New Yorkers prepare for Hurricane Sandy to strike
New Yorker Doug Barotra managed to carry more than 50 cans of beer out of his local supermarket after waiting 45 minutes to get to the cashier. He is expecting the worst from Hurricane Sandy.
"As long as the power doesn't go, I think I'll survive," Barotra said as he struggled with his load on New York's Third Avenue back to his Midtown flat. "I live on the 18th floor, if it gets bad I'm just going to stay there for the next three days."
Long lines formed at supermarkets on cities in New York and other major east coast cities for bottles of water, bread, fresh foods, batteries and anything that could help last out the so-called "Frankenstorm" heading for the northeast US.
About 50 million people were in Sandy's firing line yesterday. New York and Philadelphia moved to shut down their subways, buses and commuter trains on Sunday night and announced that schools would be closed yesterday. Boston, Washington and Baltimore also called off school.
Sandy was expected to hook left toward the mid-Atlantic coast and come ashore late on Monday or early Tuesday (around lunchtime today Hong Kong time), most likely in New Jersey. It was moving north at 22km/h, with hurricane-force winds extending an incredible 280 kilometres from its centre.
At the Trader Joe stores in New York's Upper West Side and on Union Square, the queues wound out of the supermarket entrances and staff let customers in a handful at a time.
There was a lot of groaning in the queues.
"By the time we get inside, there may not be much left for us," said art student Lisa Nichols, in the long Union Square queue. "I am going to check out what my friends have managed to stock."
New York city's subways and bus lines start shutting down at 7pm Sunday, leaving New Yorkers pretty much confined to their immediate neighbourhoods.
New York's Battery Park City and East Village were among at-risk zones where mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation.
About 375,000 people lived in the affected seafront zones in the five boroughs under Bloomberg's jurisdiction.
Seventy-two schools and other buildings were opened up as emergency shelters. Bloomberg said that people in the evacuation zones should be ready to rough it on a friend's floor for a couple of days.
Many inhabitants said they were going to ignore the evacuation order, however.
Richard Bogart filled sandbags and set up a wall across the driveway to his home in Coney Island.
"I have heard the order, but when [Hurricane] Irene hit last year the cellar was flooded and I have to be here in case something happens."
Hurricane Sandy was on target to collide with a cold front bearing down from the north, creating what meteorologists have named "Frankenstorm" which threatens floods, high winds and even heavy snow across many eastern states.
Bloomberg urged people in low-lying areas of lower Manhattan and Queens to get out while they could.
"If you don't evacuate, you are not only endangering your life, you are also endangering the lives of the first responders who are going in to rescue you," he said. "This is a serious and dangerous storm."
Additional reporting by Associated Press