Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sandy Has East Coast Bracing for 'The Big One'; Rare Hybrid Storm Forecast to Follow Hurricane Is Expected to Cause Havoc over an Area 800 Miles Wide

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sandy Has East Coast Bracing for 'The Big One'; Rare Hybrid Storm Forecast to Follow Hurricane Is Expected to Cause Havoc over an Area 800 Miles Wide

Article excerpt

SHIP BOTTOM, N.J. - Forget distinctions such as tropical storm or hurricane. Don't get fixated on a particular track. Wherever it hits, the rare behemoth storm inexorably gathering in the eastern U.S. will afflict a third of the country with sheets of rain, high wind and heavy snow, say officials who warned millions in coastal areas to get out of the way.

"We're looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people," said Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As Hurricane Sandy barreled north from the Caribbean - where it left nearly five dozen dead - to meet two other powerful winter storms, experts said it didn't matter how strong the storm was when it hit land: The rare hybrid storm that follows will cause havoc over an area 800 miles wide, 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 was set to close its casinos this weekend, New York's governor was considering shutting down 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 strength, packing 75 mph wind. 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. New Jersey's Chris Christie, who was widely criticized for not interrupting a family vacation in Florida while a snowstorm pummeled the state in 2010, broke off campaigning for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in North Carolina on Friday to return home.

"I can be as cynical as anyone," Christie said. "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."

The storm forced the presidential campaigns to juggle their schedules. Romney scrapped plans to campaign Sunday in the swing state of Virginia and switched his schedule for the day to Ohio. …

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