by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) Oct 27, 2012
Hurricane Sandy regained strength Saturday as it lumbered northward toward an election-week collision with the US East Coast after leaving 44 people dead in the Caribbean.
What has been dubbed "Frankenstorm" was expected to make landfall somewhere between Virginia and Massachusetts during the frenzied final week of campaigning before the US elections on November 6.
Concern is mounting that storm damage and power outages could have a major impact on voter turnout, polling station readiness, and last-minute campaigning by President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney.
US Vice President Joe Biden canceled a Saturday an appearance in Virginia Beach to allow officials to focus on storm preparations and Romney did the same.
The storm briefly lost power early Saturday before regaining hurricane strength with sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour as it moved slowly northward, the National Hurricane Center said.
At 1200 GMT, Sandy was about 335 miles (540 kilometers) southeast of Charleston, South Carolina traveling in a northeasterly direction at a speed of 10 miles (17 kilometers) per hour, the center said.
Forecasters predicted the storm could collide early next week with a seasonal "nor'easter" weather system that would super-charge it while dragging it west on to land and hitting states such as Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and even inland Ohio.
Before then, Sandy is expected to lumber up the coast as a huge, slow-moving system while the eastern United States braces for huge tidal surges, power outages, inland flooding and even heavy snowfall on high ground far from the coast.
As emergency response teams and frightened families stocked up on essential supplies, meteorologists said Sandy could affect as much as a third of the country, from the Carolinas up to New England and as far inland as Ohio.
"It is going to be a challenging storm," Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate said, as officials warned it was too early to say when and where the storm would make its initial landfall.
"We know somebody is going to get hit. We just cannot say who that somebody is going to be," said James Franklin, branch chief of the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC), during a telephone press conference Friday.
Meteorologists have nicknamed the unusual confluence of weather patterns a "Frankenstorm," because it is on track to hit just before Halloween on October 31 and is composed of parts from different sources, as was Frankenstein's Monster.
The sprawling US Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia said it was sending an entire fleet of ships out to sea to get out of the way of the storm.
Further north, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, said the city was ready for anything Sandy could throw at it, and cautioned against panic.
Authorities in the states of Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the US capital Washington and a coastal county in North Carolina declared a state of emergency, directing officials to speed up storm preparations.
One quirk of Sandy is that whereas most storms tend to drift east after making landfall, this one could head inland because of a separate weather system high up in the atmosphere and far north, over southeast Canada.
Louis Uccellini, director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, said the danger of coastal flooding was higher because Sandy would strike during a full moon, when tides are already at their highest.
Sandy could last through several tidal cycles and cause repeated flooding.
In some areas of the Bahamas and then later in Florida and elsewhere in the United States, flood waters could reach three to five feet (one to 1.5 meters) in depth if the peak surge coincides with high tide.
The island chain reported power and phone lines downed, tourists stranded and trees uprooted. Schools, government offices, airports and bridges were to remain closed Friday.
Sandy claimed 11 lives in eastern Cuba, including several people who died in the rubble of buildings that collapsed in the fury of the massive storm.
The hurricane damaged hundreds of homes, flooding crops and downing trees, according to media reports.
On Wednesday, Sandy unleashed its wrath on Jamaica, where one person died, and on Haiti, where 29 people died. Two people were reported dead in the Dominican Republic and one in the Bahamas.
China's biggest political scandals
1995: Beijing mayor Chen Xitong is sacked and two years later jailed for 16 years for corruption, becoming the first member of the senior 25-member Politburo to be jailed since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. He is granted medical parole in 2004.
2000: Parliamentary vice chairman Cheng Kejie is executed for having taken $4.6 million in bribes in collaboration with his mistress while previously serving in Guangxi province.
2008: Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu becomes the highest-ranking official convicted of graft since Chen Xitong, who is not a relation. He is sentenced to 18 years in jail for his role in a scheme to illegally siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars from the city's pension fund to invest in real estate.
2008: A massive scandal of contaminated milk powder -- that leads to the death of six infants and sickens 300,000 -- exposes the lack of regulation in an industry rife with cheating. Two suppliers are executed the next year for producing and selling tainted product, the head of the major dairy company Sanlu, Tian Wenhua, is given life in prison and 18 others are given punishments from two years' jail to a suspended death sentence.
2011: Railways Minister Liu Zhijun is sacked and investigated for taking more than 800 million yuan ($127 million) in bribes while doling out contracts for the rapid expansion of China's booming high-speed railway system. He is now awaiting trial.
2012: Bo Xilai, party chief of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, is accused of abuse of power, taking bribes and improper sexual relations, in the biggest political scandal in two decades. His wife Gu Kailai, who was given a suspended death sentence a month earlier for murdering a British citizen, is accused of using Bo's name to secure "huge financial benefits" for relatives and associates.
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