US hurricane turns into political storm

US hurricane turns into political storm

ORLANDO, Florida
US hurricane turns into political storm

People walk on a street littered with debris after Hurricane Sandy hit Cuba last week. Two people (inset) watch the winds of Sandy pounds waves onto the east side of Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina while the East Coast is alarmed. REUTERS photos

As the U.S. east coast is alarmed by Hurricane Sandy, potentially the biggest to hit the mainland in decades, it also threatens the presidential elections, less than 10 days away, forcing the two candidates to change their campaign schedules.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney has canceled appearances in Virginia to head for Ohio before the hurricane’s arrival, while President Barack Obama moved up his departure to Florida, initially planned for today, in order to be back in Washington in time for the storm’s landfall. Florida is one of a handful of states where early voting got underway on Oct. 27, Agence France-Presse reported. The president also canceled two campaign events in Virginia and Colorado to monitor developments related to Sandy.
Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, canceled a visit to the battleground state of Virginia to allow law enforcement and emergency workers there to prepare for the advancing storm. Sandy, which forecasters said could prove to be the most devastating storm in decades, currently is a category one hurricane, with the potential to bring its heavy rains and gusting winds when it makes landfall early today or late yesterday, anywhere from Virginia to New Jersey. On its current projected track, Sandy is most likely to make U.S. landfall between Delaware and the New York/New Jersey area, forecasters said.

However, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said it could not yet predict the precise point, Reuters reported.

Forecasters predict the hurricane will collide with a seasonal “nor’easter,” creating a supercharged cold weather system that could burst through the Mid-Atlantic states as far inland as Ohio, in the all-important final week before the Nov. 6 election.

Emergency preparations

Sandy could have a brutal impact on major cities in the target zone. In New York, city officials discussed whether to shut the subway system yesterday in advance of the storm. The storm could cause the worst flooding Connecticut has seen in more than 70 years, said the state’s governor, Dannel P. Malloy.
Obama on Oct. 27 reviewed emergency preparations in a conference call with top domestic security and emergency assistance officials as he flew to New Hampshire for a campaign. Meanwhile at a campaign event in Florida, Romney urged the crowd to take advantage of the opportunity they have beginning on Oct. 27 to cast their ballots. The start of early voting on Oct. 27 in Florida, Maryland, and Washington, brought long lines of voters who in some cases wrapped around city blocks.

The hurricane earlier claimed 11 lives in eastern Cuba. On Oct. 24, Sandy unleashed its wrath on Jamaica, where one person died, and on Haiti, where 44 people were killed. Two people were reported dead in the Dominican Republic and one in the Bahamas.