"Frankenstorm" Sandy - AP Photo - Friday
(USA TODAY)- Hurricane Sandy continued its angry advance toward the East Coast on Sunday, forcing evacuation orders for hundreds of thousands of people and threatening to cut power to millions more in some of the nation's most densely populated areas.
The storm, centered about 270 miles southeast of North Carolina's coast, remained a Category 1 hurricane with a wind speed of 75 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center's last report at 2 p.m. Sandy is forecast to combine with another storm, adding to the region's miseries.
The storm's winds, rains and potential snow could cause widespread havoc, most of it Monday and Tuesday. Weather forecasters predict up to 10 inches of rain in some regions, snowstorms in others and widespread wind damage that could down power lines.
The hurricane center is forecasting life-threatening, storm-surge flooding along the Mid-Atlantic coast, including Long Island Sound and New York Harbor.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered evacuations for an estimated 375,000 people in some low lying areas starting Sunday at 7 p.m. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the city's transit service to suspend bus, subway and commuter rail service at 7 p.m. The city's mass transit system is the nation's largest -- the subway alone has a daily ridership of more than 5 million.
Airlines were canceling flights, moving planes to safer ground and offering refunds to stranded passengers in preparation for the storm. More than 3,200 flights had been canceled Sunday morning, according to the travel monitoring site, FlightAware.com.
Amtrak was canceling train service to parts of the East Coast, including between Washington, D.C., and New York.
President Obama was monitoring the storm and working with state and locals governments to make sure they get the resources needed to prepare, administration officials said.
Governors from North Carolina, where heavy rain was rolling in Sunday, to Connecticut declared states of emergency.
-- Delaware Gov. Jack Markell ordered mandatory evacuations for an estimated 50,000 residents of coastal communities by 8 p.m. Sunday.
-- Officials issued a mandatory evacuation for New York's Fire Island. About 200 permanent residents of the summer haven have until 2 p.m. Sunday to leave the island that officials say is prone to flooding. "They need to evacuate so that resources during the emergency can be allocated to other needy places on the mainland, said Inez Birbiglia, spokeswoman person for the Town of Islip.
-- In North Carolina, 75 members of the National Guard have been positioned around the state to provide emergency relief if needed, says Julia Jarema, a spokeswoman for North Carolina Emergency Management.
-- In Connecticut, the Naval Submarine Base in Groton prepared to install floodgates and pile up sandbags to protect against flooding while its five submarines remain in port through the storm.
-- In New Jersey, where the storm's center is forecast to make landfall late Monday or early Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency and state officials warned people to be prepared for several days without electricity
FULL COVERAGE: Tracking Sandy
The storm was expected to continue moving parallel to the Southeast coast most of the day and approach the coast of the Mid-Atlantic states by Monday night, before reaching southern New England later in the week. High-wind watches and warnings are in effect for all the Mid-Atlantic states and southern New England.
If Sandy hits near New York City, as one weather model predicts, the storm surge will be capable of overtopping the flood walls in Manhattan, which are only 5 feet above mean sea level, according to Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters.
Storm surge is the massive mound of water that builds up and is pushed ashore as a hurricane moves over the ocean. Sandy's storm surge may be higher than Hurricane Irene's, Masters said, and has the potential to flood New York City's subway system.
The storm's landfall along the Mid-Atlantic coast "would likely be a billion-dollar disaster," Masters says. He also noted that the full moon will occur Monday, which means astronomical tides will be at their peak for the month, increasing potential storm surge flooding.
LIVE TRACKER: See where Sandy is now, where it's headed
The American Red Cross is readying shelters, volunteers and supplies to help coastal areas from Virginia to New England. "We want to make sure we're ready to spring into action as soon as we're needed," spokeswoman Anne Marie Borrego says.
The Red Cross has been shipping blood to hospitals in the affected region.
"This will be a long-lasting event, with two to three days of impact," says James Franklin, branch chief of the National Hurricane Center. "Wind damage, widespread power outages, inland flooding and storm surge are all likely."
The storm could also affect voting.
Absentee voters lined up by the hundreds in Virginia on Friday to cast their ballots, some motivated by the fear that Sandy may make it more difficult to get to a polling place.
"I think it ( the storm) just encouraged me to go ahead and turn up and vote rather than wait until later," voter Tania Sebastian said.
Early voting in Maryland and Washington, D.C., is underway, and some voters have found long lines.
Store manager L.P. Cyburt boards up the windows of the business as Hurricane Sandy approaches in Ocean City, Md., on Saturday.(Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP)
Delaware was bracing for a threat rivaling the March 1962 nor'easter that has stood as the state's worst storm. Collin O'Mara, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, says Sandy could unleash record waves and tidal flooding along the coast."The potential on this is greater than the defenses that we have in most places," O'Mara says. "We're taking this as an extremely significant problem, probably the most significant we've seen in decades."
Insurer Allstate is expanding efforts to prepare, spokeswoman April Eaton says."We are currently rolling our catastrophe personnel, mobile claim centers and catastrophe response vehicles to Raleigh, N.C., for staging," she says. "Staging allows us to get our national catastrophe team members and units positioned in a safe place, but close to areas that may be impacted by Sandy."