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The storm could bring the country’s financial nerve center to a standstill, although the major Wall Street exchanges said they planned to open as usual on Monday because they have alternative facilities they can use.
Worried residents in the hurricane’s path packed stores, searching for generators, flashlights, batteries, food and other supplies in anticipation of power outages.
New York City schools will be shut on Monday. Other local governments also announced school closures.
Gale-force winds were already starting to buffet Virginia and could reach other parts of the mid-Atlantic coast on Sunday night. Tens of millions of people will feel its bluster for as long as two days, Knabb said.
Forecasters said Sandy was a rare, hybrid “super storm” created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm, possibly causing up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain in some areas, as well as up to 2 feet (60 cm) of snowfall in the Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to Kentucky.
It could be the largest storm to hit the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) website.
Sandy was already disrupting transportation systems. More than 700 flights, including international ones, were canceled on Sunday and nearly 2,500 more were canceled for Monday, FlightAware.com said.
New Jersey casinos were ordered to close and state officials decided to shut bus and rail systems by early on Monday.
Governors in other states put National Guard troops on alert. “We’re just asking people to be patient and be ready for a long haul. But we have a very aggressive power restoration program in place and I think we’re ready,” Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell told the CNN program “State of the Union.”
In Washington, Obama said officials had assured him that they had all the resources they needed in place, and he stressed that “it is important for us to respond big and to respond fast” to the hurricane’s onslaught.