By Skyler Shah
With every hour, Hurricane Sandy, which has already resulted in 65 fatalities in the Caribbean, draws closer to towards mainland America where it is expected to meet New Jersey with a ferocity not seen for generations.
A mass evacuation has already begun across the north-east coast including New York where Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of more than 370,000 people in low-lying communities, relieving 1.1 million children from school effective from today. Public schools have been converted in to 76 evacuation shelters to try and accommodate the large number of those coming from potentially fatal areas.
Fears that the 85mph (140km/h) storm will affect the election’s progress have already spread, as both candidates have cancelled campaigns due to the severe weather warnings.
Obama was forced to change his travel plans to Florida, bringing them forward to Sunday in an attempt to avoid the storm. He has also cancelled a campaign stop with the former president Bill Clinton in Virginia scheduled for today and a rally in Colorado on Tuesday to return to the White House.
Romney was also pushed to cancel an event for Sunday in Virginia – a key election state – because of the treacherous weather and instead headed onto Ohio.
Some believe that the way President Obama deals with hurricane Sandy could secure or lose his seat in the White House. Time spent away from the campaign trail could prove devastating, as could a mishandling of the natural disaster.
On Sunday evening, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Massachusetts, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local efforts Utilities, meanwhile, called in extra crews from as far away as the West Coast and canceled vacations for employees.
This knife-edge situation comes at a time when as many as nine states are thought to be too close to call as the election date draws closer.
When visiting the government’s storm response centre, Obama claimed that he does not anticipate the storm to severely impact the election progress, but is something he is ‘obviously going to take a look at.’
The National Hurricane Center in Florida, reporting that the hurricane is picking up wind speed and cross-ground pace, locate the storm to be under 300 miles away from the coast of North Carolina.
Forecasters have said that Sandy is a rare hybrid ‘super-storm’ that has been created by an Arctic jet stream enclosing itself around a tropical storm.
The east coast may be used to extreme weather, but Sandy has concerned meteorologists that its increasing power could turn it into a ‘Frankenstorm’ as it tears its way across the coast.
Although at the moment the storm is only a category 1 – the lowest in a scale of five – the sheer size and potential for prolonged damage to the area it travels across, due to its slow cross-ground pace, is what makes it so deadly. It is thought that Sandy could hover over 12 states for up to 36 hours, creating the potential to seriously impact the current election process by immobilising citizens.
Hurricane Sandy’s sheer size means it could affect the mid-Atlantic states across to New England with an 800 mile damage path, as its present movement reaches 15mph (22km/h) travelling North-East. Life threatening surge flooding from up to 25cm of rain (10 inches) and 2ft of snow are just some examples of what Sandy is expected to bring.
Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore are all on alert for the fierce storm to arrive soon, as predictions are made for 10 million people to be without power within the week.
The National Grid have announced that more that 1,500 customers in Weymouth are without electricity which could be a situation replicated across the whole of the north-east coast.
The National Weather Service from Mount Jolly, in New Jersey has reinforced the severity Sandy could bring.
“If you are reluctant, think about your loved ones, think about the emergency responders who will be unable to reach you when you make the panicked phone call to be rescued, think about the rescue and recovery teams who will rescue you if you are injured – or recover your remains if you do not survive.”