As superstorm Sandy nears, US braces for massive destruction
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East coast states grind to a halt, major financial markets shut for the first time since 9/11, more than 10,000 flights cancelled, 50 million people across 800-mile swathe at risk
Hurricane Sandy picked up strength and turned towards New York City and other areas on the east coast on Monday, forcing the shutdown of financial markets and mass transit. The threat of high winds , rain and a wall of water up to 11 feet high forced residents to flee. It could endanger 50 million people.
Sandy strengthened before dawn and stayed on a predicted path towards New York, Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia, putting it on a collision course with two other weather systems that would create a superstorm with the potential for havoc over 800 miles (1,280 km) from the east coast to the Great Lakes.
Airports closed, and authorities warned that the time for evacuation was running out. Many workers planned to stay home as subways, buses and trains shut down across the region under the threat of flooding. Utilities anticipated widespread power failures.
The centre of the storm was positioned to come ashore Monday night in New Jersey, meaning the worst of the surge could be in the northern part of that state and in New York City and on Long Island. Higher tides brought by a full moon compounded the threat to the metropolitan area of about 20 million people. "This is the worst-case scenario," said Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Almost 10,000 flights were cancelled. Amtrak began suspending train service across the northeast, and subways were also closed. As rain from the leading edges began to fall over the northeast on Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people from Maryland to Connecticut were ordered to leave low-lying coastal areas.
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