President Obama signed federal emergency declarations for eight states and the District of Columbia, permitting state officials to begin making requests for federal assistance, including manpower and equipment. The president also canceled campaign plans for Monday and Tuesday so he could remain at the White House and oversee the federal response to the storm..
GOP challenger Mitt Romney also shelved most of his campaign plans. Former Virginia governors George F. Allen and Timothy M. Kaine, who are locked in a tough fight for the U.S. Senate, temporarily suspended their public events because of the weather, too. Both candidates also warned residents to take down their yard signs lest they go airborne.
“We are certain that this is going to be a slow-moving process through a wide swath of the country, and millions of people are going to be affected,” Obama told reporters at the White House. He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has pre-positioned supplies and is working closely with state and local officials.
Asked about the storm’s effect on the election campaign, Obama said: “I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I’m worried about the impact on families, and I’m worried about the impact on our first-responders. I’m worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation. ”
An AccuWeather meteorologist predicted that the storm would affect 60 million people in its path from North Carolina to New England and cost billions of dollars.
“Sandy is unfolding as the Northeast’s Katrina in terms of impact,” AccuWeather meteorologist Steve Wistar said.
(Follow our storm live blog.)
Sandy strengthened in the morning, with maximum sustained winds reaching 90 miles per hour, up from 75 mph previously. As predicted, the vast storm — some 900 miles wide — began moving west from the ocean toward land.
In Washington, winds gusted as high as 60 mph. Rock Creek’s waters were rising, and standing water was reported on K Street NW, Connecticut Avenue NW and U.S. 50/Arlington Boulevard.
Significant flooding was reported Monday in Atlantic City, N.J. and Ocean City, Md., and half of Ocean City's main fishing pier was washed away.
Ocean City officials said Sandy was comparable to the massive storm that snapped the city’s historic boardwalk in 1985, while a large chunk of the city’s main fishing pier snapped in heavy seas. About 200 residents remained in the resort town, despite a mandatory evacuation. No injuries or deaths were reported, officials said.
National Guard and swift water rescue teams evacuated more than 100 people in the city of Crisfield, another of the hardest hit areas in Maryland. Electricity had been cutoff entirely to the city, and some residents remained stranded in the dark, sheltering on the second floor of homes flooded with five feet or more of water, officials said.