Washington: Millions of people along US East Coast Sunday braced themselves for Hurricane Sandy which is threatening to pummel eight states from North Carolina to as far north as Connecticut as it sweeps toward Canada.
Local and state officials across the Eastern Seaboard have warned people to prepare for a "superstorm" that is expected to hit the United States with its full might late Sunday, and in some cases Monday.
Officials blame Sandy for at least 45 deaths as it spun northward from the Caribbean, according to CNN. That figure includes 29 people in Haiti and 16 more in Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Computer models predict portions of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia could see up to a foot of rain, according to the CNN Weather Unit. And even though it's still October, communities in and around the Appalachian Mountains could be socked by heavy snow.
As of 8 p.m. Saturday, Sandy was centred about 355 miles east-southeast of Charleston and 330 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Centre.
The impending storm disrupted the rhythms of an otherwise warm fall Saturday, as utility crews up and down the East Coast worked overtime to prepare, and hordes of anxious shoppers crowded into supermarkets and supply stores, according to the Washington Post.
Even the presidential campaigns were touched. President Barack Obama switched travel plans so he could leave Washington on Sunday before the storm begins and reach rallies in Florida and Ohio, it said.
Instead of hosting three events in Virginia on Sunday, Republican Mitt Romney's campaign said the candidate would fly to Ohio.
Federal officials said that they expected the storm to create damaging flood and wind conditions across a vast and densely-populated portion of the United States, from Virginia to New England, and as far west as the Great Lakes.
In the Washington region, the Post's weatherman expected the worst of the storm to begin Monday, bringing as much as six inches of rain and causing wind gusts of as high as 60 mph.
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and the governors of Maryland and Virginia already have declared states of emergency.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg advised residents and visitors to stay out of the parks. Construction sites also were ordered shut down.
In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie declared a pre-emptive state of emergency and ordered evacuation of most barriers islands south of Sandy Hook, including Atlantic City and its 12 casinos, according to the Star-Ledger.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)