Epic storm barrels down on U.S. East Coast

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HURRICANE SANDY: A man stands on the beach as heavy waves pound the shoreline Monday, October 29, in Cape May, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of CNN/Getty Images
HURRICANE SANDY: A man stands on the beach as heavy waves pound the shoreline Monday, October 29, in Cape May, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of CNN/Getty Images

By Wang Fengfeng

ATLANTIC CITY, United States (30-Oct-2012/PNA/Xinhua) – Hurricane Sandy is on Monday churning its way towards the U.S. East Coast, poised to make landfall near Atlantic City on Jersey Shore in the evening. The city itself is like a ghost town, with casinos shuttered, tourists fled and many parts of the town inundated in knee-high water.

“I’ve been living in Atlantic City for 27 years, and this is the worst we’ve seen,” a local pipe-fitter who only identified himself as Jim told Xinhua Monday afternoon near the city’s famed boardwalk, as high wind with speed topping 40 miles an hour and sustained rain pounded the city street. He came out with some friends to the seaside to see the tide before the hurricane makes landfall, predicted later Monday night at somewhere in southern New Jersey, between Tom’s River and Atlantic City.

Although the storm itself could be hundreds of miles wide, its current path is said to be the worst case scenario for New Jersey, which could be hit with 90-mile-per-hour wind and prolonged rain.

“We’ve got a lot of water in the bay from the high tide, but it never got out, so it’ll be pretty bad in a few hours,” said Jim.

Rain water and surging tide has already caught the city in crosshair. On Monday morning, by high tide around 8 a.m., 70 to 80 percent of the city was already underwater. Many streets were left impassable with several feet of water.

By Monday afternoon, Atlantic City was already like a ghost town. Its many casinos were closed and tourists evacuated. Several dozen people who left behind huddled in a downtown Sheraton, as satellite trucks from news channels swarmed the only major hotel in operation in the city.

The situation could get even worse in the evening, when the next high tide arrived at 8 or 9 p.m. The landfall of Sandy, coupled with the usually high tide of a full moon’s night, could wreck havoc for the isolated island city.

The authorities have anticipated such a scenario. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has declared state of emergency in the state, and ordered Atlantic City evacuated. Most residents have fled town, but some people hunkered down in their homes, waving to reporters who walked the street to get a decent shot of the incoming storm. One man was on the Atlantic City Expressway, waving to passing cars, asking whether the expressway was closed down, so he could head out to a shelter.

According to the New Jersey state government, some 2,200 people have sought shelter in various parts of the state.

As the day gets darker, the situation in the city worsened sharply. Wind and rain got noticeably worse, and tide at the sea got higher and fiercer. Most part of the city was without power and water, and streets were strewn with all kinds of debris, including a kayak.

As of Monday afternoon, Jersey Central Power and Light reported over 290,000 customers were without power. Public Service Energy & Gas, another local utility company, said about 74,000 customers were without power.

Many parts of the city were also inundated by knee-high water, and it could get down-right dangerous as many power lines were down, some even gave out sparks as cars pass by.

“We probably shouldn’t be here,” said Jim, the pipe-fitter, who was talking with Xinhua under a row of houses, as a resident left behind approached and warned of the dangers of standing on the street.

“Right now the main danger is something blowing off the roof or on the street.” (PNA/Xinhua)

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