President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and New York and governors of the states in the path of the monster storm ordered mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas.

The US East Coast braced itself to weather one of the worst storms in decades as Hurricane Sandy churned towards the densely populated areas of New York, Washington and Boston and threatened to dump inches of rain and snow, prompting evacuation of thousands of residents.

President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and New York and governors of the states in the path of the monster storm ordered mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas.

Over 6000 flights were cancelled across the country’s northeast regions and 370,000 people were evacuated from New York city.

The hurricane was expected to make landfall in the New York/New Jersey area early. New York ordered shut down of its mass transit system, which caters to millions of passengers daily, beginning last evening, the second time in 14 months that the public transport system was brought to a halt.

Hurricane Sandy brought back memories of the hurricane Irene that had pounded the eastern seaboard last August, resulting in similar shutdowns, mass evacuations and power outages for millions.

“We have a plan to keep you and all New Yorkers safe. If you follow that plan, we’ll get through this storm just fine.

If you don’t, people’s lives are in danger. Not only yours, but the people who might be called to rescue you in an emergency,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a press conference.

“I can’t stress enough that this is for your own safety, and that if you refuse to evacuate, you’re not only putting yourself at risk, but also the first responders who will have to assist you in an emergency,” he said.

New York schools, offices closed

In another unprecedented move, the UN headquarters here would remain closed on Monday and possibly Tuesday due to the storm. All meeting at the UN were cancelled. The Nasdaq exchange also announced it would be closed on Monday.

The city set up 76 evacuation shelters in public schools for people from low-lying areas of Coney Island, Manhattan Beach and other areas along the East River in Brooklyn in Manhattan.

The city’s public schools, which cater to 1.1 million schoolchildren, were also ordered closed for Monday and the Coast Guard closed the New York Harbour.

The city’s 468 subway stations, buses, rails, were also closed as officials advised people not to venture out. Utility companies warned that the hurricane could lead to power outages across several areas leaving people without electricity and heat for anywhere between 5-7 days.

Huge lines were seen outside grocery stores as water, food items, generators and batteries and other essential items flew off the shelves with residents stocking up for possible worse days after the storm has passed.

Forecasters said the water could top 8 feet from Ocean City, Maryland to the border between Connecticut and Rhode Island. They predicted the waves would rise to 6 feet on the south shore of Cape Cod. The storm was also expected to dump inches of snow in the region around Virginia.

Obama, Romney cancel campaign

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also authorised closure of all State Offices for Monday, due to the impending impact of Hurricane Sandy and dangerous weather conditions.

Christie encouraged residents to comply with orders and guidance from their local emergency management and government officials in preparing for the storm and to avoid any unnecessary risks when the storm makes landfall.

Both Obama and Romney cancelled events in Virginia.

Romney also cancelled his New Hampshire trip, but would continue with his campaign in the battleground states of Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin — which are away from the storm.

“This is a serious and big storm,” Obama said at headquarters of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington DC where he had gone to review the preparedness.

“And my first message is to all the people across the Eastern seaboard, Mid—Atlantic, going north, that you need to take this very seriously and follow the instructions of your state and local officials, because they are going to be providing you with the best advice in terms of how to deal with this storm over the coming days,” Mr. Obama said.

Indian Embassy closed

The Indian Embassy in Washington and the Indian Consulate in New York announced that their offices would be closed today due to storm.

The TriVisa offices, to which the Indian Embassy has outsourced its visa services, has also closed its offices in both Now York and Washington.

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