US Super storm threat launches mass evacuations
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Hurricane Sandy headed north from the Caribbean _ where it left nearly 60 dead _ to threaten the eastern U.S. with sheets of rain, high winds and heavy snow as officials warned millions in coastal areas to get out of the way of the behemoth storm.
Sandy was expected to affect up to 60 million people when it meets two other powerful winter storms. Experts said it didn't matter how strong the storm was when it hit land: The rare hybrid that follows will cause havoc over 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.
"This is not a coastal threat alone,'' said Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "This is a very large area.''
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency Saturday as hundreds of coastal residents started moving inland and the state was set to close its casinos. New York's governor was considering shutting down the subways to avoid flooding and half a dozen states warned residents to prepare for several days of lost power.
Sandy weakened briefly to a tropical storm early Saturday but was soon back up to Category 1 hurricane strength, packing 75 mph (120 kph) winds about 335 miles (539 kilometers) southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, as of 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT). Experts said the storm was most likely to hit the southern New Jersey coastline by late Monday or early Tuesday.
Governors from North Carolina, where heavy rain was expected Sunday, to Connecticut declared states of emergency. Delaware ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal communities by 8 p.m. Saturday.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie broke off campaigning for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in North Carolina on Friday to return home.
"I can be as cynical as anyone,'' the pugnacious chief executive said in a bit of understatement Saturday. ``But when the storm comes, if it's as bad as they're predicting, you're going to wish you weren't as cynical as you otherwise might have been.''
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