Hurricane Sandy could wreak havoc over 800-mile swath of U.S.

  • Matt Francis of Virginia Beach holds on to his hat as the wind-driven sand and rain from Hurricane Sandy blow across the beaches of Sandbridge in Virginia Beach on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012. (L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot)Matt Francis of Virginia Beach holds on to his hat as the wind-driven sand and rain from Hurricane Sandy blow across the beaches of Sandbridge in Virginia Beach on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012. (L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot)
  • Mike Strobel fills sandbags for his business, Mike's Carpet Connection, on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in Fenwick Island, Del., as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the Mid-Atlantic states. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Mike Strobel fills sandbags for his business, Mike's Carpet Connection, on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in Fenwick Island, Del., as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the Mid-Atlantic states. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  • A car goes through high water in Ocean City, Md., on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the Mid-Atlantic coast. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)A car goes through high water in Ocean City, Md., on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the Mid-Atlantic coast. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  • Ocean water rolls over Route 12 at the north end of Buxton, N.C., at dawn on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, as waves from Hurricane Sandy battered Hatteras Island. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Steve Earley)Ocean water rolls over Route 12 at the north end of Buxton, N.C., at dawn on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, as waves from Hurricane Sandy battered Hatteras Island. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Steve Earley)
  • High winds blow sea foam into the air as a pedestrian crosses Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head, N.C., on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, as wind and rain from Hurricane Sandy move into the area. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)High winds blow sea foam into the air as a pedestrian crosses Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head, N.C., on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, as wind and rain from Hurricane Sandy move into the area. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
  • Large waves generated by Hurricane Sandy crash into Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, as the storm moves up the East Coast. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Large waves generated by Hurricane Sandy crash into Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, as the storm moves up the East Coast. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
  • Store workers Fletcher Birch, right, and Jay Kleman finish boarding up the windows on a surf store in Ocean City, Md., on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy approaches the Atlantic coast. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)Store workers Fletcher Birch, right, and Jay Kleman finish boarding up the windows on a surf store in Ocean City, Md., on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy approaches the Atlantic coast. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
  • A worker boards up the windows of the store as Hurricane Sandy approaches in Ocean City, Md., on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)A worker boards up the windows of the store as Hurricane Sandy approaches in Ocean City, Md., on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
  • Palms along highway 24 at the Nancy Lee Fishing Center bend in the tropical storm-force winds being generated by Hurricane Sandy, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 in Atlantic Beach, N.C. (AP Photo/The Jacksonville Daily News, Chuck Beckley)Palms along highway 24 at the Nancy Lee Fishing Center bend in the tropical storm-force winds being generated by Hurricane Sandy, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 in Atlantic Beach, N.C. (AP Photo/The Jacksonville Daily News, Chuck Beckley)
  • Red flags fly from a lifeguard station as Hurricane Sandy passes offshore to the east, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, in Miami Beach, Fla. Hurricane Sandy left at least 21 people dead as it moved through the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm and reach the U.S. East Coast as a super-storm next week. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)Red flags fly from a lifeguard station as Hurricane Sandy passes offshore to the east, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, in Miami Beach, Fla. Hurricane Sandy left at least 21 people dead as it moved through the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm and reach the U.S. East Coast as a super-storm next week. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
  • A resident holds a metal sheet on the roof of a damaged house in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 25, 2012, after heavy rains brought by Hurricane Sandy . The hurricane was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was crushed by a boulder. Another man and two women died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. (Associated Press)A resident holds a metal sheet on the roof of a damaged house in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 25, 2012, after heavy rains brought by Hurricane Sandy . The hurricane was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was crushed by a boulder. Another man and two women died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. (Associated Press)
  • A woman stands at the entrance of her house in front of a fallen palm tree after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba on Thursday as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)A woman stands at the entrance of her house in front of a fallen palm tree after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba on Thursday as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)
  • A fallen placard lies on the ground after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)A fallen placard lies on the ground after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)
  • Soldiers an rescue workers patrol after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)Soldiers an rescue workers patrol after the passing of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)
  • Resident Antonio Garces tries to recover his belongings from his house, destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, in Aguacate, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)Resident Antonio Garces tries to recover his belongings from his house, destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, in Aguacate, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)
  • Fallen palm trees lie on a road in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)Fallen palm trees lie on a road in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)
  • Resident Antonio Garces tries to recover his belongings from his house, destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, in Aguacate, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)Resident Antonio Garces tries to recover his belongings from his house, destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, in Aguacate, Cuba, on Oct. 25, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)
  • A Fort Lauderdale Police car stops at a fallen palm tree trunk blocking a road in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 25, 2012. (Associated Press)A Fort Lauderdale Police car stops at a fallen palm tree trunk blocking a road in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 25, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • A surfer (rear left) takes advantage of waves produced by Hurricane Sandy's outer bands at Haulover Beach in Miami as the Bal Harbour police patrol the area on Oct. 25, 2012. (Associated Press/El Nuevo Herald)A surfer (rear left) takes advantage of waves produced by Hurricane Sandy's outer bands at Haulover Beach in Miami as the Bal Harbour police patrol the area on Oct. 25, 2012. (Associated Press/El Nuevo Herald)
  • A man removes mud from his tap tap with flood water caused by heavy rains from Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 25, 2012 in La Plaine, Haiti, as residents of the Port-au-Prince neighbor tried to recover from the aftermath of the storm. (Associated Press/The Miami Herald)A man removes mud from his tap tap with flood water caused by heavy rains from Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 25, 2012 in La Plaine, Haiti, as residents of the Port-au-Prince neighbor tried to recover from the aftermath of the storm. (Associated Press/The Miami Herald)
  • A resident carries a metal sheet, part of a damaged house after heavy rains brought by Hurricane Sandy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 25,  2012. Sandy was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was crushed by a boulder. Another man and two women died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. (Associated Press)A resident carries a metal sheet, part of a damaged house after heavy rains brought by Hurricane Sandy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 25, 2012. Sandy was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was crushed by a boulder. Another man and two women died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. (Associated Press)
  • A man watches a river affected by heavy rains brought by Hurricane Sandy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 25,  2012. Sandy was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was crushed by a boulder. Another man and two women died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. (Associated Press)A man watches a river affected by heavy rains brought by Hurricane Sandy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 25, 2012. Sandy was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was crushed by a boulder. Another man and two women died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. (Associated Press)
  • A resident drains mud from a flooded house after heavy rains brought by Hurricane Sandy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 25, 2012. Sandy was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was crushed by a boulder. Another man and two women died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. (Associated Press)A resident drains mud from a flooded house after heavy rains brought by Hurricane Sandy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 25, 2012. Sandy was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was crushed by a boulder. Another man and two women died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. (Associated Press)
  • A driver maneuvers his classic American car along a wet road in Havana on Oct. 25, 2012, as a wave crashes against the car. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)A driver maneuvers his classic American car along a wet road in Havana on Oct. 25, 2012, as a wave crashes against the car. Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas after causing at least two deaths in the Caribbean. (Associated Press)
  • Residents stand Oct. 25, 2012, on a bridge that was previously destroyed in 2008 by Tropical Storm Gustav, while watching Hope River swell in the village of Kintyre, near Kingston, Jamaica, after the passing of Hurricane Sandy. (Associated Press)Residents stand Oct. 25, 2012, on a bridge that was previously destroyed in 2008 by Tropical Storm Gustav, while watching Hope River swell in the village of Kintyre, near Kingston, Jamaica, after the passing of Hurricane Sandy. (Associated Press)
  • In this image taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES East satellite on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, Hurricane Sandy is seen on the East Coast of the United States. (AP Photo/NOAA)In this image taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES East satellite on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, Hurricane Sandy is seen on the East Coast of the United States. (AP Photo/NOAA)
  • Piles of sand were trucked onto the beach at 2nd Avenue in North Wildwood, N.J., Friday Oct. 26, 2012 as the storm approaches. A year after being walloped by Hurricane Irene, residents rushed to put away boats, harvest crops and sandbag boardwalks Friday as the Eastern Seaboard braced for a rare megastorm that experts said would cause much greater havoc (AP Photo/The Press of Atlantic City, Dale Gerhard)Piles of sand were trucked onto the beach at 2nd Avenue in North Wildwood, N.J., Friday Oct. 26, 2012 as the storm approaches. A year after being walloped by Hurricane Irene, residents rushed to put away boats, harvest crops and sandbag boardwalks Friday as the Eastern Seaboard braced for a rare megastorm that experts said would cause much greater havoc (AP Photo/The Press of Atlantic City, Dale Gerhard)

SHIP BOTTOM, N.J. — Tens of thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate coastal areas Sunday as big cities and small towns across the Northeast buttoned up against the onslaught of a superstorm threatening some 50 million people in the most heavily populated corridor in the nation.

“The time for preparing and talking is about over,” Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate warned as a monster Hurricane Sandy headed up the Eastern Seaboard on a collision course with two other weather systems. “People need to be acting now.”

New York City and Philadelphia both announced subways, buses and trains would stop running Sunday night because of the risk of flooding, and New York said its 1.1 million-student school system would be closed on Monday. Mayor Michael Bloomberg also ordered the evacuation of part of lower Manhattan and other low-lying neighborhoods.

“If you don’t evacuate, you are not only endangering your life, you are also endangering the lives of the first responders who are going in to rescue you,” he said. “This is a serious and dangerous storm.”

Tens of thousands of people along the coast in Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut and other threatened areas were also under orders to clear out because of the danger of as much as a foot of rain, punishing winds of 80 mph or higher and a potentially deadly wall of water 4 to 11 feet high. Communities opened shelter across the region.

Sandy was headed north from the Caribbean, where it left nearly five dozen people dead, and was expected to hook left toward the mid-Atlantic coast and come ashore late Monday or early Tuesday, most likely in New Jersey, colliding with a wintry storm moving in from the west and cold air streaming down from the Arctic.

Forecasters warned that the resulting megastorm could wreak havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. Parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina could get snow — 2 feet or more in places.

Witlet Maceno, an emergency room nurse working at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital, was headed home to Staten Island on Sunday morning after his overnight shift. He said he was going home to check on his parents, visiting from Atlanta, before he returned to work Sunday evening.

“I’m making sure they’re OK, that they have water and food, and that the windows are shut tight,” he said. “And I’m going to remove stuff outside that could go flying into the windows” of his street-level apartment.

The danger was hardly limited to coastal areas, with forecasters worried about inland flooding. They also warned that the rain could saturate the ground, causing trees to topple onto power lines and cause blackouts that could last for several days.

States of emergency were declared from North Carolina, where gusty winds whipped steady rain on Sunday morning, to Connecticut. Delaware ordered 50,000 people in coastal communities to clear out by 8 p.m. Sunday.

Officials in New York City were particularly worried about the possibility of subway flooding. The city closed the subways before Hurricane Irene last year, and a Columbia University study predicted that an Irene surge just 1 foot higher would have paralyzed lower Manhattan.

However, the New York Stock Exchange planned to open for trading as usual Monday, despite fears that flooding would damage the underground electrical network that is so vital to the nation’s financial center.

Sandy was at Category 1 strength, packing 75 mph winds, about 270 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and moving northeast at 14 mph as of 2 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was about 575 miles south of New York City. But the storm was so big that forecasters could not say with any certainty which areas would get the worst of it.

Bobbie Foote said she would heed an evacuation order Sunday for south Wilmington, Del., and would take shelter at her daughter’s home in nearby Newark.

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