People are framed through a window as they looks out to the Atlantic Ocean as the town prepares for Hurricane Sandy Oct 27, 2012 in Cape May, New Jersey. -- PHOTO: AFP
MIAMI (AFP) - Across the eastern United States, Americans made frantic preparations on Saturday for a possible superstorm as Hurricane Sandy lumbered north after leaving 59 people dead in the Caribbean.
The so-called "Frankenstorm" was expected to make landfall somewhere between Virginia and Massachusetts early Tuesday, hitting during the frenzied final week of campaigning before the US elections on Nov 6.
The storm was at category one hurricane strength at 1800 GMT (2am, Singapore time), with sustained winds of 120 kmh as it moved along the east coast, the National Hurricane Centre said.
"Sandy (is) producing tropical storm-force winds over the Atlantic from the northern Bahamas to near the coast of North Carolina," the center said, adding that the storm was traveling in a north-easterly direction at 18 kmh.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service warned the storm would "result in significant impacts along coastal North Carolina" beginning late Saturday.
Sandy could cause "moderate coastal flooding and rough surf" through Monday, drenching the state with seven to 13cm of rain inland and as much as five to eight inches along the coast, they warned.
But forecasters and emergency officials were far more worried about what could happen further north.
"This is a large storm that is forecasted to impact the Mid-Atlantic and other parts of the East Coast with strong winds, coastal flooding, inland flooding, rain and snow," said Mr Craig Fugate, head of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"People should be ready for the possibility of power outages paired with cold temperatures," he said in a statement Saturday.
Sandy's likely collision early next week with a seasonal "nor'easter" weather system was predicted to super-charge the storm, dragging it to the west where it is expected to slam into the coastal US states of Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and even inland Ohio.
Mr Alex Sosnowski, an expert senior meteorologist for Accuweather.com, called Sandy "an extremely rare and dangerous storm," menacing 60 million people, that "could lead to billions of dollars in damage."
Residents were bracing for huge tidal surges, power outages, inland flooding and even heavy snowfall on high ground far from the coast.
"Sandy will be more like a large nor'easter on steroids," Mr Sosnowski wrote.
It could have the strength of a category one or two hurricane, he explained, but with powerful winds extending out hundreds of miles from the center.
President Barack Obama was briefed by top emergency officials Saturday, the White House said, and governors declared states of emergency in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the US capital Washington and a coastal county in North Carolina.
The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, said the Big Apple was ready for anything Sandy could throw at it, and cautioned against panic.
"Whenever we're faced with a tough situation, New Yorkers always show courage, compassion, and presence of mind #Sandy," he tweeted.
The storm was a hot topic on Twitter, with people sharing fears and bluster, or just trading stories of stocking up.
"$30 flashlights. What is the world coming to? #Sandy," wrote Lisa Brock, in New York City.
Meanwhile, concern was also mounting that storm damage and power outages could have a major impact on voter turnout, polling station readiness and last-minute campaigning by Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney.
US Vice-President Joe Biden canceled a Saturday appearance in Virginia Beach to allow officials to focus on storm preparations and Romney did the same.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Saturday the president was giving priority to preparations for the impending storm over campaigning, but had not so far changed his schedule because of Sandy.
Meteorologists have nicknamed the unusual confluence of weather patterns a "Frankenstorm," because it is due to hit just before Halloween on Oct 31 and is composed of parts from different sources, as was Frankenstein's monster.
The powerful hurricane earlier claimed 11 lives in eastern Cuba, including several people who died in the rubble of collapsed buildings.
On Wednesday, Sandy unleashed its wrath on Jamaica, where one person died, and on Haiti, where 44 people were killed according to an updated official toll.
Two people were reported dead in the Dominican Republic and one in the Bahamas.
Superstorm threat launches mass evacuations in US
Published on Oct 28, 2012
SHIP BOTTOM, New Jersey (AP) - Hurricane Sandy headed north from the Caribbean - where it left nearly 60 dead - is threatening the eastern United States. with sheets of rain, high winds and heavy snow with officials warning millions in coastal areas to get out of the way of the rare superstorm.
Sandy is expected to affect up to 60 million people when it meets two other powerful winter storms. Experts said it didn't matter how strong the storm was when it hit land: The rare hybrid storm that follows will cause havoc over 1,300 kilometres from the East Coast of the US to the Great Lakes.
"This is not a coastal threat alone," said Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "This is a very large area." New Jersey was set to close its casinos this weekend. New York's governor was considering shutting down the subways to avoid flooding and half a dozen states warned residents to prepare for several days of lost power.
In New York City, where officials are particularly worried about the possibility of subway flooding, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prepare to shut the city's subways, buses and suburban trains by Sunday, but delayed making a final decision.
Sandy weakened briefly to a tropical storm early Saturday but was soon back up to Category 1 hurricane strength, packing 120 kph winds about 539 kms southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, early on Sunday morning.
Experts said the storm was most likely to hit the southern New Jersey coastline by late on Monday or early on Tuesday.
Governors from North Carolina, where heavy rain was expected on Sunday, to Connecticut declared states of emergency. Delaware ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal communities by 8 p.m. Saturday.
Republican presidential nominee Mr Romney scrapped plans to campaign on Sunday in the swing state of Virginia and switched his schedule for the day to Ohio. First Lady Michelle Obama cancelled an appearance in New Hampshire for Tuesday, and President Barack Obama moved a planned Monday departure for Florida to Sunday night to beat the storm.
In Ship Bottom, just north of Atlantic City, Alice and Giovanni Stockton-Rossini spent Saturday packing clothing in the back yard of their home, a few hundred metres from the ocean on Long Beach Island. "It's really frightening," Ms Stockton-Rossi said.
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 the private service Weather Underground.
Mr 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. Experts said to expect high winds and up to 60 centimetres of snow as far inland as West Virginia.
And the storm was so big, and the convergence of the three storms so rare, that "we just can't pinpoint who is going to get the worst of it," said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Quake shakes Canada's west coast, no immediate damage reported
Published on Oct 28, 2012
VANCOUVER, Canada (AFP) - A major 7.7 magnitude earthquake shook the Queen Charlotte Islands off the west coast of Canada at 0304 GMT on Sunday.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no "destructive widespread tsunami threat" at this time. However, the regional West Coast-Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre issued a regional warning for coasts located near the epicentre of the earthquake. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
"A 7.7 is a big, hefty earthquake. It's not something you can ignore," Mr Gerard Fryer, senior geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center told CNN International. "I think we have to be thankful it happened where it did,"
"If that were a heavily populated area, it would have caused significant damage," he added.
Quake strikes off western Canada, tsunami warning issued
Published on Oct 28, 2012
GOLDEN, Colorado (AP) - A magnitude-7.7 earthquake struck off the coast of western Canada at 0314 GMT on Sunday. There are no immediate reports of damage but a tsunami warning was issued.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) in Colorado says the quake hit the Queen Charlotte Islands and was centred 155 kilometres south of Masset, British Columbia.
The National Weather Service has issued a warning for coastal areas of British Columbia, southern Alaska, Northern California, Oregon and Washington state. It says the warning area includes Craig and Sitka, Alaska
The USGS says the 7.7-magnitude quake shook the area and was then followed by a 5.8-magnitude aftershock several minutes later.
Tsunami warning triggered for Hawaii after Canada quake
Published on Oct 28, 2012
People load up on water and food at the Times Supermarket after learning of a tsunami warning on Oct 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A potentially destructive Pacific tsunami is headed toward the US state of Hawaii after a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that shook the Queen Charlotte Islands off the west coast of Canada late on Saturday. -- PHOTO: AP
VANCOUVER, Canada (AFP) - A potentially destructive Pacific tsunami is headed toward the US state of Hawaii after a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that shook the Queen Charlotte Islands off the west coast of Canada late on Saturday.
Numerous aftershocks, some as large as magnitude 4.6, followed the initial quake, Canadian officials reported.
Initially, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no "destructive widespread tsunami threat" at this time. But later it issued a warning, saying a tsunami had been generated and is headed toward the US state of Hawaii.
The tsunami "could cause damage along the coastline of all islands in the state of Hawaii," the centre said, adding that "urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property.".
"Initial reports indicate that a wave of around one metre is anticipated, with Kahului likely to be impacted by a larger wave, possibly up to two metres," Honolulu's KITV station said.
Natural Resources Canada said in a statement that the temblor was felt across much of north-central British Columbia, including Haida Gwaii as the Queen Charlotte Islands are otherwise called.
But it played down the tremor's effects on Canada.
"There have been no reports of damage at this time," the ministry said.
However, experts said temblors exceeding magnitude 7.0 were extremely dangerous.
"A 7.7 is a big, hefty earthquake. It's not something you can ignore," Gerard Fryer, senior geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre told CNN International.
He explained that the latest tremor had occurred partly under an island, but mostly under shallow water.
"I think we have to be thankful it happened where it did," Mr Fryer said. "If that were a heavily populated area, it would have caused significant damage."
Mild tsunami disrupts normal life in Hawaii
Published on Oct 28, 2012
Oahu residents watch the ocean water surge into the Ala Wai Harbor carrying various debris during a tsunami on Oct 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A mild tsunami hit Hawaii this morning after a powerful earthquake off the west coast of Canada, forcing a state-wide evacuation but apparently failing to cause major damage. -- PHOTO: AP
HONOLULU (AFP) - A mild tsunami hit Hawaii this morning after a powerful earthquake off the west coast of Canada, forcing a state-wide evacuation but apparently failing to cause major damage.
Television images from the island of Oahu showed relatively small waves peacefully rolling toward shore.
Shortly after, forecasters lifted a tsunami warning issued in the wake of the quake.
"Based on all available data the tsunami threat has decreased and is now at the advisory level and not expected to increase," the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center announced.
The center warned, however, that sea level changes and strong currents could still occur and present a hazard for swimmers and boaters. "The threat may continue for several hours," the center cautioned.
Highways and roads in coastal areas were re-opened, allowing thousands of residents and hundreds of tourists to return to their homes and hotel rooms.
But the tsunami, set off by a powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake that struck off the west coast of Canada, succeeded in disrupting the weekend activities of many tourists and residents.
Countless Halloween parties were interrupted, restaurants, bars and movie theaters emptied, and highways quickly filled with cars heading away from beach areas.
Tourists from Waikiki to Turtle Bay in Honolulu were evacuated to higher floors in their hotels, and major tourist centers looked abandoned for several hours.
Governor Neil Abercrombie declared a state of emergency when the first alert was sounded and kept it in force.
"We are taking a wait-and-see approach - we want everyone to be safe," said the governor's spokesperson, Donalyn Dela Cruz.