From South Carolina to Maine, states prepare for hurricane
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) -- States up and down the East Coast are preparing for Hurricane Sandy, which sent rain to portions of North and South Carolina on Saturday. Sandy could strike the U.S. coast starting Sunday evening anywhere from the North Carolina-Virginia border to Connecticut, a 700-mile stretch that has state and local authorities rushing to prepare for potentially devastating effects.
Here is a look at how coastal states are getting ready.
The Maine Emergency Management Agency is warning that Sandy has the potential to create "significant problems" in the state, starting Monday. The concerns range from high surf to strong winds to coastal erosion, the agency says.
In anticipation of widespread power outages, Gov. Paul LePage signed a "limited emergency declaration" so power crews from other states and Canada can help the state prepare for Sandy. The declaration also extends the hours that power company crews can drive.
Gov. John Lynch joined local and state emergency management officials on a conference call to discuss preparations for the storm. The governor is also discussing preparations with the state's utilities, according to his office.
Sandy could bring winds of up to 60 mph and between 2 and 4 inches of rain to parts of the Granite State, likely starting Monday, the governor's office said.
"While the exact path and severity of the storm remain uncertain, it is clear New Hampshire will experience a significant weather event and I urge everyone to be prepared," Lynch said.
Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency for the Bay State at 12:45 p.m. Saturday, allowing officials to make preparations in advance of the coming storm.
Hoping to avoid the kind of criticism utilities received after last year's Hurricane Irene and other storms, Patrick said utilities now plan to pair tree removal and power restoration crews together -- rather than having them work separately -- so that work can be done more efficiently.
Like other states in the Northeast, Rhode Island is monitoring Hurricane Sandy -- though, unlike its neighbors, the state had yet to declare a state of emergency as of Saturday afternoon.
The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency is urging all residents to be prepared for prolonged power outages and wind and water damages by having an emergency kit, securing their property, and taking boats out of the water.
State authorities have been taking preparatory measures, such as checking and clearing drains in flood-prone areas and relocating needed state equipment if necessary.
With a state of emergency declared, Gov. Dannel Malloy said his state would have 400 National Guard troops prepared to assist with recovery efforts, as needed.
"Please take this as seriously as we're taking it," he said, noting that forecasters are predicting 36 hours of sustained winds in the area.
New York will decide Sunday whether to suspend subway, bus and commuter rail service ahead of the storm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Authorities are taking several other preparatory steps like bringing down water levels along the Erie Canal. Airlines are trying to prevent travel chaos by allowing passengers to alter their plans, fee-free, at major airports such as LaGuardia and Kennedy.
"New Yorkers need to take action now to protect themselves, and as the transportation system prepares to possibly suspend service, no one should wait until the last minute to prepare," said Cuomo, who has declared a state of emergency.
New Jersey, which has declared a state of emergency, was the first to announce mandatory evacuations.
The state's barrier islands from Sandy Hook south to Cape May must be cleared out by Sunday afternoon, as must Atlantic City's casinos.
"We have to prepare for the worst here," Gov. Chris Christie said.
Gov. Tom Corbett declared a statewide disaster emergency ahead of the storm, which is expected to bring heavy rain to much of the state starting Sunday night, the governor's office said.
Flooding, power outages, and sustained high winds are all expected from the storm, his office said. Sandy could even bring snow to some areas in southwestern Pennsylvania and in higher elevations.
There was no state of emergency in Delaware as of Saturday afternoon, but Gov. Jack Markell says he's ready to declare one if the expected rain, winds, and high tides make it necessary.
To help prevent flooding, Markell says residents should clear storm drains and sweep up any leaves so they won't clog drains.
Like several neighboring states, portions of Maryland could see as much as a foot of rain, according to the CNN Weather Unit -- a major reason the state has declared a state of emergency.
Besides flooding, strong winds are expected to cause significant power outages. The Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, for instance, says several hundred thousand customers could be affected, as early as Sunday.
In the coastal city of Annapolis, city crews distributed sandbags to residents and businesses to help them prepare for flooding.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
The district is under a state of emergency, and local officials are working through the weekend to prepare residents, businesses, and infrastructure for the hurricane.
"The district is preparing in earnest" for the storm's effects, which could include heavy rain, street flooding, strong winds, power outages, and storm-surge flooding along the Potomac River and its tributaries, Mayor Vincent Gray said.
The local government distributed sandbags to residents and businesses Saturday at RFK stadium. Authorities have generators ready at major intersections in case traffic lights are knocked out, Gray's office said.
Sandbags were piled up inside restaurants in the Old Town section of Alexandria, along the banks of the Potomac River, in anticipation for Hurricane Sandy's arrival.
Virginia is one of several states to declare a state of emergency ahead of the storm. Computer models predict parts of the state could see as much as a foot of rain, according to the CNN Weather Unit.
The storm has already forced the cancellation of rallies for both presidential campaigns. Vice President Joe Biden nixed a planned Saturday visit to Virginia Beach and Republican nominee Mitt Romney called off a planned Sunday rally in the same city.
Strong winds and pelting, sometimes sideways rains lashed the Outer Banks on Saturday afternoon as the stretch of coast began to feel the outskirts of Hurricane Sandy.
The National Weather Service estimated that tropical storm conditions -- including sustained winds higher than 39 mph -- will be felt in parts of North Carolina later in the day. Sandy is expected to parallel the coast before eventually making landfall somewhere in the mid-Atlantic region.
Still, even if it never goes directly over North Carolina, Sandy may still have an impact. The forecast calls for between 4 and 7 inches of rain to fall over several days in the Outer Banks, with some spots receiving eight or more inches.
Radar on Saturday afternoon showed heavy rains from the fringes of Sandy pelting much of South Carolina's coast, from Charleston to Myrtle Beach.
The Palmetto State is expected to avoid a direct hit from the storm, which is expected to eventually head over land well to the north. That said, the National Weather Service warns tropical storm conditions are possible from late Saturday afternoon through Sunday in Myrtle Beach, for example, before skies clear up by Monday.
-- CNN's George Howell, Athena Jones, Greg Botelho and Melissa Gray contributed to this report.
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