Hurricane Sandy Swirls In The Atlantic

Hurricane Sandy is beginning to lash parts of the East Coast. Guest host Jacki Lyden speaks with NPR's Joel Rose, who is in the storm's path in Asbury Park, N.J.

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It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Guy Raz is away. I'm Jacki Lyden.

One of the largest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. is bearing down on the East Coast. Hurricane Sandy expected to make landfall tomorrow in the mid-Atlantic. Its top winds of about 75 miles per hour are modest by hurricane standards. But Sandy is massive. President Obama has this advice for those in Sandy's wake.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My first message is to all the people across the Eastern Seaboard, Mid-Atlantic, going north, that you need to take this very seriously.

LYDEN: NPR's Joel Rose joins us now from Asbury Park, New Jersey. Joel, hi. What can you tell us about what's going on there?

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: So far, there's not a whole lot of rain. We are getting quite a bit of wind, and the ocean is sort of an ominous gray color with whitecaps bursting, you know, higher - much higher waves than you'd normally see on the Atlantic Coast. So, you know, there actually are still some beachgoers out here just taking in the sights, checking out the waves, but the town is more or less deserted. I think most people have made their way to higher ground.

Parts of New Jersey are under a mandatory evacuation order. This isn't one of them, but Barrier Islands up and down the coast have been evacuated. That includes Atlantic City, which is more or less where forecasters are expecting the storm to make landfall tomorrow.

LYDEN: Now, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that nobody's more cynical than he, and people should get off the beach. And I guess he's not the only public official to be talking tough.

ROSE: That's right. And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered an evacuation for some of the low-lying parts of New York City. That includes like Battery Park City in lower Manhattan, some of the beaches in Queens and in Staten Island. Forecasters are very concerned about the possibility of storm surge in the waterways around New York City. That includes New York Harbor, the Raritan Bay, Long Island Sound. They're concerned that water levels may peak at six to 11 feet higher than is normal. So that's a great concern, and Mayor Bloomberg has ordered evacuations of some low-lying areas.

There's been a major shutdown of mass transit in the whole Eastern Seaboard, really. Amtrak has canceled service - virtually all service in and out of New York City. A number of regional rails, commuter rail lines are shut down from Maryland through New Jersey and up into New York. And the New York City subway is shutting down this evening. So travel will be difficult at best up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

LYDEN: Joel, I know you're not a hurricane expert, but still, this is a thousand-mile-wide swath from Virginia to New England. Why is it so dangerous?

ROSE: Well, the storm is expected to lose a lot of its steam when it hits land, and, you know, that's going to create a potential for major power outages up and down the coast as well as major flooding. The storm is expected to just drag to almost a halt as it hits land, and that's going to be dumping rain. And that means high wind and rain for millions of people over the next few days. And that just creates all sorts of complicated problems.

LYDEN: Absolutely. And pulling in cold there and maybe some snow, so that is why they've called it Frankenstorm. Well, thank you for standing by there in Asbury Park.

ROSE: Thanks.

LYDEN: That's NPR's Joel Rose speaking to us from Asbury Park, New Jersey.

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