Hurricane Sandy has picked up strength overnight as it prepares to turn northwest and strike the east coast:
At 5 a.m., the huge storm was producing sustained winds of 85 miles an hour after turning due north, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was expected to veer again to the northwest later Monday morning and take dead aim at the coastline of New Jersey.
The swing to the northwest can be observed in a satellite loop of the monster storm.
High wind warnings related to Sandy include ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, WV, OH, MI, NC, GA, and Washington D.C. According to the NWS, tropical storm force gusts of 41 mph have now reached Boston.
As the storm bore down on some of the nation’s most densely populated areas, city and state officials went into emergency mode. The New York City subway system and all of the region’s commuter trains and buses were shut down. The major stock exchanges called off all trading for Monday and Broadway theaters canceled their shows on Sunday evening and Monday.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of more than 370,000 people in low-lying communities from Coney Island in Brooklyn to Battery Park City in Manhattan and gave 1.1 million schoolchildren a day off on Monday. The city opened evacuation shelters at 76 public schools.
Here's a LIVE shot of NYC.
New York's normally packed transit stations are abandoned. Check out more photos on the MTA's Flickr feed.
Air Force reconnaisance aircraft reported a 28-mile wide circular eye earlier this morning.
An updated forecast track is here.
Off the coast of North Carolina, the crew of a 180-foot, three mast tall ship, HMS Bounty, has abandoned ship:
The 17 person crew donned cold water survival suits and lifejackets before launching in two 25-man lifeboats with canopies. The Coast Guard continues to monitor the situation and assess the weather conditions to determine the soonest Coast Guard aircraft or surface assets can be on scene to conduct effective rescue operations....An air crew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City launched aboard an HC-130 Hercules aircraft, which later arrived on scene and reestablished communications with the Bounty's crew. The vessel was reportedly taking on water and was without propulsion. On scene weather is reported to be 40 mph winds and 18-foot seas."
5:30 am, Battery Park City:
Paul Kocin, a National Weather Service meteorologist in College Park, Maryland, says the models they are seeing of the potential impact of Hurricane Sandy rival the New England hurricane of 1938 and it could be the worst in a century, Bloomberg reports:
“What we’re seeing in some of our models is a storm at an intensity that we have not seen in this part of the country in the past century,” Kocin said in a telephone interview yesterday. “We’re not trying to hype it, this is what we’re seeing in some of our models. It may come in weaker.”
The hybrid storm may strike anywhere from the Delaware- Maryland-Virginia peninsula to southern New England. The current National Hurricane Center track calls for the system to go ashore in New Jersey on Oct. 30, although landfall predictions often change as storms get closer to shore.
The storm has already killed 21 people in the Caribbean.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center just published this stunning image of Hurricane Isaac over the United States:
Early on August 28, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi-NPP satellite captured this nighttime view of Tropical Storm Isaac and the cities near the Gulf Coast of the United States. The image was acquired just after local midnight by the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses light intensification to enable the detection of dim signals. In this case, the clouds of Isaac were lit by moonlight.
In other Isaac news, the storm will continue to beat the gulf coastwell into Thursday:
As of 10 a.m. CT (11 a.m. ET), Isaac's maximum sustained winds were at 75 miles per hour -- barely hurricane strength, which begins at 74 mph. The storm was centered "very near" Houma, Louisiana, and about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans, the hurricane center said. It continued to move northwest slowly, at only 6 mph, allowing for an extended, relentless lashing of much of the Gulf Coast.
The center of the storm "will move father inland over Louisiana today and tomorrow, and over southern by Arkansas early Friday," the hurricane center said.
Isaac could bring 14 inches of rain, and as much as 20 inches are possible, the hurricane center said.
Forecasters predict Isaac will continue to weaken as it moves over land during the next 48 hours, but threats of dangerous storm surges and flooding will continue through Wednesday night, the hurricane center said.
Stephen Colbert took on the Republican National Convention and the coincidence of Hurricane Isaac last night:
"Hurricanes form from rising moisture created by hot steamy man action aboard a gay Caribbean cruise. When that sin gets high enough it makes the angels cry and those tears fall to earth in the form of massive precipitation because homosexuals are a vital part of the water cycle. That's why the gay symbol is a rainbow!"
Added Colbert: "So clearly the liberal gays out there planned the storm by gaying it up extra hard someplace."
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
Isaac has turned from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds, the AP reports:
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Tuesday that Isaac gained strength as it moved over the warm, open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Isaac is expected to make landfall over southeastern Louisiana, possibly the New Orleans area, either late Tuesday or early Wednesday.