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Gestetner added that there are far fewer Orthodox Jews in the Catskills now than when Irene hit last summer, as the Catskills vacation season has ended.
Comedian Jimmy Kimmel wasn’t buying the hype, though. He insisted his shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music would go on as planned.
Forecasting services indicated early Monday the storm would strike the New Jersey shore near Atlantic City on Monday night. While Sandy does not yet pack the punch of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, it could become more potent as it approaches the U.S. coast.
Winds increased to a maximum of 85 mph (140 kph), the NHC said in its 5 a.m. (1100 GMT) report, up from 75 mph (120 km) three hours earlier. It said tropical Storm force winds reached as far as 485 (780 km) from the center.
New York and other cities and towns closed their transit systems and schools and ordered mass evacuations from low-lying areas ahead of a storm surge that could reach as high as 11 feet (3.4 meters).
All U.S. stock markets will be closed on Monday and possibly Tuesday, the operator of the New York Stock Exchange said late on Sunday, reversing an earlier plan that would have kept electronic trading going on Monday.
Sandy forced President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney to cancel some campaign stops and fueled concern it could disrupt early voting - encouraged by the candidates this year more than ever - before the Nov. 6 election.
The United Nations, Broadway theaters, New Jersey casinos, schools up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and myriad corporate events were also being shut down.
‘DON’T BE STUPID’
Officials ordered people in coastal towns and low-lying areas to evacuate, often telling them they would put emergency workers’ lives at risk if they stayed.
“Don’t be stupid, get out, and go to higher, safer ground,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told a news conference.