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A woman carries a sandbag to her vehicle at a distribution center near RFK Stadium in Washington/AFP

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Americans scramble to stay safe as hurricane looms

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A woman carries a sandbag to her vehicle at a distribution center near RFK Stadium in Washington/AFP

MIAMI, Oct 28 – Across the eastern United States, Americans scrambled to stock up on supplies and secure homes as Hurricane Sandy – billed as a superstorm – lumbered north after leaving dozens dead in the Caribbean.

The so-called Frankenstorm was expected to make landfall somewhere between Virginia and Massachusetts early Tuesday, possibly causing chaos during the frenzied last days of campaigning before the November 6 US presidential vote.

As it churned in a northeasterly direction, the massive weather system was at category one hurricane strength, with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometres) per hour, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) saidy.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service warned the storm would “result in significant impacts along coastal North Carolina” beginning late Saturday.

Sandy could cause “moderate coastal flooding and rough surf” through Monday, drenching the state with three to five inches (seven to 13 centimetres) of rain inland and as much as five to eight inches along the coast, they warned.

But emergency officials were far more worried about what could happen further north.

“This is a large storm that is forecasted to impact the (US) Mid-Atlantic and other parts of the East Coast with strong winds, coastal flooding, inland flooding, rain and snow,” said Craig Fugate, head of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“People should be ready for the possibility of power outages paired with cold temperatures,” he said in a statement.

Sandy’s likely collision early next week with a seasonal “nor’easter” weather system was predicted to super-charge the storm, dragging it to the west where it is expected to slam into the coastal US states of Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and even inland Ohio.

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In Delaware, Governor Jack Markell issued an evacuation order, urging coastal residents and those in flood-prone areas to leave their homes to stay safe.

“Please take this evacuation order seriously. It will help save lives of both residents and first responders,” he said in a message on Twitter.

“Gale force winds are expected to arrive along portions of the Mid-Atlantic coasts by late Sunday or Sunday night and reach Long Island and southern New England by Monday morning,” the NHC warned. “Winds to near hurricane force could reach the Mid-Atlantic states including Long Island by Monday.”

Train provider Amtrak, meanwhile, announced it was cancelling some service on Sunday, including two trains on the popular between Washington and New York route.

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