NEW YORK (AP) — A fast-strengthening Hurricane Sandy churned north Monday, raking ghost-town cities along the Northeast corridor with rain and wind gusts. Subways and schools were closed across the region of 50 million people, the floor of the New York Stock Exchange was deserted, and thousands fled inland to await the storm's fury.
The monster hurricane was expected to make a westward lurch and aim for New Jersey, blowing ashore Monday night and combining with two other weather systems — a wintry storm from the west and cold air rushing in from the Arctic — to create an epic superstorm.
Authorities warned that New York City and Long Island could get the worst of the storm surge — an 11-foot onslaught of seawater that could swamp lower Manhattan, flood the subways and cripple the underground network of electrical and communications lines that are vital to the nation's financial capital.
Because of Sandy's vast reach, with tropical storm-force winds extending almost 500 miles from its center, other major cities across the Northeast — Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston — also prepared for the worst.
"The days ahead are going to be very difficult," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said. "There will be people who die and are killed in this storm."
By late morning, the storm had strengthened to 90 mph and had already knocked out power to tens of thousands of people. Sandy was about 200 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J., where the emptied-out streets were mostly under water and where an old section of the historic boardwalk broke up and washed away.
Authorities moved to close the Holland Tunnel, which connects New York and New Jersey, and a tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Street grates above the New York subway were boarded up, but officials worried that seawater would seep in and damage the electrical switches.