Whatever you want to call it, the East Coast is bracing for Hurricane Sandy, a "rare hybrid storm" that is expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge to the mid-Atlantic coast, Long Island Sound and New York harbor, forecasters say, with winds expected to be at or near hurricane force when it makes landfall sometime on Monday. According to the National Hurricane Center, the Category 1 hurricane was centered about 280 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and 485 miles south of New York City early Sunday, carrying maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and moving northeast at 15 mph.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the immediate, mandatory evacuation for low-lying coastal areas, including Coney Island, the Rockaways, Brighton Beach, Red Hook and some parts of lower Manhattan along the East River. "If you don't evacuate, you're not just putting your own life at risk," Mayor Bloomberg said at a news conference Sunday. "You're endangering first responders who may have to rescue you." New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's message for residents was a bit more blunt. "Don't be stupid," Christie said Sunday afternoon, announcing the suspension of the state's transit system beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Earlier, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the suspension of all MTA service--including subways, buses, Long Island Railroad and Metro North--beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday. New York City Public Schools will be closed on Monday, the mayor said. The New York Stock Exchange said its trading floor will be closed on Monday, too--the first such shutdown in 27 years, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sandy is expected to continue on a parallel path along the mid-Atlantic coast later Sunday before making a sharp turn toward the northwest and southern New Jersey coastline on Monday--with the Jersey Shore and New York City in its projected path.
But the path is not necessarily the problem. "Don't get fixated on a particular track," the Associated Press said. "Wherever it hits, the rare behemoth storm inexorably gathering in the eastern U.S. will afflict a third of the country with sheets of rain, high winds and heavy snow." A tropical storm warning has been issued between Cape Fear to Duck, N.C., while hurricane watches and high-wind warnings are in effect from the Virginia to Massachusetts. The hurricane-force winds extend 175 miles from the epicenter of the storm, while tropical storm-force winds extend 500 miles--or roughly 1,000 miles end to end, making Sandy one of the biggest storms to ever hit the East Coast.