Hurricane Sandy impacts voting, work, and trading


Federal offices in the Washington, D.C. area as well as mass transit systems from D.C. to New York are closed Oct. 29 to keep non-emergency personnel off the streets as Hurricane Sandy begins dumping rain on the East Coast. The center of the storm is projected to make landfall between the Delmarva Peninsula and Long Island late Monday night.

The Office of Personnel Management announced Sunday that federal offices in D.C. are closed to the public and non-emergency employees scheduled to work in an affected area will be granted an excused absence unless they already telework or their contracts require them to telework.

Further announcements continue to roll in, including federal court closuresBloomberg reports the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Sunday night that all trading on Oct. 29, including electronic trading, is canceled for U.S. equities markets including the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, and trading is also cancelled on the New York Mercantile Exchange. 

Maryland cancelled (.pdf) early voting set to take place on Oct. 29, leaving the door open for further cancelations and a possible extension beyond the scheduled end of Nov. 1. The D.C. Board of Elections has suspended early voting at all sites on Oct. 29 and will make further announcemnts.

Many other states impacted by Sandy have no early voting so its impact on the election may be limited to areas that are still feeling the effects come the Nov. 6 polling day.

The states of Connecticut (.docx), Delaware (.pdf) Maryland, MassachusettsNew JerseyNew York, Pennsylvania (.pdf), Rhode Island, Virginia,  and the District of Columbia have declared states of emergency, and evacuations have been ordered for citizens in low-lying areas.

Sandy coincides with a full moon, meaning high tide will be higher than usual. If Sandy stalls overland as expected, this will likely increase the duration of the storm surge as well as increase the amount of rain it dumps across the eastern seaboard.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says citizens can text the word "SHELTER" and their ZIP code to 43362 to get information on shelters in their area. It suggests text messaging because that is usually more reliable than phone calls during emergencies.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has cancelled all of its metro and bus transit services starting Oct. 29, and says "metro service will only be restored when it is safe to do so."

MARC commuter rail in Maryland will not operate on Oct. 29 and has not set a reopening time yet. Amtrak has cancelled "nearly all service on the eastern seaboard."

In New York City, public transit services began shutting down at 7 p.m. on Oct. 28, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has closed the New York City subway and bus network, the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and Staten Island Railway. Nassau Inter County Express bus services will also be cancelled on Long Island, out near where the most recent presidential debate was held.

Sandy is a dangerous storm, says the National Weather Service, and citizens all along the eastern U.S. should take precautions, not just those at the center of the storm. NWS says Sandy "has the potential to be an historic storm, with widespread wind damage and power outages, inland and coastal flooding, and massive beach erosion." Current projections include sustained winds between 30 miles-per-hour and 50 mph and gusts of up to 70 mph, with rainfall between 5 and 12 inches. The area impacted by Sandy covers from the Carolinas to Maine and southern parts of Canada, with rain and snow reaching hundreds of miles inland.

Blizzard warnings have been posted by NWS for areas of the Appalachian chain, covering parts of western Maryland, Virginia, and eastern West Virginia. Forecasts for these regions predict between one and two feet of snow with sustained winds of 40 mph and gusts up to 60 mph.

Two major concerns for citizens happen outside and inside the home or shelter. People are warned to stay indoors as falling trees due to hurricane Isaac's winds killed people across many states. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns those inside to properly vent any gasoline powered generators used inside because the carbon monoxide they can produce can kill.

For more:
listen to federal officials discuss Sandy's projected effects
visit the National Hurricane Center webpage for Hurricane Sandy
- download the American Red Cross hurricane shelter information app
go to the National Weather Service webpage for forecasts

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