October 29, 2012 – Hurricane Sandy from Space: Hurricane Sandy, a menacing monster of a storm that forecasters said would bring “life-threatening” flooding, churned toward some of the nation’s most densely populated areas on Sunday, prompting widespread evacuations and the shutdown of the New York City transit system.
Officials warned that the hurricane, pushing north from the Caribbean after leaving more than 60 people dead in its wake, could disrupt life in the Northeast for days.
New York went into emergency mode, ordering the evacuations of more than 370,000 people in low-lying communities from Coney Island in Brooklyn to Battery Park City in Manhattan and giving 1.1 million schoolchildren a day off on Monday. The city opened evacuation shelters at 76 public schools. The New York Stock Exchange was also closed.
The National Hurricane Center said it expected the storm to swing inland, probably on Monday evening. The hurricane center reported that the storm had sustained winds of almost 75 miles an hour.
“We’re going to have a lot of impact, starting with the storm surge,” said Craig Fugate, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Think, ‘Big.’ ”
The subway closing began at 7 p.m. to darken every one of the city’s 468 stations for the second time in 14 months, as officials encouraged the public to stay indoors and worked to prevent a storm surge from damaging tracks and signal equipment in the tunnels. A suspension of bus service was ordered for 9 p.m.
The closing this year seemed more ominous. The shutdown before Tropical Storm Irene last year began at noon on a Saturday, and service resumed before the workweek started on Monday. This time, officials warned, it might be Wednesday before trains were running again.
Another fear in the Northeast was that winds from the storm might knock down power lines, and that surging waters could flood utility companies’ generators and other equipment.
Forecasters said the hurricane was a strikingly powerful storm that could reach far inland. Hurricane-force winds from the storm stretched 175 miles from the center, an unusually wide span, and tropical storm winds extended outward 520 miles. Forecasters said they expected high-altitude winds to whip every state east of the Mississippi River.
President Obama, who attended a briefing with officials from FEMA in Washington called Hurricane Sandy “a big and serious storm.” He said federal officials were “making sure that we’ve got the best possible response to what is going to be a big and messy system.”
“My main message to everybody involved is that we have to take this seriously,” the president said.
The hurricane center said through the day on Sunday that Hurricane Sandy was “expected to bring life-threatening storm surge flooding to the mid-Atlantic Coast, including Long Island Sound and New York Harbor.”
The storm preparations and cancellations were not confined to New York.
Amtrak said it would cancel most trains on the Eastern Seaboard, and Philadelphia shut down its mass transit system.
In the New York area, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s commuter rail lines, which suffered the heaviest damage during Tropical Storm Irene, were suspended beginning at 7 p.m. on Sunday.
New Jersey Transit began rolling back service gradually at 4 p.m., with a full shutdown expected by 2 a.m.
The Staten Island Ferry was scheduled to stop running by 8:30 p.m., PATH trains at midnight.
The nation’s major airlines canceled thousands of flights in the Northeast. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the three major airports in the New York City area, said it expected major carriers to cease operations entirely by Sunday evening. The Coast Guard closed New York Harbor — cruise ships were told to go elsewhere — and the Northeast faced the possibility of being all but shut down on Monday.
The Master of Disaster