Sandy headed towards New Jersey, Central Delaware, while U.S. already feeling impact

Hurricane Sandy Tropical Cyclone Update and National Consequences – The latest report from the Air Force Reconnaissance Aircraft indicate that Dandy continues to move quickly towards the Northwest. If it stays on this track the center of Sandy is expected to reach the coast of extreme Southern New Jersey or Central Delaware within the next 3 to 5 hours. The present predictions means absolute destruction in terms of physical damage as forecasters had feared. Cities along the Northeast corridor will be flooded, sections of the Atlantic City Boardwalk will certainly be washed away; Wall Street and New York’s subway system will be so damaged it will take at least a year before the city’s transit system to resemble its condition before Sandy hit. So as a nation waits for impact, Sandy is headed towards New Jersey and Central Delaware leaving forecasters and the U.S. already feeling the Storms pinch yet helplessly unable to do anything towards preventing the harm it will bring.

By midday, the storm was picking up speed and is now expected to blow ashore in New Jersey in just hours. This is not only sooner than previously expected, forecasters now warn Sandy will combine with two other weather systems — a wintry storm from the west and cold air rushing in from the Arctic — to create an epic superstorm, which could inflict unimaginable damage and loss of life.

Throughout the Northeast, subways, buses, trains and schools were shut down and more than 9,000 flights grounded across the region of 50 million people. The New York Stock Exchange has closed, and hundreds of thousands of people were under orders to move to higher ground to wait out the storm’s rage.

The President and Mitt Romney have completely suspended their campaigning with just over a week to go before Election Day.

Speaking from the White House, President Obama made an appeal to those in harm’s way: “Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate. Don’t delay, don’t pause, don’t question the instructions that are being given, because this is a powerful storm.”

Predictions have been quite depressing for New York City and Long Island, which could get the worst of the storm surge: an 11-foot onslaught of seawater that could swamp lower Manhattan, flood the subways and cripple the underground network of electrical and communications lines that are not only vital to New York, but also to the nation’s financial capital.

Because of Sandy’s vast reach, with tropical storm-force winds extending almost 500 miles from its center, other major cities across the Northeast — Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston — also prepared to for the worst.

“The days ahead are going to be very difficult,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said. “There will be people who die and are killed in this storm.”

Airlines around the world have canceled flights to and from the northeast United States because of the growing threat from deadly Hurricane Sandy.

Middle Eastern, European, Asian and U.S. airlines have grounded flights in and out of America’s eastern seaboard as 350-mile wide Sandy prepares to make landfall.

As Americans brace for the storm, airlines are preparing to take a financial hit, with the weather stranding their passengers in cities across the globe.

“Every day this goes on you’re seeing combined losses to the airlines of roughly $10 million,” said Simon Calder, travel editor of the UK’s The Independent newspaper.

“The cost is actually much worse for European airlines like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, because they have to pay for accommodation and meals for their customers who are stuck in the U.S. — particularly in New York.”

European Union law says airlines have a “duty of care” to take care of stranded passengers. There is no such law governing U.S. airlines.

“Delta and United can just say, ‘Sorry, this is a weather event and you’re not covered,'”

At least 50,000 travelers between the UK and U.S. have been affected by the storm, Calder estimates.

British Airways has now canceled flights to and from New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Baltimore.

A statement on BA’s website said: “We understand that customers may be disappointed, however their safety is our highest priority. We are offering the option to rebook or receive a refund to those customers whose flights are canceled.”

Britain’s Virgin Atlantic also canceled all east coast flights, and London’s Heathrow Airport is advising U.S.-bound passengers to check their flight status before traveling to the airport.

Karen Mackenzie from Essex, in southeastern England, was planning to fly Monday to New York on a Virgin holiday package, but the airline canceled her entire holiday due to the storm.

While Virgin Atlantic gave Mackenzie a full refund, the elementary school principal says her schedule means she won’t be able to rebook the holiday until next year.

“I feel really horrible for those poor people in New York at the moment, waiting for the hurricane to hit. It’s disappointing to lose our holiday, but for them it’s a much more hideous situation.”

Qatar Airways and the United Arab Emirates-based airlines Etihad and Emirates also canceled flights to the U.S. northeast. In a statement Emirates said the safety of their passengers “will not be compromised.”

Air France, Germany’s Lufthansa, Ireland’s Aer Lingus, Australia’s Qantas, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific andTurkish Airlines have also scrubbed flights in and out of New York and elsewhere.

Some 50 million people from Virginia to Massachusetts are expected to feel the effect of Sandy, which is expected to land somewhere between Maryland and Pennsylvania late Monday or early Tuesday. New Jersey could bear the brunt of the Category 1 hurricane, according to a forecast map released by the National Hurricane Center.

The cost of potential wind damage alone from the hurricane could be up to $3 billion, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The storm has also prompted thousands of domestic cancellations across America.

While all American Airlines flights to the east coast are canceled, the airline is operating a normal service to other parts of the country.

United Airlines grounded roughly 3,700 flights between Sunday and Wednesday, and Delta said all flights from Washington to Boston, and out of New York and Philadelphia, were canceled.

Both companies are allowing some customers to change their flight plans without paying any fees due to the storm.

So how long will it take for airlines to get stranded passengers to their destinations once the hurricane subsides? Not long, according to CNN’s Richard Quest, who said the problem should start being resolved from Wednesday.

Quest said: “All the airlines have exceptionally sophisticated recovery programs. What they do is they don’t make the flight to the first place. They don’t send the aircraft into the bad areas, so they don’t get stranded. So they’re now already starting to work out flights for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. You write off Monday and Tuesday, then you start to rebuild the schedule.”

“After the [Icelandic volcanic] ash cloud two years ago, airlines were able to restore the schedule quite quickly, simply because people canceled their flights [and didn’t rebook]. And that’s what the airlines are banking on.

“I’m guessing by the weekend everyone’s got where they need to be.”

While costs to the Airline industry are mounting, experts said the 900-mile-wide storm could cause $6 billion in damage and leave 10 million people without electricity for days.

Bloomberg is even less optimistic as they have a report out today that suggests Sandy will cause as much as $20 billion in economic damage and that insurance losses may reach $10 billion.

The storm had already cut into Halloween costume sales and with the holiday season nearing, Bloomberg suggests that those sales may too be affected.

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