NEW YORK CITY (BP) — Hurricane Sandy threatened to impact 60 million Americans Oct. 29 as it churned toward the Eastern Seaboard with winds exceeding 90 mph, causing President Obama to declare a state of emergency in the nation’s capital and in states from North Carolina to Connecticut.
“People will die in this storm,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley bluntly warned as he urged residents to evacuate or hunker down ahead of the potentially historic storm, which was forecast to make landfall Monday night or early Tuesday along the New Jersey coast.
As of Monday afternoon, 116,000 customers were without power in seven states, CNN.com reported. Service on mass transit systems was halted in New York City, Washington and Philadelphia ahead of the storm, thousands of airline flights were canceled, classes were called off for more than 2 million public school students, and government offices were closed.
The New York Stock Exchange closed Monday and announced it would remain closed Tuesday, marking the first time it was closed for a weather event since Hurricane Gloria in 1985, CNN reported.
Obama, along with Mitt Romney, canceled campaign events because of the approaching natural disaster.
“At this stage, everybody is confident that the staging process, the prepositioning of resources, commodities, equipment that are going to be needed to respond to this storm are in place,” the president said after meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Southern Baptists were among those assembling resources for a prompt response to the hurricane.
Baptist disaster relief directors and volunteers in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey were on alert, officials said, expecting help from Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and other states. Officials expected the hurricane to bring flooding, power outages and fallen trees.
In the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, where officials were expecting a direct hit from Sandy, volunteers were expected to emerge after the storm, disaster relief director Karlene Campbell said.
“Because Pennsylvania/South Jersey is getting a direct hit from this, a lot of our volunteers are looking to their own welfare until the storm passes, of course with their property, home and family,” Campbell said. “So we are right now a little short of volunteers, although we do have some that stepped forward.
“Once the storm passes, we should have more volunteers come forward. But we will supplement that through area command and ask other states for help as needed.”
Campbell had been notified that two area command officials from the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and an area commander from the Florida Baptist Convention were on their way to Pennsylvania to assist area commander Kent Michaelis with Penn/Jersey.
“We have all of our volunteers and recovery units on standby so that once the storm passes we can get out quickly and start working,” Campbell said.
Gaylon Moss, disaster relief director for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, was coordinating assistance to New Jersey, relying on volunteers from North Carolina and Tennessee.
One member of Moss’ disaster relief team already was on site at American Red Cross headquarters in New Jersey, Moss said, and seven volunteers were en route to the state. North Carolina also expects damage from the hurricane.
“We do think we’ll have to do some work here in North Carolina, but we think compared to what New Jersey will need it will be significantly less than we’re going to need up there,” Moss said. “We will do our best to help in both places.”
The Baptist Convention of New York was partnering with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, whose disaster relief director Coy Webb was sending three disaster relief workers to Buffalo, according to New York disaster relief director Michael Flannery.
“They will back us up in everything that we need in the New York event, and then they have feeding teams waiting and recovery teams on alert,” Flannery said, expressing confidence that necessary resources would be available.
“We know that God’s in control, but we will respond,” Flannery told Baptist Press. “All of our workers are on alert in New York as well as Kentucky. We’re just waiting and braced for whatever.”
An Incident Command Center was being set up at the Baptist Convention of New England offices in Northborough, Mass.
Bruce James, the BCNE’s team leader for evangelism, disaster relief and men’s ministry, said his disaster relief team was communicating with local, national and regional partners. They also were alerting volunteers in New England and were working on an action plan.
“We just need prayer right now, but we’ll be ready for it when it gets here,” James told Baptist Press.
George Russ, executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, told Baptist Press he was in Florida Monday, unable to return home.
“I and several others from MNYBA staff are stranded in other parts of the country,” Russ wrote in an email at midday. “I am in contact with our churches and leaders and so far there is little to add to what you see on news reports.”
Storm surges along the coast were expected to raise water levels to 11 feet above normal high tide.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie warned, “Don’t be stupid. Get out!”
Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy said, “This is the most catastrophic event that we have faced and been able to plan for in any of our lifetimes.”
Compiled by Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press and John Evans, a writer in Houston. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).