Washington: President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney changed their campaign plans as millions of Americans along US East Coast Sunday braced themselves for possibly the worst "superstorm" in 100 years.
Local and state officials across the Eastern Seaboard have warned people to prepare for Hurricane Sandy that is expected to hit the US with its full might late Sunday, and in some cases Monday.
At 5 am (2.30 pm India time), the National Hurricane Center put the storm at about 260 miles (over 416 km) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The storm was moving parallel to the southeast US coast at about 13 mph with 75 mph sustained winds.
As the storm headed towards the national capital, Obama planned to leave Washington Sunday before the storm begins and reach rallies in Florida and Ohio, the Washington Post reported.
Romney`s campaign too said that instead of hosting three events in Virginia Sunday, he would fly to the battleground state of Ohio.
Officials have blamed Sandy for at least 45 deaths as it spun northward from the Caribbean, according to CNN. That figure includes 29 people in Haiti, 16 more in Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Computer models predict portions of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia could see up to a foot of rain, according to the CNN weather unit. And even though it`s still October, communities in and around the Appalachian Mountains could be socked by heavy snow.
The impending storm disrupted the rhythms of an otherwise warm fall Saturday, as utility crews up and down the East Coast worked overtime to prepare, and hordes of anxious shoppers crowded into supermarkets and supply stores, according to the Post.
Federal officials said that they expected the storm to create damaging flood and wind conditions across a vast and densely-populated portion of the US, from Virginia to New England, and as far west as the Great Lakes.
In the Washington region, the Post`s weatherman expected the worst of the storm to begin Monday, bringing as much as six inches of rain and causing wind gusts of as high as 60 mph.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and the governors of Maryland and Virginia already have declared states of emergency.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg advised residents and visitors to stay out of the parks. Construction sites also were ordered shut down.
In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie declared a pre-emptive state of emergency and ordered evacuation of most barriers islands south of Sandy Hook, including Atlantic City and its 12 casinos, according to the Star-Ledger.