Tens of thousands of people along the coast in Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut and other threatened areas were also under orders to clear out because of the danger of as much as a foot of rain, punishing winds of 80 mph and a potentially deadly tidal surge of 4 to 8 feet.
"This one is going to be completely different from (Hurricane) Irene, because of a very different track, coming in from a completely different direction when it comes to shore," said Dr. Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center.
"This leftward turn (to the west) that we're forecasting… when a cyclone takes a completely different track, that increases the chances of different spots that did or didn't experience flooding and other impacts to have a different outcome this time. So you have to prepare as if you've never experienced this (storm) before, because you haven't."
Sandy was headed north from the Caribbean to meet a winter storm and a cold front, plus high tides from a full moon, and experts said the rare hybrid storm that results will cause havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.
The danger was hardly limited to coastal areas. Forecasters were far more worried about inland flooding from storm surge than they were about winds. Rains could saturate the ground, causing trees to topple into power lines, utility officials said, warning residents to prepare for several days at home without power.
What makes the storm so dangerous and unusual is that it is coming at the tail end of hurricane season and the beginning of winter storm season, "so it's kind of taking something from both," said Jeff Masters, director of Weather Underground.
Masters said the storm could be bigger than the worst East Coast storm on record -- the 1938 New England hurricane known as the Long Island Express, which killed nearly 800 people. "Part hurricane, part nor'easter -- all trouble," he said.If you've never been through a hurricane before, there's Hurricane preparedness tips at the Red Cross website. The Red Cross also has more information here, as well as a downloadable hurricane app where you can find a nearby shelter.
Having been though hurricanes before, it is important to have batteries, non-perishable food items and plenty of bottled water on hand. Cell phones should be charged up in case power goes out. You may also have to wait to use tap water, as supplies might be contaminated. Same goes with sewer systems, which could prevent flushing toilets. It's best to take all precautions and not try to do anything that could put your life and the lives of others at risk.
If you've followed this blog for a while, you'll remember we liveblogged Hurricane Irene last year, which wasn't my first time riding out a hurricane. I can recall going through the Category 5 storm Hurricane Allen in August 1980, which had winds in the Gulf of Mexico up to 180 mph. It weakened considerably to a Category 3 before making landfall in the lower Rio Grande Valley area of South Texas where I lived with my parents (video footage).
Two other Category 5 storms threatened our area, Hurricane Anita in September 1977 threatened the Rio Grande Valley of Texas but went into northern Mexico (was the only time I ever remember schools being closed due to weather). Hurricane Gilbert in September 1988 gave us a lot of wind, rain and tornadoes, but also went into northern Mexico.
It looks like here in the DC area, we're going to get winds and a lot of rain. Have heard from one high school friend in Norfolk that they had to move her husband's truck to higher ground. New York, Philadlephia, Delaware and New Jersey are going to get a lot the brunt, from reports I've seen on Weather Channel. Will be posting updates when they come available and try to live-blog when I can. To all readers and friends on the East Coast, stay safe!
My good friend Tania Gail at MidnightBlue has posted information for her local area of Philadelphia.