As Hurricane Sandy drenches much of the Mid-Atlantic and moves north, we're updating with the latest news about a storm that forecasters say will be historic in size and intensity:
6 a.m. ET:
-- "Hurricane Sandy has gained strength as it swirls toward the East Coast," The Associated Press writes. "The National Hurricane Center says the hurricane's wind speed increased early Monday to 85 mph with additional strengthening possible."
The seriousness of the situation as Sandy heads for land is underscored by a warning in the Hurricane Center's latest advisory about the storm. It urges everyone "not to focus on the center or the exact forecast track of this system ... since strong winds cover an area several hundred miles across ... and the highest winds will not necessarily be near the center."
-- Just where is Sandy headed? The Hurricane Center's latest "5-day forecast cone" still has the center of the storm making landfall along the Delaware and southern New Jersey coasts early Tuesday morning (but the storm's so big that it's been raining much further inland around Washington, D.C. since last evening).
And the AP's roundup of the local government responses and cancellations shows how far and wide the storm's expected to be felt:
From Virginia north to New England, "Sandy has forced the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sent coastal residents fleeing for higher ground, and threatens to bring a dangerous mix of high winds, soaking rain and a surging wall of water. "Sandy has stayed on a predicted path that could take it over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York on its way to a collision course with two other weather systems, creating a superstorm with the potential for havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes."
-- But that's not all. Weather.com adds that:
"High wind warnings extend from Maine to portions of Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia and into the southern Appalachians as far south as northeast Georgia. Coastal flood warnings extend up and down the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coast. Flood watches for heavy rainfall dominate a large chunk of the Northeast. Hurricane-force wind warnings have been issued for the coastal waters of seven states. The clash of cold air diving into the eastern states plus moisture and strong winds from Sandy has prompted the issuance of blizzard warnings in the mountains of West Virginia! Winter storm warnings extend as far south as the North Carolina and Tennessee borders. ..."
"In general we expect the worst of Sandy's impacts to begin arriving Monday morning and peak during the Monday night through Tuesday timeframe. We expect multiple threats including: widespread power outages from highs winds, many downed trees, dangerous storm surge flooding at the coast, flooding rainfall and even heavy snow in the central and southern Appalachians."
-- Please, emergency officials say, be prepared. Sandy could affect a section of the nation where more than 60 million people live. At the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they're urging that everyone:
-- "Follow the direction of local officials if told to evacuate, do so immediately.
-- "Make final preparations If you're further inland, now is the time to make final preparations. Be ready for power outages and stock up on emergency supplies of food, water, medications, and other supplies.
-- "Know the forecast for your area Sandy is a large storm with potential impacts from wind, coastal flooding, inland flooding, rain, and snow. Listen to your NOAA weather radio and local news reports, or visit weather.gov for the conditions in your area.
-- "Check on your neighbor make sure they're ready too."
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