As Hurricane Sandy drenches much of the Mid-Atlantic and moves northwest, we're updating with the latest news about a storm that forecasters say will be historic in size and intensity and how it is affecting millions of Americans:
Update at 3:33 p.m. ET. The Story So Far:
Nothing that's been reported today makes Sandy sound any less ominous:
— The storm, which has spread rain and high winds from North Carolina up into New England and west into Pennsylvania and upstate New York, continues to head northwest. It seems to have picked up some speed, the National Weather Service just reported in its latest update on Sandy. The storm is now forecast to make landfall in 3 to 5 hours in Southern New Jersey or Central Delaware.
— Gusts of about 70 mph have already been recorded in southern New Jersey, and even stronger — hurricane force — winds will be lashing New York City, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C., from tonight into Tuesday.
— Authorities are predicting "massive power outages" across the affected areas as trees topple power lines.
— They're also warning about huge surges of water along coastal areas, including in New York City where it's feared the subway system will be flooded.
— President Obama and other officials have urged anyone in the path of Sandy to listen to local authorities and heed all warnings and orders. The president and his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, have both asked all Americans to donate what they can to the American Red Cross, which is collecting to help those in harms' way. More than 60 million people live in areas where Sandy is expected to have an impact.
— The storm is already a deadly one. The AP reports Sandy has been blamed for at least 69 deaths when it rumbled through the Caribbean.
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Update at 3:33 p.m. ET. Crane Dangling:
In New York City, we're seeing the first dramatic indication of damage: A crane attached to a highrise building has snapped. Jonathan Wald, of CNN, tweeted a picture of it. It shows half of the crane pointing toward the ground.
Reporting from New York City, NPR's Zoe Chace tells our Newscast unit that it's "like a hook" and it's hanging on by very little. Zoe says it looks like it's pointing right at a glass building.
Reuters reports that city officials ordered the residents of nearby buildings to evacuate.
Update at 1:15 p.m. ET. 69 MPH Wind Reported On New Jersey Shore; Core Of Storm Four Or Five Hours Away:
The Weather Channel just said that a 69 mph gust has been recorded on the shore of southern New Jersey, and that it appears the core of the storm is only four to five hours from making landfall there.
Update at 1 p.m. ET. Obama: "Please Listen" To Local Officials; Don't Delay If Told To Evacuate:
At the White House moments ago, President Obama said the most important message he has for Americans in Sandy's path is: "please listen to what your state and local officials are saying." If ordered to evacuate or take other actions, "do not delay, don't pause, don't question the instructions that are being given," the president said.
Sandy, he said, is "a serious storm that could potentially have fatal consequences." Not following instructions, he added, could put first responders in danger if they then have to mount rescues. Obama said he's confident that the resources are in place to deal with the damage and that governors in the affected states have the resources they need. But the recovery will take a long time, he cautioned, because of Sandy's huge size.
As for the election, Obama said "I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election." He's worried, the president said, about "families, first responders," the economy and other issues. "The election will take care of itself next week."
Update at 12:20 p.m. ET. Romney Encourages Americans To Help Those Affected:
Earlier today in Avon Lake, Ohio, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said that "our hearts and prayers are with all the people in the storm's path. Sandy is another devastating hurricane by all accounts, and a lot of people are going to be facing some real tough times as a result of Sandy's fury. And so if you have the capacity to make a donation to the American Red Cross, you can go online and do that. If there are other ways that you can help, please take advantage of them because there will be a lot of people that are going to be looking for help and the people in Ohio have big hearts, so we're expecting you to follow through and help out."
The American Red Cross website is here.
As we said earlier, President Obama is due to deliver a statement at 12:45 p.m. ET.
Update at 12:10 p.m. ET. Amid The Serious News, Fans And Fascination Regarding Mayor Bloomberg's Sign Language Interpreter:
As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been briefing reporters the past two days, he's had with him a sign language interpreter he identified as Lydia Calas. She's winning fans on Twitter for her very expressive style. Even in the worst of times, it's sometimes good to take a breath. If you want to see what they're talking about and why she's making some smile, the mayor's office has posted video here.
Update at 11:50 a.m. ET. New York City's Subway System And Salt Water "Do Not Mix":
WNYC's Andrea Bernstein explains why the flooding that's feared in parts of New York City's subway system could cause so much damage: "
"Our subway system and salt water do not mix," Metropolitan Transit Authority Joe Lhota said in a briefing with [Gov. Andrew Cuomo] this morning. "Salt water can corrode switches quite easily."
Some of the switches are about 100 years old.
Update at 11:45 a.m. ET. Obama To Make Statement:
Both President Obama and Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney have canceled campaign events scheduled for Tuesday. The White House also just announced that the president will be making a statement about the hurricane at 12:45 p.m. ET.
Update at 11:20 a.m. ET. Two More Resources:
Update at 10:45 a.m. ET. Sandy To Soon Turn Northwestward.
"SANDY FORECAST TO TURN NORTHWESTWARD SOON... ...EXPECTED TO BRING LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE AND COASTAL HURRICANE WINDS PLUS HEAVY APPALACHIAN SNOWS..."
It adds this:
"SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 3 FEET ARE EXPECTED IN THE MOUNTAINS OF WEST VIRGINIA WITH LOCALLY HIGHER TOTALS TODAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY. SNOWFALL OF 1 TO 2 FEET IS EXPECTED IN THE MOUNTAINS OF SOUTHWESTERN VIRGINIA TO THE KENTUCKY BORDER...WITH 12 TO 18 INCHES OF SNOW EXPECTED IN THE MOUNTAINS NEAR THE NORTH CAROLINA/TENNESSEE BORDER AND IN THE MOUNTAINS OF WESTERN MARYLAND."
Update at 10:35 a.m. ET. To Find Shelters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency advises that you can: "search for open shelters by texting: SHELTER and a Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA). Ex: Shelter 01234 (std rates apply)."
There's also an interactive shelter-finder here: Red Cross shelters
Update at 10:15 a.m. ET. Photos Of Flooding In New York City:
WNYC is using Storify to post updates, and already has several photos of water rising in New York City.
Update at 9:50 a.m. ET. Coast Guard Rescues 14 Who Abandoned Tall Ship; Two Still Missing:
The Virginian-Pilot reports that "Coast Guard helicopters hoisted 14 crew members of the tall ship HMS Bounty out of lifeboats in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Caroliina Monday morning, a short time after the crew abandoned the powerless ship for lifeboats, the service said in a statement.
"Two crewmembers were still missing and the Coast Guard said it had a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft searching for them. Another helicopter was en route to assist in the search."
The ship's website says:
"Built for the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty with Marlon Brando, HMS Bounty sails the country offering dockside tours in which one can learn about the history and details of sailing vessels from a lost and romanticized time in maritime history. Since her debut in Mutiny on the Bounty, HMS Bounty has appeared in many documentaries and featured films such as the Edinburgh Trader in Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Mans Chest with Johnny Depp."
Update at 9:30 a.m. ET. Campaigns Adjust, Point To Red Cross; Romney Urges That Yard Signs Be Brought In:
President Obama has cancelled a campaign event in Orlando, Fla., so that he can fly back to Washington, D.C. Republican challenger Mitt Romney has cancelled an event in Virginia and another scheduled for Tuesday in New Hampshire. He's campaigning in the Midwest.
The Romney campaign has also emailed supporters in the affected states to say that "for safety's sake, as you and your family prepare for the storm, please be sure to bring any yard signs inside. In high winds they can be dangerous, and cause damage to homes and property."
Both campaigns have put links on their websites to the American Red Cross, which is collecting donations and has a hurricane app.
Update at 9 a.m. ET. Video Of Pounding Surf Along New Jersey Coast.
PREVIOUSLY: As Hurricane Sandy drenches much of the Mid-Atlantic and moves north, we're updating with the latest news about a storm that forecasters say will be historic in size and intensity: 9 a.m. ET. Video Of Pounding Surf Along New Jersey Coast. From The Associated Press. 8:55 a.m. ET. Have Children? Check Sesame Street's Tips On How To Talk To Them About Hurricanes: The team at WMHT tweet that there's a "helpful toolkit for talking to your children about hurricanes and storms" on Sesame Street's website. 8 a.m. ET. Hurricane Center's Latest Update: The National Hurricane Center's 8 a.m. ET update on Sandy begins by saying there are no changes in its forecast. So, there's no good news to pass along from that. The advisory continues by saying that:
"Hurricane-force winds are expected along portions of the coast between Chincoteague, Va., and Chatham Mass. This includes the tidal Potomac from Cobb Island to Smith Point ... the middle and upper Chesapeake Bay ... Delaware Bay ... and the coasts of the northern Delmarva Peninsula ... New Jersey ... the New York City area ... Long Island ... Connecticut ... and Rhode Island. "Tropical-storm-force winds are expected north of Chatham to Merrimack River Massachusetts ... the lower Chesapeake Bay ... and south of Chincoteague to Duck, N.C., ... the northern endpoint of the Tropical Storm Warning."
All those ellipses are part of the center's advisory. 7:55 a.m. ET. In Ocean City, Many Are Being More Cautious This Time: NPR correspondents are reporting from numerous places where Sandy is being felt. Larry Abramson sent us this:
"Ocean City, Md., is a slip of sand surrounded by the Atlantic on one side, the Isle of Wight Bay on the other. It's a beach town where little goes on after Labor Day. But there are plenty of year-round residents who were trying to figure out what to do Sunday. Barbara Alfaro and her husband had an additional problem: their dog Pip. He's not welcome at Stephen Decatur High School, which has been converted into a shelter for 50 or so people. So Barbara Alfaro spent last night going back and forth between her bed in the shelter and her car, to keep Pip company. She brought him treats and hugs. "The water is never far from most homes here. Alfaro's is close to a creek that was already dangerously high on Sunday, so she decided to head for the high school. During Hurricane Irene last year, she stayed home and says it was pretty scary. That's a story you hear a lot around here — people who say they learned their lesson in previous storms, and are more cautious now."
7:30 a.m. ET. Where The Effects Are Being Felt Already: -- Around New York City, officials are warning there could be "major flooding and days of disruption," our colleagues at WNYC report. Subway and bus service there was shut down last night. The station is updating a "real time" tracking map of the storm here. -- Subway and bus service in and around Washington, D.C., has been suspended, as WAMU says. -- There's also no mass transit service today in Philadelphia, where "Mayor Michael Nutter has urged everyone but essential workers to stay home Monday," according to WHYY. Also: Where is there flooding? The National Weather Service has an interactive map here. 6 a.m. ET. "Multiple Threats" Expected: -- "Hurricane Sandy has gained strength as it swirls toward the East Coast," The Associated Press writes. "The National Hurricane Center says the hurricane's wind speed increased early Monday to 85 mph with additional strengthening possible." The seriousness of the situation as Sandy heads for land is underscored by a warning in the Hurricane Center's latest advisory about the storm. It urges everyone "not to focus on the center or the exact forecast track of this system ... since strong winds cover an area several hundred miles across ... and the highest winds will not necessarily be near the center." -- Just where is Sandy headed? The Hurricane Center's latest "5-day forecast cone" still has the center of the storm making landfall along the Delaware and southern New Jersey coasts early Tuesday morning (but the storm's so big that it's been raining much further inland — around Washington, D.C. — since last evening). And the AP's roundup of the local government responses and cancellations shows how far and wide the storm's expected to be felt: From Virginia north to New England, "Sandy has forced the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sent coastal residents fleeing for higher ground, and threatens to bring a dangerous mix of high winds, soaking rain and a surging wall of water. "Sandy has stayed on a predicted path that could take it over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York on its way to a collision course with two other weather systems, creating a superstorm with the potential for havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes." -- But that's not all. Weather.com adds that:
"High wind warnings extend from Maine to portions of Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia and into the southern Appalachians as far south as northeast Georgia. Coastal flood warnings extend up and down the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coast. Flood watches for heavy rainfall dominate a large chunk of the Northeast. Hurricane-force wind warnings have been issued for the coastal waters of seven states. The clash of cold air diving into the eastern states plus moisture and strong winds from Sandy has prompted the issuance of blizzard warnings in the mountains of West Virginia! Winter storm warnings extend as far south as the North Carolina and Tennessee borders. ..." "In general we expect the worst of Sandy's impacts to begin arriving Monday morning and peak during the Monday night through Tuesday timeframe. We expect multiple threats including: widespread power outages from highs winds, many downed trees, dangerous storm surge flooding at the coast, flooding rainfall and even heavy snow in the central and southern Appalachians."
-- Please, emergency officials say, be prepared. Sandy could affect a section of the nation where more than 60 million people live. At the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they're urging that everyone:
-- "Follow the direction of local officials — if told to evacuate, do so immediately. -- "Make final preparations — If you're further inland, now is the time to make final preparations. Be ready for power outages and stock up on emergency supplies of food, water, medications, and other supplies. -- "Know the forecast for your area – Sandy is a large storm with potential impacts from wind, coastal flooding, inland flooding, rain, and snow. Listen to your NOAA weather radio and local news reports, or visit weather.gov for the conditions in your area. -- "Check on your neighbor – make sure they're ready too."