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Flooding begins as Sandy turns toward East Coast - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Flooding begins as Sandy turns toward East Coast

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Hurricane Sandy strengthened yet again Monday as it churned on a path toward the East Coast, tearing up beaches, piers and boardwalks many hours ahead of its expected landfall.

The storm's maximum sustained winds were 90 miles per hour and its center was 260 miles southeast of New York City, according to the National Hurricane Center's 11 a.m. ET update. Sandy's wind speed has increased 15 mph over the past 12 hours.

With hurricane-force winds extending 175 miles from its center, Sandy is as broad as any hurricane to ever threaten the U.S.

The massive storm was forecast to make landfall Monday night, likely along or just south of southern New Jersey's coast, bringing a storm surge as high as 11 feet to towns and cities from Delaware through Connecticut.

"It's the worst possible time," NBC News meteorologist Al Roker said of the fact Sandy was due to come ashore during a full moon, which could lead to record flooding. "We're not even at the highest of high tides and we've lost about 150 feet of beach."

Complete coverage of Hurricane Sandy from The Weather Channel

"This will be worse than Irene" last year in terms of storm surge, he said from Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., where the waves Monday morning were nearly over the top of the dunes protecting homes.

"A lot of people are going to go out on Tuesday and Wednesday and not find the beach they are used to seeing," added Alan Blumberg a beach erosion expert at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

"The duration of the storm, the offshore waves, and the storm surge itself ... are way, way over the top what we've seen in the past," he told the Weather Channel.

Although Sandy was still hours from landfall, flooding was already reported in many coastal areas. Among them:

  • Much of Fire Island, N.Y., was under 18 inches of water, NBCNewYork.com reported.
  • In Freeport, N.Y., a surge along a boating canal pushed docks onto lawns, matching the damage done last year Irene.
  • Floodwaters poured through Atlantic City, N.J., NBCPhiladelphia.com reported, and a section of boardwalk was torn away.
  • Numerous roads in Virginia and North Carolina were flooded, NBC station WAVY-TV reported.

In addition, more than 20,000 customers in New York City and Long Island had already lost power by Monday morning. More than 20,000 customers across other parts of the Northeast had also lost power, according to Reuters.

This stretch of New York City's Battery Park saw flooding Monday morning. In the background is the Statue of Liberty.

Out at sea, two people were feared missing after they and 14 others abandoned a replica of the HMS Bounty that was adrift 90 miles southeast of Hatteras N.C. The vessel, used in the 1962 movie "Mutiny on the Bounty" with Marlon Brando, later sank in 18-foot seas.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for hundreds of thousands of residents in low-lying areas. States of emergency were declared across the region ahead of Sandy's impact.

"First will be the coastal impact, then winds knocking out power, then heavy rain where we may get flash flooding but in some cases we may not get river flooding for several days," Craig Fugate, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told NBC. "We're not expecting the winds inland to be that damaging to homes but we do think trees are going to get impacted and that will be the biggest problem, knocking down the power grid."

"We're looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people," added Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Stu Ostro, a senior meteorologist with The Weather Channel, warned Sandy would "occupy a place in the annals of weather history as one of the most extraordinary to have affected the United States."

Forecasters said the super-storm could bring close to a foot of rain in some regions, a potentially lethal storm surge across much of the coastline, and punishing winds that could cause widespread power outages that last for days.

The storm could also dump up to 2 feet of snow in Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia.

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