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‘Biggest ever’ Sandy storm makes landfall in New Jersey

New Jersey, Oct 30 (): Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, roared ashore with fierce winds and heavy rain on Monday near the gambling resort of Atlantic City, New Jersey, after forcing evacuations, shutting down transportation and interrupting the presidential campaign.

As of 8 pm EDT (0100 GMT Tuesday), the National Hurricane Center’s latest data showed that the storm’s maximum sustained winds were holding at about 130 kph and the storm was moving northwest at 37 kph. Latest report from the news magazine The Telegraph says the winds have weakened slightly to 80 mph now that the storm is over land in New Jersey, but that remains dangerously strong.

The storm, with punishing winds and heavy rains caused flooding along the entire Eastern seaboard. But that was just the beginning of what the authorities warned would be a long and merciless storm.

Businesses and schools were closed; roads, bridges and tunnels were closed; and more than 13,000 airline flights were cancelled. Even the Erie Canal was shut down. Subways were shut down from Boston to Washington, as were Amtrak and the commuter rail lines.

As rain from the leading edges began to fall over the Northeast on Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people from Maryland to Connecticut were ordered to leave low-lying coastal areas, including 375,000 in lower Manhattan and other parts of New York City and 30,000 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the city’s 12 casinos shut down for only the fourth time ever.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that the storm was “serious and dangerous” while Barack Obama met federal officials and promised the government would “respond big” to its aftermath. The president cautioned that Sandy was a slow-moving storm that certain areas would take a long time to recover from.

It is feared the impact could be even worse than the so-called Long Island Express more than 70 years ago that killed nearly 800 people.

There were also predictions that it could be more disastrous than last year’s Hurricane Irene, which caused $15 billion in damage.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the latest projection of Sandy is it will march inland from Jersey into southern central Pennsylvania until Tuesday night, when it will begin a sharp northeastern pivot into upstate New York.

By 2pm on Thursday, it may have reached the Canadian border. From there it is not clear what will happen; it could head into eastern Canada or turn further east into New Hampshire and Maine.