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“We’re going to cut through red tape and we’re not going to get bogged down in a lot of rules,” said Obama, who was having to juggle both is re-election bid and his efforts to stay on top of the storm’s impact just nine days before Election Day.
Sandy blew the presidential race off course, forcing Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney to cancel scheduled campaign stops. It fueled fears that the storm could disrupt early voting ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
INSURERS PREPARE FOR STORM
U.S. stock exchanges and Wall Street banks were sending employees into Manhattan on Sunday to stay in hotels and co-workers’ homes, as markets prepared to open for business on Monday even as Sandy brought public transportation to a halt.
Insurers also prepared for the storm’s arrival, activating claims teams, staging adjusters near the locations most likely to be affected and generally getting ready to pay for a potentially huge volume of losses.
While Sandy’s 75 mph (120 kph) winds were not overwhelming for a hurricane, its exceptional width means the winds will last as long as two days, wearing down trees, roofs and buildings and piling up rainfall and storm surge.
Hurricane-force winds extended 175 miles (280 km) from the center of the asymmetrical storm, while its lesser tropical storm-force winds spanned 850 miles (1,368 km) in diameter.
“That’s gigantic,” said Chris Landsea, the hurricane center’s science and operations officer.
At high tide, it could bring a surge of seawater up to 11 feet (3.4 meters) above ground level to Long Island Sound and New York Harbor, forecasters said.
“Given the large wind field associated with Sandy, elevated water levels could span multiple tide cycles, resulting in repeated and extended periods of coastal and bayside flooding,” the forecasters said.
Sandy was centered about 250 miles (400 km) southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, or 575 miles (930 km) south of New York City at midday on Sunday, the hurricane center said. It pushed seawater up over the barrier islands off North Carolina known as the Outer Banks.
“It’s flooded all over the village,” longtime Ocracoke Island resident Kathleen O’Neal told Reuters. “I would say between a foot and two feet of water.”
Sandy was moving over the Atlantic parallel to the U.S. coast at 10 mph (17 kph), but was forecast to make a tight westward turn toward the U.S. coast on Sunday night.
Sandy killed at least 66 people as it made its way through the Caribbean islands, including 51 in Haiti, mostly from flash flooding and mudslides, according to authorities.