While Sandy is expected to cause significant damage along much of the East Coast and as far west as Ohio, the National Weather Service says Long Island and Southern New England shore towns are particularly vulnerable to storm surge and severe flooding.
"Gale force winds are expected to arrive along portions of the Mid-Atlantic coast later today and reach Long Island and Southern New England by Monday morning," the National Weather Service reported early Sunday. "The combination of an extremely dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters."
According to WXEdge.com, a storm surge of 10 feet or more is possible, which is twice the size of the one experienced during Tropical Storm Irene. "If a storm surge of 6, 8 or even 10 feet were realized, it could put hundreds of homes and businesses under water."
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Saturday told leaders of southwestern shoreline towns from Greenwich to East Haven that they should start evacuating waterfront areas of their communities by Sunday morning. The towns will decide whether to issue evacuation orders. Inland in Connecticut, the predictions are somewhat less dire, but winds gusting to up to 60 mph and heavy rain of up to 6 inches are expected to cause flooding and widespread power outages.
CBS News reported Sunday morning that, as of 8 a.m., Sandy's center was about 260 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., moving northeast at 10 mph. Maximum sustained winds were reported at 75 mph as the great storm churned up the East Coast.
Sandy has the potential to cause more damage in Connecticut than did Tropical Storm Irene. Long Island Sound is so vulnerable because winds are elevating the water levels and may combine with high tides over a 36-hour period.
"Given the large wind field associated with Sandy, elevated water levels could span multiple tide cycles resulting in repeated and extended periods of coastal and bayside flooding," the National Weather Service reported. "Elevated waters could occur far removed from the center of Sandy. Furthermore, these conditions will occur regardless of whether Sandy is a tropical or post-tropical cyclone."
Sandy will eventually turn west and forecasters still believe it will make landfall in New Jersey on Monday, but the storm's impacts will stretch 520 miles from its center, putting Connecticut in danger no matter where the storm makes landfall.
“The center of circulation is only going to be a very small part of the story,” Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, told the New York Times. “This is not just going to be a coastal event.”
Middletown and several other towns in Connecticut have already announced school closures for Monday, but many will make that call today. In New York City, officials are preparing to close the subways and rail lines Sunday evening if the storm surge is as high as predicted, the Times reported. Bridges will be closed if winds exceed 60 mph.
"It's a monster. It's huge," FOX CT meteorologist Joe Furey said of the storm. "It's going to take its time. From the standpoint of the shoreline, they are going to have to take precautions — a lot of folks are going to have to get out."
Leaders of CL&P and United Illuminating, the state’s two major power companies, said Saturday that they are planning for widespread outages. A UI official said the company is anticipating that 50-70 percent of its customers will be without power at some point. A CL&P official said anywhere from a quarter to half of its customers could lose power during the storm, or 300,000 to 600,000 customers.
The company also is flying linemen into Connecticut from as far away as Seattle to help with the restoration of power after the storm. Malloy said utility crews will not be dispatched to restore electricity until the storm has passed.
The Weather Channel summarized the storm in these terms: "Widespread wind damage, power outages from downed trees, coastal flooding, high storm surge, and major travel disruptions can be expected in Sandy's wake."