Hurricane may come ashore late Monday in New Jersey
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Hurricane Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, began battering the densely populated East Coast on Monday, shutting down transportation, forcing evacuations in flood-prone areas and interrupting the presidential campaign.
Fierce winds and flooding were expected along hundreds of miles of Atlantic coast and heavy snows were forecast farther inland at higher elevations when the center of the storm moves ashore Monday night near Atlantic City, New Jersey.
U.S. stock markets closed for the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the government in Washington shut down and school was cancelled up and down the East Coast. About 150,000 customers were without power by midday and millions more could lose electricity.
This is going to be a big and powerful storm and all across the Eastern Seaboard I think everybody is taking the appropriate preparations, President Barack Obama said at the White House.
State governors from Virginia to Massachusetts warned of the acute danger from the storm for the 60 million residents in its path. Nine states have declared a state of emergency. Experts said economic losses from the storm could reach $20 billion.
There will undoubtedly be some deaths that are caused by the intensity of this storm, by the floods, by the tidal surge, by the waves. The more responsibly citizens act, the fewer people will die, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley told reporters.
Off North Carolina, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 of the 16 crew members who abandoned the replica tall ship HMS Bounty, using helicopters to lift them from life rafts. The Coast Guard continued to search for the two missing crew members.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the Category 1 storm had strengthened as it turned toward the coast and was moving at 18 miles per hour (30 km per hour). It was expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge, coastal hurricane winds and heavy snow in the Appalachian Mountains, the NHC said.
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