured coastal areas of Rhode Island, including Narragansett, and early Monday afternoon urged people to consider evacuating before the storm worsens. A decision to shut down highways, including Interstate 95, was under consideration, the governor said. Several hundred members of the Rhode Island National Guard were on standby, ready to provide support to municipalities, NBC 10 in Providence reported.
Two U.S. Coast Guard helicopters rescued 14 crew members that had abandoned the HMS Bounty, a tall ship built for a 1962 movie, about 90 miles off the coast. Efforts were underway to search for two other crew members. Those rescued were flown to Air Station Elizabeth City in North Carolina where they were met by emergency medical services personnel, the Coast Guard said. The storm lashed barrier islands and rendered several homes and businesses nearly inaccessible.
Sandy's approach comes less than 14 months after the state was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene, the most significant natural disaster to hit the state in almost a century. Gov. Peter Shumlin declared a state of emergency to provide access to National Guard troops. The University of Vermont canceled classes. People were starting to report power outages and damage, according to Vermont Public Radio. Red Cross officials were preparing to open shelters as needed. The storm was expected to start affecting southern Vermont Monday afternoon, with potentially hurricane-force winds starting later in the day, according to local media reports.
"At this point we do feel that we are adequately prepared," Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn in Waterbury told The Burlington Free Press. "We've really focused on our outreach to the public this time."
The worst coastal flooding appears to be over, but a lot of rain and wind are still to come, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Power blackouts are likely still to come and officials warned that almost 1 million could ultimately lose electricity. A high tide and storm surge Monday flooded streets and yards throughout coastal areas of the state, but there were no reports of injuries or major damages.
"This really is a strange storm," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "We've got coastal flooding, tropical storm and hurricane force winds at the coast, eight to 10 inches of rain at the coast and then in Southwest Virginia we have blizzard warnings, up to a foot or two feet of snow."
Still, some Virginians seem unaffected by the storm.
"I'm just sitting back watching TV and hoping the electricity doesn't go out," Lonnie Moore of Tangier Island, Va., told the Times-Dispatch.
Highway crews on Monday began what could be a week of snow removal in some areas, as forecasters predicted as much as three feet of snowfall, the Charleston Gazette reported. Forecasters also expanded a blizzard warning Monday to at least 14 counties and predicted wind gusts approaching 50 miles per hour after 4 p.m. The Weather Channel's winter expert Tom Niziol said higher elevations could see 18-24 inches of snow. Monday. Several shelters were put on standby, and power crews were mobilized to handle potential failures, the Associated Press reported.
Light rain Wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour were felt Monday and could blow through the Columbus area over night, the Columbus Dispatch reported. The National Weather Service issued a high-wind warning for much of central Ohio beginning at noon Monday and running through 6 p.m. Tuesday. Forecasters were predicting the worst weather conditions between 8 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday. They also said the light rain could change to a snow mix by midnight with light accumulation possible. Residents of low-lying areas and along Lake Erie were also warned to watch for flooding.
Some 800 miles away from the coast, the National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for one county and a high wind advisory for a 14-county region, the Michigan News reported. Forecasters cautioned that winds could reach 40 to 50 miles per hour.
The first snowfall of the season was likely to pound areas of the state, the National Weather Service predicted. There were already four inches of snow on the ground in areas of the Great Smoky Mountains Monday, and forecasters said the higher elevations in eastern Tennessee could get up to 17 inches of snow before the storm subsides Wednesday, the News Sentinel reported. Additionally, flights to Nashville International Airport were being cancelled Monday.
NBCNews.com's Andrew Mach and Sevil Omer contributed to this report.
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