, NEW YORK, Oct 29 – Much of the eastern United States was in lockdown mode Monday awaiting the arrival of a hurricane dubbed “Frankenstorm” that threatened to wreak havoc on the area with storm surges, driving rain and gale-force winds.
New York authorities ordered the evacuation Sunday of 375,000 people from low-lying coastal areas as the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy forced the entire eastern seaboard into lockdown mode.
More than 7,400 flights out of east coast hubs were canceled and ground transport was due to grind to a halt on as non-essential government staff were told not to show up for work and public schools were shuttered.
Amtrak suspended all bus and train services up and down the coast. Subway services, buses and commuter trains were also shut down in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
And the New York Stock Exchange said it will be completely closed on Monday, and possibly on Tuesday.
Hundreds of thousands of residents in low-lying coastal areas were under orders to clear out and an AFP reporter said the beach resort of Rehoboth in Delaware was a ghost town as the deadline passed for mandatory evacuation.
The storm made its presence felt on the knife-edge US presidential race as President Barack Obama’s jittery campaign voiced fears about turnout on November 6 and both candidates pulled out of rallies in must-win states.
“My first message is to all people across the eastern seaboard, mid-Atlantic going north. You need to take this very seriously,” Obama said, urging 50 million Americans across the region to heed the advice of local authorities.
The New York Stock Exchange said it will be completely closed on Monday, and possibly on Tuesday
The president, who spoke after being briefed at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), cautioned that Sandy was a slow-moving storm that certain areas would take a long time to recover from.
“The time for preparing and talking is about over,” FEMA administrator Craig Fugate warned. “People need to be acting now.”
As some defiant New Yorkers stocked up on beer and laughed off the evacuation orders saying they intended to ride out the storm, the National Weather Service office in neighboring New Jersey held no punches in its warning to residents.