Cantabrian in New York braces for superstorm
Former Cantabrian Matt Greenslade and his family are preparing for two days of being stuck at home in New York as they wait for the onslaught of a superstorm.
Parts of Manhattan have been evacuated and a state of emergency declared as Hurricane Sandy heads up the eastern seaboard on a collision course with two other weather systems.
The resulting superstorm is expected to hit tomorrow, bringing furious winds, dangerous flooding and snow.
Greenslade, 42, lives with his wife and two children in Hartsdale, about 40 kilometres from Manhattan.
"The storm is going to come in from the east and hit Long Island first, so hopefully it has petered out a little bit by the time it hits here," he said.
The family had prepared for the eventuality of staying inside over the next few days.
"We've got a survival kit we prepared a few years ago for Hurricane Irene. We've got lots of supplies in the basement,'' he said.
"I've had to cancel jobs I had planned for the next few days because it looks like there is no way we'll be able to get there. It's looking like it will be at least two days inside."
New York City's subways, buses and trains will stop running on Sunday night (mid-morning today NZ time), and its 1.1 million-student school system will be closed on Monday (tomorrow NZT).
Gleenslade said there was a "concerned atmosphere" in the state.
"We are a bit worried; you never know how bad it is going to be. The main thing is we don't want to lose power. You just have to be prepared and hope for the best."
Greenslade moved to New York in 2005 and has weathered several storms.
"We've been lucky so far we haven't been hit by any of the storms or hurricanes badly yet. Our neighbours a few houses down have lost power a few times."
As Greenslade spoke to The Press the weather was "picking up".
"It's pretty windy outside. Not really windy by Christchurch standards, but it's getting worse and has been consistent all day,'' he said.
''I'm looking out the window and trees are blowing around a fair bit. The rain hasn't really hit yet."
Tens of thousands evacuate
Shelters have opened and tens of thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas.
The superstorm is threatening 50 million people along the most heavily populated corridor in the nation.
Click photo at left to see Americans preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy
"The time for preparing and talking is about over," Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate warned as a monster Hurricane Sandy headed up the eastern seaboard on a collision course with two other weather systems. "People need to be acting now."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of part of lower Manhattan and other low-lying neighbourhoods.
"If you don't evacuate, you are not only endangering your life, you are also endangering the lives of the first responders who are going in to rescue you," he said. "This is a serious and dangerous storm."
Tens of thousands of people along the coast in Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut and other threatened areas were also under orders to clear out because of the danger of heavy rain, punishing winds of 130kmh and a potentially deadly tidal surge of one to two metres.
Sandy was headed north from the Caribbean, where it left nearly five dozen people dead, and was expected to hook left towards the mid-Atlantic coast and come ashore late Monday or early Tuesday (Tuesday or Wednesday NZT), most likely in New Jersey, colliding with a wintry storm moving in from the west and cold air streaming down from the Arctic.
Forecasters warned that the resulting megastorm could wreak havoc over 1300km from the east coast to the Great Lakes. Parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina could get snow - 60 centimetres or more in places.
"I've been here since 1997, and I never even put my barbecue grill away during a storm," Russ Linke said shortly before he and his wife left Ship Bottom on Saturday. "But I am taking this one seriously. They say it might hit here. That's about as serious as it can get."
He and his wife secured the patio furniture, packed the bicycles into the pickup truck and headed off the island.
Witlet Maceno, an emergency room nurse working at New York City's Mt Sinai Hospital, was headed home to Staten Island on Sunday morning after his overnight shift.
He said he was going home to check on his parents, visiting from Atlanta, before he returned to work.
"I'm making sure they're OK, that they have water and food, and that the windows are shut tight," he said. "And I'm going to remove stuff outside that could go flying into the windows" of his street-level apartment.
The danger was hardly limited to coastal areas, with forecasters worried about inland flooding. They also warned that the rain could saturate the ground, causing trees to topple onto power lines and cause blackouts that could last for several days.
States of emergency were declared from North Carolina, where gusty winds whipped steady rain on Sunday morning, to Connecticut. Delaware ordered 50,000 people in coastal communities to clear out by 8pm Sunday (1pm Monday NZT).
Officials in New York City were particularly worried about the possibility of subway flooding. The city closed the subways before Hurricane Irene last year, and a Columbia University study predicted that an Irene surge just 30cm higher would have paralysed lower Manhattan.
Sandy was at category 1 strength, packing 120kmh winds, about 402km southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and moving northeast at 22kmh as of 11am Sunday (4am Monday NZT), according to the National Hurricane Centre in Miami. It was about 925km south of New York City.
The storm was so big, however, and the convergence of the three storms so rare, that "we just can't pinpoint who is going to get the worst of it," said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Centre in Miami.
"You never want to be too naive, but ultimately, it's not in our hands anyway," Andrew Ferencsik said as he bought plywood and four-by-twos from a Home Depot in Lewes, Delaware.
Bobbie Foote said she would heed an evacuation order Sunday for south Wilmington, Delaware, and would take shelter at her daughter's home in nearby Newark.
"My daughter insists that I leave this time," said Foote, a 58-year-old fitness coach. It will be the first time she has fled a storm threatening the apartment building that has been her home for at least 40 years in the working-class neighbourhood near the Delaware River.
Foote said she stayed last year when flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Irene blocked streets at either end of the neighbourhood. She said her daughter wouldn't stand for her getting trapped that way again.
"She said I should never put myself in that predicament where I cannot get in or out of where I live," Foote said.
Amtrak began cancelling train service Saturday night to parts of the East Coast, including between Washington and New York. Airlines started moving planes out of airports to avoid damage and added Sunday flights out of New York and Washington in preparation for flight cancellations on Monday.
The Virginia National Guard was authorised to call up to 500 troops for debris removal and road-clearing, while homeowners stacked sandbags at their front doors in coastal towns.
In Arlington, just outside Washington, DC, a few shoppers strolled in and out of a supermarket. Cathy Davis said the supermarket was sold out of the water she wanted to purchase, but she wasn't doing much else to prepare. She figured she would bring her outdoor furniture inside later in the day, and might make some chili.
She said the storm did lead her to decide against decorating for Halloween.
"I was like, 'Eh, it will just be blown away anyway,'" she said. "What's the point?"
President Barack Obama was monitoring the storm and working with state and locals governments to make sure they get the resources needed to prepare, administration officials said.
In North Carolina's Outer Banks, there was some scattered, minor flooding at daybreak Sunday on the beach road in Nags Head. Rising tides and pounding waves were expected as the day wore on.
DeWitt Quinn of the mainland city of Badin, North Carolina., was in the Outer Banks for his annual fishing trip when Sandy threatened to disrupt his plans.
"We've got cards. We've got computers. We've got food. We're going to cook our brains out and eat very well," Quinn said.
In New Jersey, hundreds of coastal residents started moving inland.
Governor Chris Christie's emergency declaration will force the shutdown of Atlantic City's 12 casinos for only the fourth time in the 34-year history of legalised gambling here.
City officials said they would begin evacuating the gambling hub's 30,000 residents at noon Sunday, busing them to mainland shelters and schools.
The storm also forced the presidential campaign to juggle schedules. Romney scrapped plans to campaign Sunday in Virginia and switched his schedule for the day to Ohio.
First lady Michelle Obama canceled an appearance in New Hampshire for Tuesday, and Obama moved a Monday departure for Florida to Sunday night to beat the storm. He also cancelled appearances in northern Virginia on Monday and Colorado on Tuesday.