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October 27, 2012

Emergencies declared ahead of Eastern superstorm

SHIP BOTTOM, N.J. — With much of the Eastern Seaboard in the path of a rare behemoth storm, governors in the nation's most densely populated corridor declared states of emergency and residents contemplated whether to heed dire warnings of torrential rain, high winds and up to 2 feet of snow.

"You know how many times they tell you, 'This is it, it's really coming and it's really the big one,' and then it turns out not to be?" said Alice Stockton-Rossini as she packed up to leave her home a few hundred yards from the ocean in Ship Bottom. "I'm afraid people will tune it out because of all the false alarms before, and the one time you need to take it seriously, you won't. This one might be the one."

Hurricane Sandy, upgraded again Saturday just hours after forecasters said it had weakened to a tropical storm, was barreling north from the Caribbean and was expected to make landfall early Tuesday near the Delaware coast, then hit two winter weather systems as it moves inland, creating a hybrid monster storm.

Even if Sandy loses strength and makes landfall as something less than a hurricane, the combined superstorm was expected to bring misery to a huge section of the East. An 800-mile wide swath of the country could see 50 mph winds regardless of Sandy's strength.

Experts said the storm could be wider and stronger than Irene, which caused more than $15 billion in damage, and could rival the worst East Coast storm on record. On Saturday morning, forecasters said hurricane-force winds of 75 mph could be felt 100 miles away from the storm's center.

Up and down the coast, people were cautioned to be prepared for days without electricity. Several governors, including Connecticut's Dannel Malloy and New Jersey's Chris Christie, declared states of emergency. And airlines said to expect cancellations and waived change fees for passengers who want to reschedule.

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