LEWES, Del. (CBSDC/AP) — Residents across the mid-Atlantic spent Sunday preparing for a miserable week as slow-moving Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Delaware coast, threatening floods, widespread power outages and property damage.
The storm threatened to bring as much as a foot of rain, winds of up to 80 mph and a wall of water 4 to 11 feet high. In Delaware, where Gov. Jack Markell ordered the evacuation of 50,000 coastal residents, people were lining up outside an American Red Cross shelter in Lewes when it opened at noon Sunday.
Among the first in line were Hugh Phillips, 69, and his wife, Martha, 61. The couple lives in the Long Neck area of Sussex County, an area prone to flooding.
“We were told to get the heck out,” Hugh Phillips said. “I was going to stay, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
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The Phillipses, both of whom walk with canes, taped up their windows and secured outdoor furniture before grabbing their shelter supplies, including medicine, food, clothes, blankets and pillows. They also stored some family photos in the car.
“You get to be my age, nothing matters,” Martha Phillips said. “Things can be replaced. People can’t.”
Sandy was headed north from the Caribbean, where it left more than five dozen people dead, and was expected to hook west toward the mid-Atlantic coast and come ashore late Monday or early Tuesday, most likely in New Jersey, colliding with a wintry storm moving in from the west and cold air streaming down from the Arctic.
Forecasters warned that the resulting megastorm could wreak havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.
In more populous northern Delaware, about 3,000 residents of flood-prone south Wilmington were also told to evacuate.
Bobbie Foote, a 58-year-old fitness coach, said she would ride out the storm at her daughter’s home in nearby Newark. It will be the first time she has fled a storm threatening the apartment building that has been her home for at least 40 years in the working-class neighborhood near the Delaware River.
“My daughter insists that I leave this time,” said Foote, who stayed last year when flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Irene blocked streets at either end of the neighborhood. “She said I should never put myself in that predicament where I cannot get in or out of where I live.”
In Maryland, President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration, and District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray was asking the White House to declare one for the nation’s capital, allowing federal agencies to help the local government respond to the storm. Schools were closed Monday in Washington, Baltimore and several other jurisdictions.
“This storm is unique, large, dangerous and unlike anything the region has experienced before,” Gray said.
However, for now, the district’s transit system remained fully operational.
Early voting was canceled for Monday in Maryland. Numerous flights into the region’s airports were canceled, as well as some Amtrak trains.
Utilities were preparing for hundreds of thousands of power outages and bringing in thousands of line workers from out of state. Pepco regional president Thomas Graham warned that because of sustained winds, the restoration effort might not begin in earnest until Wednesday.
On Sunday, Markell expanded Delaware’s limited state of emergency, ordering that businesses in mandatory evacuation zones be closed by 6 p.m.
State officials waived the tolls on northbound Route 1 and were directing vehicles into EZ-Pass lanes to speed the evacuation of people leaving coastal areas.
However, residents of the southernmost coastal communities, including Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, were unable to take Del. 1 — the only major highway out of town — because ocean water breached sand dunes and flooded the road north of the Indian River Inlet Bridge early Sunday morning. Residents of those communities south of the bridge were forced to turn inland.
In Maryland, residents were stocking up for days or more at home. Julie Seymour, 54, was filling up her car in Grasonville, Md., around noon on Sunday as a steady rain fell.
Seymour said her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren ages 10 and 3 had come to stay with her and her husband because of the storm. They also have two dogs and a rabbit to take care of. She said they’d already gotten gas for the generator, and she was on her way to pick up prescriptions and some extra water, bread, milk and toilet paper.
Seymour, who was wearing a Washington Redskins jersey, said the family planned to watch the football game.
“In case we lose power the generator hooks up the TV, the refrigerator, coffee pot and can charge all the iPhones,” she said.
Seymour also was looking ahead to a potentially soggy Halloween. She said she had bought $60 worth of candy that the family may now have to eat themselves.
“Gosh, I hope it clears up and the kids can go trick-or-treating Wednesday,” she said.
In south Wilmington, not everyone was heeding the evacuation order. Michael Dorsey, 30, who lives with his girlfriend and four children, said the family had stocked up on tuna, noodles and other nonperishable foods and checked their battery supply. He said they wouldn’t leave unless officials say, “Yo! It’s going to be bad. It’s going to be the end of the world!”
Dorsey said most of his neighbors would probably also stay put.
“A lot of people have got nowhere to go,” he said.
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)