East Coast grinds to a halt as superstorm nears

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The New York area is expected to get the worst of a superstorm that forecasters say will pummel the East Coast, from Washington to Boston.

Hurricane Sandy is expected to blow ashore tonight or early Tuesday along the New Jersey coast. Airlines have canceled thousands of flights and Amtrak has begun suspending train service across the Northeast.

The storm threatens to collide with two other weather systems, creating the potential for havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. An 11-foot wall of water is expected to hit New York.

The center of the wide storm was positioned to come ashore Monday night in New Jersey.

Louis Uccellini is environmental prediction chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He says "this is the worst-case scenario."

Hurricane Sandy could also lead to waves as high as 33 feet on parts of Lake Michigan and dangerous conditions on other Great Lakes.

Some 375,000 people in lower Manhattan and other parts of New York City have been ordered to evacuate, along with other low-lying areas along the East Coast. The New York Stock Exchange will be shut down today, including electronic trading.

There had been plans to allow electronic trading to go forward Monday on the New York Stock Exchange, but with all mass transit shut down, getting people in and out of New York was determined to be too dangerous.

Electronic trading will shut down 15 minutes early.

Though it's likely to carry little market relevance, the Dow Jones industrial futures are down 67 points to 12,987. The broader S&P futures have given up 8.10 points to 1,399.50. Nasdaq futures are down 18 points to 2,641.

Some companies are also postponing quarterly earnings reports scheduled for release early this week. So far, that includes Pfizer Inc. and Thomson Reuters.

New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore are shutting down their subways, buses and trains and they say schools will be closed today. All non-essential government offices will be closed in the nation's capital.

President Barack Obama is canceling a planned campaign appearance in Florida and returning to Washington to oversee the federal government's response to Sandy.

With the massive East Coast storm playing havoc with people's work and school at the beginning of the new week, Obama press secretary Jay Carney says the president is returning to the capital Monday to, quote, "monitor the preparations for and early response" to the hurricane.

For critical election states are affected by the storm - North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire.

The National Weather Service has issued Great Lakes gale and storm warnings in effect through Wednesday. It says waves on Lake Michigan could be 10 to 18 feet by Monday afternoon, then build to 20 to 33 feet on Tuesday before subsiding. Waves on parts of Lake Superior and Lake Huron could top 20 feet.

Dangerous conditions are expected along piers and breakwalls in areas including southwestern Michigan. Snow linked to the storm could fall in parts of Michigan.

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