As the storm’s leading edge approached the Mid-Atlantic region, its effect was already being felt. The federal government announced a shutdown on Monday, saying that only emergency employees and those required to telework would be on duty.
Metro will close too, with all rail and bus service cancelled. Maryland and the District closed all government offices; both jurisdictions also suspended early voting. Several school districts called off classes on Monday, with Montgomery and Fairfax counties cancelling school through Tuesday.
“This is a serious, killer storm,” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) said in an afternoon news conference. He urged residents to hunker down and prepare for what he and other officials expect to be extended days of power outages.
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said the approaching storm was unlike any storm he had seen in 20 years.
Local residents boarded up windows and lined up to grab sandbags. Small areas of flooding had begun on Sunday in the Hampton Roads area and the beach at Virginia Beach was already covered in water. Late Sunday, Dominion Virginia Power reported that 3,000 customers had lost power in the Hampton Roads area.
“This is going to be a long haul,” McDonnell said. “People are going to have to be patient.”
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered schools and public transportation systems closed, and a mandatory evacuation of more than 350,000 people residents in low-lying areas such as Manhattan’s Battery Park, the South Bronx, sections of Coney Island and Staten Island.
The city also closed its massive subway system at 7 p.m. Sunday, effectively bringing the nation’s largest city to a near halt, and canceled public school classes on Monday.
Airlines cancelled scores of flights to and from Ronald Reagan National and Dulles International airports. And Amtrak halted most service in the northeast for Monday, shutting down the rail line between Washington and New York.
After meeting with federal emergency officials in Washington on Sunday and talking with elected officials in East Coast cities and states, President Obama called the hurricane a “serious and big storm” and said “we have to take this seriously.”
By Sunday morning, officials in Haiti said the storm was responsible for 65 deaths, as Sandy blew through the Bahamas and traveled north over the Atlantic Ocean, several hundred miles southeast of Charleston, S.C.
Two computer tracking systems remained in agreement that the hurricane would arrive on shore between the Delmarva Peninsula and Rhode Island. But Sandy’s reach will extend as far as 450 miles from its core, which prompted New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to order evacuations of coastal areas and the state’s casinos.