Hurricane Sandy leaves death, damp and darkness in wake!

NEW YORK (AP) — As Superstorm Sandy marched slowly inland, millions along the East Coast awoke Tuesday without power or mass transit, with huge swaths of the nation’s largest city unusually vacant and dark.

New York was among the hardest hit, with its financial heart in Lower Manhattan shuttered for a second day and seawater cascading into the still-gaping construction pit at the World Trade Center. President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in the city and Long Island.

The storm that made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening with 80 mph sustained winds killed at least 16 people in seven states, cut power to more than 7.4 million homes and businesses from the Carolinas to Ohio, caused scares at two nuclear power plants and stopped the presidential campaign cold.

The massive storm reached well into the Midwest: Chicago officials warned residents to stay away from the Lake Michigan shore as the city prepares for winds of up to 60 mph and waves exceeding 24 feet well into Wednesday.

“This will be one for the record books,” said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Consolidated Edison, which had more than 670,000 customers without power in and around New York City.

An unprecedented 13-foot surge of seawater — 3 feet above the previous record — gushed into Gotham, inundating tunnels, subway stations and the electrical system that powers Wall Street, and sent hospital patients and tourists scrambling for safety. Skyscrapers swayed and creaked in winds that partially toppled a crane 74 stories above Midtown.

Right before dawn, a handful of taxis were out on the streets, though there was an abundance of emergency and police vehicles.

Remnants of the former Category 1 hurricane were forecast to head across Pennsylvania before taking another sharp turn into western New York by Wednesday morning. Although weakening as it goes, the massive storm — which caused wind warnings from Florida to Canada — will continue to bring heavy rain and local flooding, said Daniel Brown, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

As Hurricane Sandy closed in on the Northeast, it converged with a cold-weather system that turned it into a monstrous hybrid of rain and high wind — and even snow in West Virginia and other mountainous areas inland.

Just before it made landfall at 8 p.m. near Atlantic City, N.J., forecasters stripped Sandy of hurricane status — but the distinction was purely technical, based on its shape and internal temperature. It still packed hurricane-force wind, and forecasters were careful to say it was still dangerous to the tens of millions in its path.

While the hurricane’s 90 mph winds registered as only a Category 1 on a scale of five, it packed “astoundingly low” barometric pressure, giving it terrific energy to push water inland, said Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at MIT.

Officials blamed at least 16 deaths on the converging storms — five in New York, three each in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, two in Connecticut, and one each in Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia. Three of the victims were children, one just 8 years old.

Sandy, which killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Eastern Seaboard, began to hook left at midday Monday toward the New Jersey coast. Even before it made landfall, crashing waves had claimed an old, 50-foot piece of Atlantic City’s world-famous Boardwalk.

“We are looking at the highest storm surges ever recorded” in the Northeast, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director for Weather Underground, a private forecasting service.

Sitting on the dangerous northeast wall of the storm, the New York metropolitan area got the worst of it.

An explosion at a ConEdison substation knocked out power to about 310,000 customers in Manhattan, said Miksad.

“We see a pop. The whole sky lights up,” said Dani Hart, 30, who was watching the storm from the roof of her building in the Navy Yards.

“It sounded like the Fourth of July,” Stephen Weisbrot said from his 10th-floor apartment.

New York University’s Tisch Hospital was forced to evacuate 200 patients after its backup generator failed. NYU Medical Dean Robert Grossman said patients — among them 20 babies from neonatal intensive care that were on battery-powered respirators — had to be carried down staircases and to dozens of waiting ambulances.

Not only was the subway shut down, but the Holland Tunnel connecting New York to New Jersey was closed, as was a tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and several other spans were closed due to high winds.

A construction crane atop a $1.5 billion luxury high-rise in midtown Manhattan collapsed in high winds and dangled precariously. Thousands of people were ordered to leave several nearby buildings as a precaution, including 900 guests at the ultramodern Le Parker Meridien hotel.

Alice Goldberg, 15, a tourist from Paris, was watching television in the hotel — whose slogan is “Uptown, Not Uptight” — when a voice came over the loudspeaker and told everyone to leave.

“They said to take only what we needed, and leave the rest, because we’ll come back in two or three days,” she said as she and hundreds of others gathered in the luggage-strewn marble lobby. “I hope so.”

Trading at the New York Stock Exchange was canceled again Tuesday — the first time the exchange suspended operations for two consecutive days due to weather since an 1888 blizzard struck the city.

Fire destroyed at least 50 homes Monday night in a flooded neighborhood in the Breezy Point section of the borough of Queens, where the Rockaway peninsula juts into the Atlantic Ocean. Firefighters told WABC-TV that they had to use a boat to rescue residents because the water was chest high on the street. About 25 people were trapped in one home, with two injuries reported.

Airlines canceled around 12,500 flights because of the storm, a number that was expected to grow.

Off North Carolina, not far from an area known as “the Graveyard of the Atlantic,” a replica of the 18th-century sailing ship HMS Bounty that was built for the 1962 Marlon Brando movie “Mutiny on the Bounty” sank when her diesel engine and bilge pumps failed. Coast Guard helicopters plucked 14 crew members from rubber lifeboats bobbing in 18-foot seas.

A 15th crew member who was found unresponsive several hours after the others was later pronounced dead. The Bounty’s captain was still missing.

One of the units at Indian Point, a nuclear power plant about 45 miles north of New York City, was shut down around 10:45 p.m. Monday because of external electrical grid issues, said Entergy Corp., which operates the plant. The company said there was no risk to employees or the public.

And officials declared an “unusual event” at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township, N.J., the nation’s oldest, when waters surged to 6 feet above sea level during the evening. Within two hours, the situation at the reactor — which was offline for regular maintenance — was upgraded to an alert, the second-lowest in a four-tiered warning system. Oyster Creek provides 9 percent of the state’s electricity.

In Baltimore, fire officials said four unoccupied rowhouses collapsed in the storm, sending debris into the street but causing no injuries. Meanwhile, a blizzard in far western Maryland caused a pileup of tractor-trailers that blocked the westbound lanes of Interstate 68 on slippery Big Savage Mountain near the town of Finzel.

“It’s like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs up here,” said Bill Wiltson, a Maryland State Police dispatcher.

Hundreds of miles from the storm’s center, gusts topping 60 mph prompted officials to close the port of Portland, Maine, and scaring away several cruise ships. A state of emergency in New Hampshire prompted Vice President Joe Biden to cancel a rally in Keene and Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, to call off her bus tour through the Granite State.

About 360,000 people in 30 Connecticut towns were urged to leave their homes under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders. Christi McEldowney was among those who fled to a Fairfield shelter. She and other families brought tents for their children to play in.

“There’s something about this storm,” she said. “I feel it deep inside.”

Despite dire warnings and evacuation orders that began Saturday, many stayed put.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — whose own family had to move to the executive mansion after his home in Mendham, far from the storm’s center, lost power — criticized the mayor of Atlantic City for opening shelters there instead of forcing people out.

Eugenia Buono, 77, and her neighbor, Elaine DiCandio, 76, were among several dozen people who took shelter at South Kingstown High School in Narragansett, R.I. They live on Harbor Island, which is connected to the mainland by a causeway.

“I’m not an idiot,” said Buono, who survived hurricanes Carol in 1954 and Bob in 1991. “People are very foolish if they don’t leave.”

New York prepares for Hurricane Sandy’s approach !

Weather forecasters warned on Sunday that Hurricane Sandy will affect a large area of the U.S. east coast, but said it was too early to pinpoint where the storm, which has the potential to be the biggest ever to hit the mainland, would make landfall.

Government officials in several states in Sandy’s path faced tough decisions on emergency plans, including mandatory evacuations in vulnerable coastal areas, and residents scrambled to buy supplies before the storm arrives on Monday night.

On its current projected track, Sandy is most likely to make U.S. landfall between Delaware and the New York/New Jersey area, forecasters said. However, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said it could not yet predict the precise point.

“It is still too soon to focus on the exact track … both because of forecast uncertainty and because the impacts are going to cover such a large area away from the center,” the NHC said in an advisory.

Sandy approaches the U.S. east coast

While Sandy’s winds were not overwhelming for a hurricane, its width was what made it exceptional. Hurricane force winds extended 105 miles (165 km) from its center while its lesser tropical storm-force winds reached across 700 miles (1,125 km).

Sandy could have a brutal impact on major cities in the target zone. In New York, city officials discussed whether to shut the subway system on Sunday in advance of the storm, which could bring the country’s financial nerve center to a standstill.

The storm could cause the worst flooding Connecticut has seen in more than 70 years, said the state’s governor, Dannel P. Malloy.

Sandy was located about 260 miles (420 km) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with top sustained winds of 75 miles (120 km) per hour early Sunday, the NHC said.

The storm was moving over the Atlantic parallel to the U.S. coast at 13 mph (20 km/h), but was forecast to make a tight westerly turn toward the U.S. coast on Sunday night.

Tropical storm conditions were spreading across the coast of North Carolina on Sunday morning and gale force winds are forecast to begin affecting the New York area and southern New England by Monday morning, the NHC added.

Record breaker

Sandy could be the largest storm to hit the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website.

“The size of this alone, affecting a heavily populated area, is going to be history making,” said Jeff Masters, a hurricane specialist who writes a blog posted on the Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com).

Sandy could hit Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, one of the most densely populated regions of the country and home to tens of millions of people.

Forecasters said Sandy was a rare, hybrid “super storm” created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm, possibly causing up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain in some areas, as well as heavy snowfall inland.

Sandy killed at least 66 people as it made its way through the Caribbean islands, including 51 in Haiti, mostly from flash flooding and mudslides, according to authorities.

The approaching storm forced a change of plans for both presidential candidates ahead of the Nov. 6 election. The White House said President Obama canceled a campaign appearance in Virginia on Monday and another stop in Colorado on Tuesday, and will instead monitor the storm from Washington.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney rescheduled campaign events planned for Virginia on Sunday and was flying to Ohio instead.

All along the U.S. coast worried residents packed stores, buying generators, candles, food and other supplies in anticipation of power outages. Some local governments announced schools would be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

“They’re freaking out,” said Joe Dautel, a clerk at a hardware store in Glenside, Pennsylvania. “I’m selling people four, five, six packs of batteries – when I had them.”

‘Life-threatening’ storms feared for Midwest .

Storm clouds (Corbis)

In an unusual move, national weather forecasters have issued an early warning that conditions are ripe for violent tornadoes to rip through the Midwest this weekend.

According to a story by the Associated Press, the expected weekend storms will stretch from Texas to Minnesota and could be a “high-end, life threatening event.”

On Friday, a tornado was seen near the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman just after 4 p.m. local time, according to a local television station. There were no reported injuries.

This is only the second time in history that the Storm Prediction Center issued a high-risk warning more than 24 hours in advance,  Russ Schneider, director of the center told the AP.

The worst weather is expected to develop late Saturday afternoon between Oklahoma City and Salina, Kan.,  Other areas also could see severe storms with baseball-sized hail and winds of up to 70 mph, forecasters told the AP.

The warning issued Friday covers parts of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

The Storm Prediction Center advises residents in those areas should be aware of warnings and alerts and seek shelter in a safe place should severe weather hit.

Indonesia issues tsunami warning after 8.6-magnitude earthquake !

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia has issued a freshtsunami warning after an aftershock with a preliminary magnitude of 8.2 shook its western coast.

The first 8.6-magnitude quake off Aceh province, hours earlier, spawned a wave around 30 inches (80 centimeters) high but caused no serious damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the strong temblor that followed was centered 10 miles (16 kilometers) beneath the ocean around 380 miles (615 kilometers) from the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

Harjadi, a local official who goes by only one name, said the new tsunami warning was for residents living along the western coast of the country.

It included Sumatra island and the Mentawai islands.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — A massive earthquake off Indonesia’s western coast triggered a tsunami watch for countries across the Indian Ocean on Wednesday, clogging streets with traffic as residents fled to high ground in cars and on the backs of motorcycles.

Two hours after the quake hit, however, there was no sign of the feared wave. Damage also appeared to be minimal.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 8.6-magnitude quake was centered 20 miles (33 kilometers) beneath the ocean floor around 269 miles (434 kilometers) from Aceh province.

“It wasn’t the strongest quake I’ve felt,” said 22-year-old Tuti Rahmi, while trying to reach her brother by phone from Banda Aceh, people around her crying and screaming as they poured from their homes.

“But it seemed to last forever,” she said, adding the ground shook for nearly four minutes.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami watch was in effect for Indonesia,India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Maldives and other Indian Ocean islands, Malaysia, Pakistan, Somalia, Oman, Iran, Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa and Singapore.

But hours later, the threat appeared to have passed.

Roger Musson, seismologist at the British geological survey who has studied Sumatra’s fault lines, says the temblor was a strike-slip quake, not a thrust quake. In a strike slip quake, the earth moves horizontally rather than vertically and doesn’t displace large volumes of water.

“When I first saw this was an 8.7 near Sumatra, I was fearing the worst,” he said, noting one of the initial reported magnitudes for the quake. “But as soon as I discovered what type of earthquake it was, then I felt a lot better.”

The tremor was felt in Malaysia, where it caused high-rise buildings to shake for about a minute, and in Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh and India.

There was chaos in the streets of Aceh, where memories of a 2004 tsunami that killed 170,000 people in the province alone, are still raw.

Patients poured out of hospitals, some with drips still attached to their arms. In some places, electricity was briefly cut.

Hours after the temblor, people were still standing outside their homes and offices, afraid to go back inside.

There were several strong aftershocks.

“I was in the shower on the fifth floor of my hotel,” Timbang Pangaribuan told El Shinta radio from the city of Medan. “We all ran out. … We’re all standing outside now.”

He said one guest was injured when he jumped from the window of his room.

Thailand’s National Disaster Warning Center issued an evacuation order to residents in six provinces along the country’s west coast, including the popular tourist destinations of Phuket, Krabi and Phang-Nga.

India’s Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for parts of the eastern Andaman and Nicobar islands. In Tamil Nadu in southern India, police cordoned off the beach and used loudspeakers to warn people to leave the area.

Satheesh Shenoi, director of the Indian National Center for Ocean information Services, said the chance of a tsunami was diminishing.

“There are no indications of tsunami wave; the instruments are not showing any sea level change,” he said.

The quake was felt in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where many people in the city’s commercial Motijheel district left their offices and homes in panic and ran into the streets. No damage or causalities were reported.

In Male, the capital of the Maldives, buildings were evacuated.

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity.

{ Pictures Taken From Indonesia 2009 Tsunami }

Over 20 earthquakes shook Lebanon overnight ! Strong earthquake soon ?!

W460

Over 20 earthquakes shook Lebanon overnight between the regions of Bikfaya and Aley, reported Voice of Lebanon radio on Friday.

There are no fears however of any aftershocks, geological expert Moeen Hamzeh told the radio,

The quakes, that did not exceed 3.5 degrees, were felt in the towns of Nabey, Zahleh, Ain Aar, and others.

Hamzeh added that these earthquakes are not unusual, but “part of natural occurrences that have been recorded for a while now.”

Hamzeh also added that these earthquakes are not ” Fabricated “As they say ..

These earthquakes do not mean that a strong earthquake will hit Lebanon but does not exclude it .