Superstorm Sandy is already blamed for at least 10 deaths in the United States, and a woman in Toronto has died in the strong winds that are buffeting the city.
America’s oldest nuclear power plant is on alert after waters from the colossal storm reached high levels.
Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, New Jersey, was already offline for regular maintenance before Sandy
Forecasters are warning that the New York City region could face the worst of Sandy as it bears down on the US East Coast’s largest cities today, forcing the shutdown of financial markets and mass transit, sending coastal residents fleeing and threatening high winds, rain and a wall of water up to 3.35 metres tall. It could endanger up to 50 million people for days.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says an “unusual event” was declared around 7 p.m. when water reached a high level. The situation was upgraded less than two hours later to an “alert,” the second-lowest in a four-tiered warning system.
Federal officials say all nuclear plants are still in safe condition. They say water levels near Oyster Creek, which is along the Atlantic Ocean, will likely recede within a few hours.
Oyster Creek went online in 1969 and provides 9 per cent of New Jersey’s electricity.
Sandy strengthened before dawn this morning and stayed on a predicted path toward New York, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia — putting it on a collision course with two other weather systems that would create a superstorm with the potential for havoc over 1,280 kilometres from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.
Up to 0.9 metres of snow were even forecast for mountainous parts of West Virginia.
The centre of the storm was positioned to come ashore tonight in New Jersey, meaning the worst of the surge could be in the northern part of that state and in New York City and on Long Island. Higher tides brought by a full moon compounded the threat to the metropolitan area of about 20 million people.
Earlier media reports that the floor of the New York Stock Exchange is flooded under three feet of water are totally false.
Power out at NYU hospital, patients being evacuated
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says backup power has been lost at New York University hospital and the city is working to move people out.
The mayor delivered a news conference Monday night and said rain was tapering off in the city and the storm surge was expected to recede by midnight.
The hospital complex is near the East River in an area of lower Manhattan where flooding has been reported.
Bloomberg says a few parts of lower Manhattan still have power. He said there have been a large number of fires reported from downed power lines.
Storm sets records in New Jersey
Sandy slammed into the New Jersey coastline and hurled a record-breaking 4-meter surge of seawater at New York City on Monday, roaring ashore after washing away part of the Atlantic City boardwalk and putting the presidential campaign on hold.
Just before its centre reached land, the storm was stripped of hurricane status, but the distinction was purely technical, based on its shape and internal temperature.
Glenn Schuck with 1010WINS in New York City was in a beachfront area of Queens all morning. He tells News1130 that no one is leaving, despite pleas from Bloomberg to find higher ground.
“Just to give you an example, they brought out 10 full buses that could have probably held about 500 people and about eight have used them to evacuate. People are still sitting out here taking pictures,” he explains.
Schuck adds people are getting the message, he says they just think they can handle whatever Sandy throws at them.
The grounding of thousands of flights in the Northeast due to the big storm is affecting air travel worldwide.
Airlines are cancelling flights in and out of New York area airports. The disruptions have spread to Europe and Asia, where some travelers could be stranded for days.
President Barack Obama declared emergencies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, authorizing federal relief work to begin well ahead of time. He promised the government would “respond big and respond fast” after the storm hits.
Obama also cancelled a campaign appearance in Florida to stay in Washington and monitor the storm, with Election Day just a week away.
Major US financial markets, including the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and CME Group in Chicago, shutdown today and will stay closed tomorrow as well. The United Nations also shut down.
Sandy is being blamed for 65 deaths in the Caribbean before it began traveling northward, parallel to the Eastern Seaboard.
HMS Bounty crew forced to abandon ship
The US Coast Guard says it has found one of two missing crew members from a Canadian-built ship that went down off the North Carolina coast, but she is unresponsive.
Lieutenant Mike Patterson says crews are taking 42-year-old Claudene Christian to the hospital.
The Coast Guard is still searching for the captain of the H-M-S Bounty.
The replica 18th-century sailing vessel got caught in Hurricane Sandy’s wrath and began taking on water early Monday morning, forcing the crew into lifeboats in rough seas.
The Coast Guard rescued the ship’s 14 other crew members by helicopter.
The US Coast Guard has rescued 14 members of the crew forced to abandon the tall ship HMS Bounty caught in Sandy off North Carolina.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brandyn Hill says 14 people were rescued by two helicopters about 6:30 a.m. ET today.
The director of the HMS Bounty Organization, Tracie Simonin, says the ship left Connecticut last week for Florida. She said the crew had been in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center and tried to go around the storm.
GTA braces for Sandy
The Greater Toronto Area is bracing for the major storm and a wind warning has been issued for the Toronto area and a large part of southern Ontario as Hurricane Sandy approaches.
Severe winds of 60 gusting up to 100 km/h are expected to start tonight.
Flights heading into and out of Toronto’s Pearson Airport to areas in the US expected to be hit by the storm have been cancelled or delayed. Air Canada and Porter Airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights heading to Philadelphia, Washington, New York and Boston ahead of the storm.
Travelers are being advised to check the status of their flight ahead of time.
YVR flights affected
The hurricane is having an impact here in Vancouver as well, especially if you’re planning on catching at flight out east.
“Because there’s a wind warning in effect for Toronto right now, flights coming from Toronto and if they stop anywhere through Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton or Calgary, those are also being affect and they will be for the rest of the day,” notes Lara Fominoff with Breakfast Television on Citytv who is at YVR.
The delays and cancellations are expected to continue through tomorrow.