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New York (AFP) Oct 27, 2012
New York City officials geared up Saturday for a possible strike from Hurricane Sandy but have not ordered any evacuations, holding out hope the metropolis might miss the worst of the storm.
"This is a dangerous storm," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters. "But I think we're going to be OK."
Up and down the mid-Atlantic US coast, Americans were scrambling Saturday to prepare as best they could for a possible "superstorm" as Sandy lumbered north after leaving at least 59 people dead in the Caribbean.
The so-called "Frankenstorm" was expected to make landfall somewhere between Virginia and Massachusetts early Tuesday during the key final week of campaigning before US presidential elections on November 6.
And Sandy's likely collision early next week with a seasonal "nor'easter" weather system was predicted to super-charge the storm, dragging it to the west where it is expected to impact a slew of coastal US states.
"The trajectory says that the storm will hit a little south of us, (in the) Maryland and Delaware area," Bloomberg said, adding that no evacuations had been ordered for now, unlike in August 2011 with the approach of Hurricane Irene.
Irene weakened to a Tropical Storm nearing the city, but only after authorities evacuated 370,000 people from their homes in southern Manhattan as a precaution.
"We are not ordering any evacuation at this time for any part of the city," the mayor said. "It will be less dangerous (than Irene) but make no mistake about it -- there will be a lot of water."
"We are working to ensure that no matter how or when the storm arrives, the city will be well prepared and the citizens safe," he stressed.
The storm was at category one hurricane strength at 0100 GMT, with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour as it moved along the eastern US coast, the National Hurricane Center said.
Bloomberg said that he had spoken with Governor Andrew Cuomo -- who on Friday declared a state of emergency -- to coordinate state and local city responses to the storm. Shelters were being prepared in the event hurricane evacuations were needed, he added.
Grocery stores on Saturday were not jammed like last year when Irene churned nearby. However, with Sandy looming, drinking water flew off store shelves.
Among the anxious shoppers was 35-year-old Sandra Martinez, a housekeeper.
"Just in case, I'm buying basics like water, candles, batteries and some non-perishable food," she said.
"I think the mayor's office is doing the right thing by taking every precaution, because if the hurricane really hits here, it could be catastrophic," she added.
The city's Metropolitan Transit Authority said that it could start ordering bus and train service to shut down on Sunday evening. It usually suspends service if winds surpass 39 miles per hour (62 kilometers per hour).
National parks and popular tourist attractions like the Statue of Liberty -- which on Sunday is due to reopen its crown area after renovations -- could face some schedule changes in the light of the weather.
"We are watching the storm very carefully. As we go forward and we have more precise information, we will make the decision" on delays, said Statue of Liberty press spokeswoman Mindi Rambo.
Schools and social groups already started to call off and reschedule events set for Monday and Tuesday.
Hurricane Irene killed 47 people and did $10 billion in damage in the eastern United States -- hitting Vermont and upstate New York hard -- even though it largely grazed New York City defying earlier forecasts.
Prior to that the last time a hurricane hit New York City was Gloria, back in 1985.
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