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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Monster Storm On Collision Course; Bracing For Hurricane Sandy;

Aired October 29, 2012 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN's live, continuing coverage of Hurricane Sandy. Right now it is a storm that's expected to impact some 50 million people. It is being called a superstorm.

I'm Soledad O'Brien. I'm coming to you right on the edge of Central Park in Midtown Manhattan. This morning we're talking about Hurricane Sandy and tracking its every move. It's taking aim at the most populated part of the United States, the northeast.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bracing for huge storm surge and gale force winds. I'm John Berman live by New York harbor inside the evacuation zone as this city prepares for a major threat to lives and livelihoods.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And the race for the White House blown off course. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Just eight days to go and Sandy is forcing both campaigns and some voters to make some changes. CNN's special hurricane coverage starts right now on EARLY START.

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. You're watching our special hurricane coverage. I'm Soledad O'Brien. We're coming to you live from Midtown Manhattan. We're tracking this monster of a storm as it continues to bear down on the northeast, and specifically we'll take a look here from New York City.

You can see look at this radar picture, just how massive and intimidating this storm is, nearly 1,000 mile wide. Hurricane force winds extending out for 175 miles. It's a Category 1 storm. It started turning toward the coastline.

That happened earlier this morning and it's expected to make landfall in southern New Jersey late today, maybe even early tomorrow. But most are predicting late today. It's expected impact, 50 million people.

Now the hurricane's already creating misery. Take a look at North Carolina, the sheer force of the storm sending 12 foot waves crashing into some homes along the coast. That threat has been really there, according to George Howell for 36 to 72 hours and is expected to remain for days.

Subways, schools shut down in Washington, shut down in Baltimore, shut down in Philadelphia, shut down here in New York. The markets closed, as well. Wall Street completely shut down. CNN this morning has Hurricane Sandy covered for you. John Berman, you saw him a moment ago. He is in Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. It's right in the center of the evacuation zone. He'll tell us about what they're expecting there.

Rob Marciano is in Asbury Park in New Jersey. Not too far from we are this morning. He's going to update us on how it's looking and also give us the latest on the forecast and the advisories that we get every couple of hours.

Sandra Endo is in Ocean City in Maryland. We've seen some high winds and stormy conditions there. George Howell is monitoring what's happening in Kill Devil Hills in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Throughout this morning, as well, we're going to be talking to emergency officials in Norfolk, Virginia, in Philadelphia, in Newark, New Jersey, in Atlantic City.

The Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy will join us, along with Maryland's Governor Martin O'Malley. He'll be with us as well. We begin this morning with Rob Marciano.

The winds from the last advisory are now upgraded to 85 miles an hour. New Jersey, in fact, is pretty close to where Rob Marciano is standing right now. New Jersey is expected to take a very big hit.

Let's talk a little bit, Rob, about what your area, Asbury Park, is expected to get. The people have been talking about the storm coming on perpendicular to the coastline. What kind of an impact, if it does that, what would that mean?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, you've got waves that are going to be coming directly onshore. You have wind that is directly pushing all that water on shore. And even as early as last night at high tide the water was lapping up against the boardwalk.

That is extremely unusual for that to happen. So we have already had two and three foot storm surge and the storm itself over 300 miles away from our position. So when it comes onshore tonight, you can imagine just how large that storm surge is going to be.

But the roads behind me will be overwashed for sure. And communities up and down the coastline of Jersey have taken caution and a lot of them have evacuated.

Let's start with Ocean City, New Jersey, one I-Report was sent in, flooding already happening there. So this storm is so big, we've already started to see the storm surge flooding several tide cycles before it makes its way onshore.

Sea Bright, New Jersey, that is just south of New York Harbor. They are boarding up there, as well. That has a number of rivers that dumps out into the mouth of the harbor. That's going to be a hot spot as far as storm surge is concerned. And Atlantic City down to the south, closer to where the center of this thing is expected to hit, the casinos are al closed. This is only the fourth time since legalized gambling has been instituted there, that they have closed down the casinos, a virtual ghost town there in Atlantic City. They're expected to see a storm surge. The center of this thing expected to come onshore somewhere down there.

All right, let's go over the stats and then we'll take you through the track. The satellite picture shows you just how large this system is. As Soledad mentioned the circulation of tropical storm force winds nearly 1,000 miles in diameter. Damaging winds about 300 miles.

So we're going to see some serious destruction with this and certainly widespread power outages. The forecast really hasn't changed much other than it could strengthen even more here over the next 12 to 18 hours.

Expect it to come onshore this evening or maybe close to midnight around the Delmarva. And we're seeing a lot of the heaviest rain and biggest winds on the southwest side of this storm so even folks a couple hundred miles to the south of this feeling the brunt of it.

And hundreds of miles outside of that also, so, that's the important thing here, Soledad, not to focus necessarily on the point of where it's coming in, because folks 100 or 200 or even 300 miles away, places like Boston harbor, Long Island Sound, the way that long fetch, you asked me about the perpendicular nature of the winds coming in.

All the water on Long Island Sound is going to be pushed directly towards Laguardia, towards the south western tip of Connecticut, in to New York harbor and we are likely to see a much, much greater storm surge than we did when Hurricane Irene came through this area just a little over 12 months ago -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Rob, let me ask you a question. It's cold. You and I have covered many hurricanes together. Like a lot. And usually it's significantly warmer. The fact that it's so cold, what kind of an impact will this have on that storm?

MARCIANO: Well, it's going to make it more miserable for one thing. What it does, as this thing transitions into a more winter-like scenario or a bare clinic energy source, meaning we now go from something that derives its heat from the tropical.

Warm waters of the ocean to something that now begins to see some energy from the temperature differences that we see at the northern latitudes this time of year, meaning hot and cold, cold fronts, stronger winds in the jet stream that's just going to invigorate this system and transition into a larger system that's going to impact folks across hundreds of miles of coastline.

And also the Great Lakes, Chicago's going to see winds from this. Atlanta's going to see winds from this. And the western slopes of the Appalachians will see over two feet of snow with the backside of this system before it's all said and done. An extraordinary event no doubt about it and we're in for it for the next 36 hours -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Rob Marciano. Thank you, Rob. Appreciate the update and the information, as well.

Want to get to John Berman. He is in Lower Manhattan. You know what's interesting, John. I've been watching a lot of the pictures coming in to us from further down south and you can see major flooding of roads.

You can see high winds and choppy seas. We haven't seen any of that here yet in New York, but there is an impact, which is mainly, you know, closings.

BERMAN: That's right, Soledad. No storm surge, no flooding yet. But the mayor here, and city officials, they want people to get ready. That is why they ordered the mandatory evacuation of some 370,000 people from low-lying areas.

That's Lower Manhattan right where I'm standing right now, also the other boroughs right now. People have moved to some 76 storm shelters throughout the city. They're crashing with friends who live in different parts of the city and also they've moved into hotels.

Now Mayor Michael Bloomberg, what he said, he said he wants people out of these areas for their own safety and also the safety of emergency workers. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: A lot of people say, well, I'm just going to tough it out, if down the road you can't tough it out and we have to come in with our first responders saving you, those people can't -- those first responders put their lives in danger and aren't available for true emergencies. Now is the time to take this kind of sensible precaution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now the threat here is storm surge, again, 6 to 11 feet high. Not crashing waves. But slow, steady, rising along with the high tide, which will be about 8:30 tonight with this full moon. If it hits really badly it could flood this entire area, flooding the subway system and the electrical grid. That's what they're concerned about -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, John Berman for us. Thanks, John. Appreciate it. Let's get right to Sandra Endo. She in Ocean City, Maryland watching what's happened there. Evacuations have already been ordered. Sandra, good morning.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Take a look. I just want you to see what's going on behind me. The waves are huge out here. And this is the first time we're seeing them actually overtake the sand dune.

You can see starting this area is starting to flood a little bit on the other side of this protective dune. This is the first time we've been seeing these waves this big. It's not even high tide yet, and that's certainly a big concern for this area right along the coast here in Ocean City.

And right now we're experiencing a steady wind of about 30 miles per hour, the rain, also unrelenting. We've been out here for the past 24 hours, or so and it's just been nonstop. As you mention and you're talking to Rob, it's cold out here, as well.

It's very different feel than other hurricanes we've all covered. So clearly this is an interesting one and I can tell you just standing out here for hours last night, and today, it's taken on a different personality. At times the wind has changed directions. At times the gusts have been so strong.

So clearly it's kind of unpredictable what the night is going to bring to us, really, when Hurricane Candy approaches land. But, again, this is the big concern for residents here.

The tide, the high tide, the full moon, and this long duration of this storm just drenching this area. That's certainly going to be a concern in terms of the storm surge -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Sandra Endo reporting for us. Thanks, Sandra for the update.

Let's get to George Howell. He is in Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina which is the Outer Banks. Evacuations there. We've seen some pretty dramatic pictures of flooding, 12 foot waves, as well. George, what's the latest.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning. A few minutes ago we heard Rob talk about the southwest side, the strong winds from the southwest side of this storm. Well you know, for the last three days that's what we've been experiencing.

It started with the northwest side of the storm, now dealing with the southwest side of the storm, still getting the strong wind gusts, still getting rain and showers from time to time. What it's caused out here, flooding, in Okracoke Island, inundated from the storm surge.

They're worried about storm surge on the Atlantic side, 4 to 6 feet of storm surge. The beach is gone. Also on the sound side, they're keeping an eye on the possibility of flooding, as the winds shift.

Those winds are pushing water in different places, and could cause up to three to five feet of flooding. Also Soledad, want to talk about this three-masted sailing ship. We've been keeping our eye on this.

This is a ship that was used in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean." It was built for the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty." This ship is out there. It's about 90 miles from Hatteras, about 160 miles from the eye of the storm, 17 souls on board.

It's a ship that lost propulsion and is foundering at the mercy of the waves, mercy of the sea. Right now, the Coast Guard, they've identified where the ship is. They are doing their best to get to the people on board to get them off, but again a developing situation, dangerous situation given what's happening out there right now -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: My goodness, all right, George. We're hoping that they're able to get some rescue workers out to them and get them off that ship, especially as this storm is getting ready to make landfall.

George Howell for us this morning in Kill Devil Hills in the other banks. Thank you, George.

Ahead we're going to take a look at what's happening in Virginia. We're going to talk to the emergency manager for Norfolk City, Marcus Jones will be our guest.

Also we'll be talking to the governors of both Maryland and the governor of Connecticut. They'll tell us what they're doing to try to protect their citizens in their state. That's all ahead. You're watching CNN's special coverage, continuing live coverage of Hurricane Sandy. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. These are live pictures coming to you from Ocean City, Maryland. It's where Sandra Endo has been reporting for us.

Take a look at the high winds that this storm churning there and the rain, as well. They've been dealing with that for awhile. And as Sandra reports, it's been intermittent, strong and then sometimes less strong.

I want to get to Norfolk, Virginia. City Manager Marcus Jones, he declared a city of emergency for his city on Friday. Marcus Jones joins us this morning.

Thank you for being with us, sir. Certainly appreciate it.

Tell me a little bit about what the situation is in Norfolk right now.

MARCUS JONES, NORFOLK, VA CITY MANAGER (via telephone): Sure. This morning, basically, during the last day and a half we have witnessed flooding in low-lying areas. But those are areas that typically flood. We've had a community-wide approach basically with the public and private sector coming together, including the Army National Guard and the school system.

So we've been working for the last three days in preparation for this.

O'BRIEN: How have you found people heeding the warnings that have been coming, especially since you're already declaring a state of emergency on Friday?

JONES: Sure. I really have to take my hat off to the employees, especially our public safety officials who have gone door to door and talked with the residents, advised them to be safe because the water will continue to rise. We've set up shelters, and in those shelters, we've been able to move some of our residents to those shelters in preparation for what will occur today. O'BRIEN: We're hearing a number, 10 million, and I understand that it's an estimate of how many people could lose power. What are you doing in your community to try to help folks if they lose power?

JONES: Sure. I would again I have to say how good the employees in that department have been. It's really been educating folk and trying their best to let them understand that this is a serious event and opening up four shelters across the city, including transportation and to enable them to get to the shelter. That's really been our preparation the last few days.

O'BRIEN: Marcus Jones is the city manager in Norfolk, Virginia. Thanks for talking with us. We appreciate your time. We wish you the very best of luck as you weather this storm.

Ahead this morning, I'm going to talk a little bit more about what Mr. Jones was just talking about -- power outages. As I mentioned 10 million is the number of people who are estimated to be without power at the end of this storm. What are power companies doing about it? What are their preparations?

Back with more on that, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN's continuing live coverage of Hurricane Sandy.

Now, hurricane winds could knock out power to an estimated 10 million people along the Northeast. If the hurricane goes as is now being expected. You'll remember, in the last hurricane, Hurricane Irene, there were people who lost power for two weeks.

What could be the implications of 10 million people losing power in the Northeast? Let's get right to Christine Romans. She's got an update on that for us.

Christine, good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, again, Soledad.

And remember the big public utilities in the Northeast had two dry runs for this, quite frankly. Last year, Hurricane Irene, and that big snowstorm of 2011 that took power out for so many people for so long, as well. Ralph LaRossa is the president of New Jersey's Public Service Electric and Gas Company, the state's largest publicly-owned utility. PSE&G provides power to three quarters of the Garden State. He's on the phone with me right now.

And it's called the Garden State, sir, for a reason, because you have square miles full of mature trees and full foliage right now, which means that when you get a lot of wind and a lot of water, that means downed power lines. What are you preparing for?

RALPH LAROSSA, PRESIDENT, PSE&G (via telephone): Well, yes, that's what we're preparing for. We have crews on stage. We've brought crews in from outside to help us out. And, right now, we're prepared for really two things, not just the trees you mentioned, but some of this historic flooding that we're expecting, problems for us up and down the rivers here in New Jersey, along the Hudson and potentially could flood out some of our substations.

ROMANS: The full brunt of this, what you're expecting late tonight into tomorrow, what should people do if they've got power outages or they see downed power lines? Last year, there was some criticism of the utilities because, you know, New Jersey residents, people in Connecticut as well, for other utilities, they couldn't get through to people. There wasn't good communication.

What's going to be better this time?

LAROSSA: Well, you know, we've reinforced all of our communications with our municipal officials. That's where most of the concerns came from last year.

We try to work through our New Jersey state BAC (ph), which is an organization down in Trenton that coordinates the OEM services across the state of New Jersey. They coordinate with our county representatives and then down through the municipalities. We reinforced that chain of command. The governor did that yesterday, and we're going to continue to follow that throughout the course of this storm.

But for individual customers, we continue to urge them to call us when they see downed wires as well as when they have power outages. Folks assume many times that we have, you know, instant knowledge that their power's out but that's just not the case.

ROMANS: You know, you asked more than 1,300 linemen and 600 tree contractors to be ready once the winds die down. When do you expect you will have men and women in up in the buckets, restoring power, cutting trees, getting things going? That's something you -- I mean, you basically have to wait at this point, right?

LAROSSA: That's correct. We're not going to put our employees in our harm's way. We have folks that will be out serving, like I mentioned, some of the flood stages and some of the earlier concerns that we may have that transpire along the storm here, but we won't be putting people up in the air to actually restore power until the winds die down to at least 45 miles an hour.

ROMANS: All right. Ralph LaRossa, president of PSG&E, thanks so much.

Soledad, you look at so much of the Northeast, is in full -- still in full foliage right now. The leaves still haven't come down on some trees. That makes it that much more difficult because there's just so much weight to pull a tree down.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's going to be a mess. The predictions this far out are, are, are pretty dire about that. So, hopefully, people will heed that advice. Christine Romans, thank you for that update. Christine, certainly appreciate.

Still ahead, we're continuing to monitor CNN's continuing live coverage, special coverage of Hurricane Sandy. We continue to monitor this epic storm as it churns toward the mainland. It's headed right now right for the New Jersey shore.

And with 11-foot surge that's possible in Lower Manhattan, we'll update you on how people in New York City are preparing for this storm. That's right after this break.

Stay with us. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Some 50 million Americans along the East Coast are bracing for what is being called an epic storm.

I'm Soledad O'Brien. I'm coming to you live from Midtown Manhattan, in Columbus Circle. Right over my shoulder is Central Park.

As we continue to monitor this breaking story, Sandy is being called a once in a lifetime storm. And it will not be long until she slams into New Jersey. We're expecting landfall to be sometime this evening.

Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN's continuing, live coverage.

BERMAN: This storm is 1,000 miles wide, packing potentially deadly winds. I'm John Berman, live in the evacuation zone in New York harbor.

What officials here are most concerned about, a storm surge as much as 11 feet high that could swamp this area, threatening lives and livelihoods.

SAMBOLIN: And with just eight days remaining until the election, the race for the White House takes a backseat to Sandy.

I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

Hurricane Sandy forcing the candidates to cancel campaign stops. It's creating havoc for voters, as well.

CNN's special hurricane coverage starts right now on EARLY START.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

You're watching our breaking news, which is the continuing live coverage of Hurricane Sandy, as it heads toward New Jersey. That's where it's expected to make landfall sometime this evening. One coast guard official tells us he sees this scenario, which you're watching on your screen right there, playing out over the next 24 hours in a couple of ways. He said it could either be bad or it could be devastating. Obviously neither one of those is a very good option.

If you look at Sandy, you can see the Category 1 hurricane is roughly 1,000 miles wide. Hurricane force winds are extending out from the eye about 175 miles. They're predicting that 50 million people in an 800-mile area will be impacted by this storm.

So I'm here live in Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan, right on the side here of Central Park.

John Berman, you just saw him a moment, he's reporting for us this morning in Lower Manhattan, in an area that has been evacuated. Rob Marciano is in Asbury Park in New Jersey. Sandra Endo is in Ocean City, Maryland. George Howell is in Kill Devil Hills in the outer banks of North Carolina.

Throughout the morning, we'll be updating with them. We'll also be talking to emergency managers, emergency officials in Virginia, in Philadelphia, in Newark, New Jersey, Atlantic City, as well, and the Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy will be joining us. And Maryland's Governor Martin O'Malley will be joining us as well to update us on what's happening there.

Fifty million people, that's the number of people, who are expected to be affected from the Mid-Atlantic States to Canada, as well. They're in the path of Sandy, just south of here, on the Jersey shore. One of the biggest concerns is flooding. Potentially catastrophic flooding is what they're talking about, along with significant and maybe even record-setting surge. Some spots have already seen some water creep in.

All that brings us to Rob Marciano who is updating us with the very latest on what is happening with Hurricane Sandy. Rob, good morning.

MARCIANO: Good morning, Soledad. You mention the water creeping in. We had that here last night, the water lapping up against the boardwalk. So, already, before this storm was even within 500 miles of the shore, we had the storm surge hanging two to three feet.

We expected that much higher later on today. Not only here but places like Ocean City, New Jersey, they also have seen some flooding -- some kind of a pre-storm storm surge. That's how big this system is, is that we've already seen several tide cycles before the storm is scheduled to make landfall.

What kind of preps are going on here? Well, they're boarding up in places like Sea Bright, just south of New York City harbor, an area where a number of rivers confluences in there, and storm surge flooding in through the harbor. Not only that but Long Island, and Long Island sound is going to be a problem there.

Atlantic City to our south, closer to the landfall area is where they're boarding up, as well. Wind gusts, we've already seen winds gusting over 30 miles an hour here in Asbury Park. Down to the south, in Atlantic City, and places like North Carolina, seeing winds, gusting over 30 miles, as well.

The tropical storm force winds extend nearly 400 miles from the center, diameter of 800 miles of tropical storm force winds. So, even though this thing is over 300 miles out, we're starting now to see the tropical storm force winds make their way inland. As far as the storm surge is concerned, that is where we're concerned here along the Atlantic seaboard of New Jersey. We could see four to eight feet of surge when this thing makes its landfall tonight, with not only high tide, but high tides that's also correspond with the full moon, which makes it even higher.

And we will se surges across Long Island sound, Connecticut, and New York harbor that will exceed Hurricane Irene and that will spell the whole sorts of different problems. I'm sure John Berman will go over.

Soledad, back to you.

O'BRIEN: All right. We'll be checking with him in just a moment. Rob Marciano for us with an update. Thank you, Rob.

That's how it looks in New Jersey. Let's turn to Connecticut now -- 300,000 homes along the coast are expected to flood in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. We're told the estimated winds will be somewhere between 40 and 60 miles an hour over the next 36 hours or so.

We want to get right to Connecticut's Governor Dannel Malloy joins us now. You said, sir, and good morning to you. You said the last time --

GOV. DANNEL MALLOY, (D) CONNECTICUT: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: -- anyone saw anything like this before is never. How worried are you about the impact of this storm for your state?

MALLOY: Well, we're really worried. The reality is we have two additional tides, noontime thereabouts and one at midnight or thereabouts, which are the most frightening. And the one tonight is by far the worst, because by that time the compounding winds pushing water down Long Island sound, plus the surge, has the ability to double the amount of water in Long Island sound, say over what Irene had. So we're talking about, if that happens, catastrophic damage being done to the coast of Connecticut, the direction that the wind will be blowing in.

O'BRIEN: I know that there are already some 450 people who made their way in to shelters. Are you feeling that a number of the people are heeding all the warnings that have been posted by state officials not only in your state, but really all up and down the Northeast?

MALLOY: Well, you know, if preparation for a storm is making sure everybody knows the danger, and preloading assets to respond in a recovery, we're ready for this. We have 30 towns that have ordered evacuations, some mandatory, some voluntary, along the shore, depending on how close to the water people are. It's a tough storm to get people to pay attention to in some senses, because it's four tidals. One last night, we have one today, we have one tonight which is the most serious concern and another one tomorrow. So, getting people to pay attention through all of those cycles of ups and downs in the water is tricky. That's why we are communicating the heck out of this thing.

O'BRIEN: Yes. No, I notice. I think another reason that people might have a hard time buying it, if that's the right phrase to use, is we all remember Hurricane Irene and there was lots of dire warnings about it and then it kind of came and went with significant damage to very specific places but a lot of people felt it had been missed.

Do you think you're getting that message out to folks, this is nothing like Hurricane Irene?

MALLOY: Well, you know, Connecticut didn't dodge Irene. We had 1.1 million people out of power. Some for as many as 11 days and we had a lot of destruction of homes along the shore, particularly in the New Haven, East Haven, West Haven area. That area is braced. I think we're getting the most response in that area.

But we expect today's tide, the one at noon today, could be in the area of the 1992 perfect storm backup in Long Island sound. That's going to be a big wake-up call for people if that happens, as so what tonight could be, which is far worse.

O'BRIEN: Connecticut's Governor Dannel Malloy with us this morning. Thank you, sir, for your time. I know you're really busy with all your preparations. So, we appreciate it.

MALLOY: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Let's go right to John Berman. He is in Lower Manhattan. He's in an area that has been evacuated because there are big concerns about a big storm surge. Something like 11 feet -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, Soledad, so many of the same concerns you just heard from Governor Malloy of Connecticut. The storm surge here could be six to 11 feet. That's a full two feet higher than we saw during Hurricane Irene one year ago. And that hurricane did flood this area, minor flooding then. This time, it could be major flooding.

There's one study out of Columbia University said that had Hurricane Irene been one foot worse it could have caused $50 billion in damage. This expected to be two feet worse than Hurricane Irene.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordering mandatory evacuations for some 370,000 people in the low-lying areas, including Lower Manhattan and the outer boroughs here. He told people -- practically begged people to get out of their homes. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) NEW YORK: I can't stress enough that this is for your own safety, and that if you refuse to evacuate, you're not only putting yourself at risk, but also the first responders who will have to assist you in an emergency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: High tide is at 8:50 p.m. tonight. The full moon here, that high tide is even higher than usual. That is the moment they'll be watching here to see if that storm surge pushes the water up over the seawalls right now.

I can tell you the water is only about two feet from the top of the wall right now so it doesn't have far to go -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And meanwhile, John, I have to say, even though the storm surge is what we're really concerned about, as we wait for this thing to make landfall, everything's closed. You know, usually this -- I'm in Midtown, and where you are, too, usually there's taxis everywhere. People are just, you know, the early birds start getting into work.

Everything's shut down. People are not going to be coming into work. They've shut down most of the businesses in the buildings, the subways shut down as well.

What else is shut down by where you are?

BERMAN: There's nothing open down here. This is the mandatory evacuation zone. So people have been told to leave, the hotels are shut down. Everyone's joking about Starbucks.

Most Starbucks in the city shut down last night so you can't get coffee anywhere. That's trivial. The important thing is not to be out on the street today. The subways are closed anyway, schools shut down.

There are about 76 evacuation centers. If you're in them already, terrific. If you're not in them yet, city officials say they'd rather have you stay in place.

So this is nothing to be trifled with, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I agree. All right. John Berman -- thanks, John, for that update.

I want to show you some live pictures from Ocean City, Maryland. We're going to be getting a closer look at what they're doing in Maryland. There's a blizzard warning that's been issued for the state's west side -- west end.

We're going to talk about storm surge and flooding concerns with Maryland's Governor Martin O'Malley. Straight ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. This is what it looks like in Ocean City, Maryland. These are live pictures. You can see the choppy water, and the steady rain that's been in Maryland through the last many hours.

Let's get right to Maryland's Governor Martin O'Malley.

Twenty-three emergency shelters, sir, are open across your state. Thank you for talking with us. We appreciate it.

How are things looking? How prepared do you feel?

GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY, (D) MARYLAND (via telephone): Well, we've been preparing for the last 72 hours. We have a lot of out-of-state power crews from Texas, Mississippi, from all over the country, that are here to help us with the recovery effort.

The preparation has been pretty intense. We've mobilized roughly 500 National Guard. And, you know, we are prepared, and we've had some evacuations of some low-lying areas, and all of that has gone smoothly.

So, we're bracing for this huge storm, and it looks like it's going to be taking that turn that was predicted and it looks like it's going to cut right across Maryland.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it seems like it's really following the path that the forecasters had predicted. I hadn't seen anything that's sort of gone of the path.

We've seen predictions, as well, for snow in the western part of your state. What's being done to prepare for that western part? Because obviously snow adds another dimension to the storm.

O'MALLEY: You know, our people out in Garrett County, our westernmost county, are pretty hardy people. So they've been under a blizzard warning, actually, since last night. So there's a bunch of fronts all converging, it seems, on Maryland and Baltimore and the Washington area. So we have every emergency operation center that is up and running in our state. We have 23 shelters that are up and going. And, you know, we have a emergency operation center here that's fully activated.

So we're urging people to please stay off the roads. This is a really heavy rains and dangerous conditions. And people need to be mindful of their own families first, and stay home and hunker down here. This storm is likely, Soledad, to sit on top of us for a good, long time. This is not going to be like a derecho or a fast-moving storm that rips through and in a short period of time. It's a monster.

O'BRIEN: It is a monster. That's what everyone is saying, using words like epic and superstorm to describe it. Governor Martin O'Malley joining us this morning. Thanks for your time, sir. Know exactly how busy you are so we appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning how sweet it is -- get it? We're talking about the San Francisco Giants and we're talking about their celebration after they made very quick work of the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. You're watching a special edition of EARLY START as we have live, continuing coverage of Hurricane Sandy. We're back in just a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're looking at live pictures from Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina in the Outer Banks. They've had weather like this over the last 36 to 72 hours. We're going to bring you continuing live reports from across the East Coast, as our special rolling coverage of Hurricane Sandy continues.

First, though, want to get an update of some of the other stories making news. And Zoraida Sambolin has that for us at Time-Warner Center. Hey, Z.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Well, Hurricane Sandy's affecting the race for the White House, with just eight days until Election Day. Both Mitt Romney and President Obama have canceled campaign events in Virginia. And both campaigns have suspended e-mail fundraising in some of the states in the storm's path. That includes Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney snagged a huge endorsement from an Iowan newspaper, "The Des Moines Register." This is the first time the paper has endorsed a Republican in forty years. In 2008, the "Register" endorsed Barack Obama, but this time the editorial board says, quote, "The president's best efforts to resuscitate the stumbling economy have fallen short."

So you know, two out of three ain't bad, right? The San Francisco Giants are World Series champs for the second time in three years after beating the Detroit Tigers last night to complete a four-game sweep. Can you believe that? Giants' manager Bruce Bochy says with his team, it's one for all and all for one.

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BRUCE BOCHY, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS MANAGER: We put guys in different roles. Nobody ever said a word, complained or anything, and that's the only way you got done. And it shows so much character in that clubhouse. They kept fighting and said, hey, we're not going home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: It is the seventh World Series title in team history, Soledad. Congratulations to them.

O'BRIEN: You're absolutely right. Congratulations to them. I say that with no bitterness to our New York Yankees, which flailed a little bit there. All right, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Think about the Tigers playing them, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I'm a little happy that the Tigers lost, I have to say. Mean but true. We're very happy for the Giants.

Still ahead this morning as we continue our special coverage of Hurricane Sandy as it heads for landfall in New Jersey later this evening, we're going to talk a little bit about what's happening across the northeast. We'll look specifically at Philadelphia, talk to the Red Cross in Philadelphia. Also we're going to update you on the storm's path. That's all ahead. We're back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're looking at live pictures from Ocean City, Maryland. The rain has been steady all morning as we've been monitoring our shot from there. Also you can see the choppy storm surge there as well. It's coming up on the beach; we're monitoring that very closely.

Time to get to Dave Schrader. He's with the Greater Philadelphia American Red Cross, joining us by phone.

We'll get to him in just a moment. First, though, we check in what's happening in lower Manhattan. John Berman's got an update what's happening where he is in Battery Park City. Hey John, good morning.

BERMAN: Good morning, Soledad. Well, here in lower Manhattan, we are bracing for the storm which will be coming throughout the day. All over the East Coast, the major metropolitan areas are bracing for the storm. You see it in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.

I want to go to Philadelphia now and talk to Dave Schrader, who's the Communications Director for the American Red Cross there. And, Dave, you have three shelters set up in Philadelphia right now. Are they filled with people? Are people heading to these? Are they heeding your warnings?

DAVE SCHRADER, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, RED CROSS (via telephone): Yes, good morning. You do have three shelters in the Philadelphia city itself. They've actually been growing in size throughout the night. When I went to sleep last night about 1 a.m., numbers were about 50. They're up over 125 just in the Philadelphia shelters alone. We have seven other shelters open in the immediate vicinity of Philadelphia. We expect to open five more at 9 a.m. today. Numbers have been increasing throughout the day. About 250 people spent the night in Red Cross shelters here in Philadelphia area overnight.

BERMAN: OK, so the airport shut down in Philadelphia. Mass transit will be shut down today. What's your advice to people as the day moves on? What - at one point should they no longer be outside trying to get to one of your shelters? At one time, where they are, they should just stay there?

SCHRADER: Well, emergency officials, the mayor, basically spent the day yesterday and this morning again today urging people that if you don't need to be out, do not go out. You should've done your preparing already. If you don't feel safe, if you are in danger, it's never too late to come a Red Cross. Simply do it in low-lying areas. There's still time to make it there. That window of opportunity is quickly closing.

So if you are not feeling safe, if where you've been flooded out before, if you're prone to flooding, you really should make a plan to go to a shelter, to a friend's house, someplace that is not prone to flooding. BERMAN: Every city is facing a slightly different version of this storm. Right here in New York where I'm standing is the storm surge right on the edge of New York Harbor here. What's the greatest concern to Philadelphia where you are?

SCHRADER: The two biggest concerns we have are power outages and flooding. Obviously, it's a very densely populated area, more than 4 million people in our area. So a power outage could have devastating effects. And flooding, we have a lot of rivers and creeks that typically overflow their banks for general heavy rains. Something like this could potentially big impact. So we're making sure we're ready and welcoming here at our Red Cross shelters if anyone needs a place to be to be safe.

BERMAN: All right, Dave Schrader who is a communications director for the American Red Cross in the Greater Philadelphia area. Thank you so much for joining us. Stay safe yourself. Everyone in that area, and along the East Coast, really needs to be staying safe right now. We're hearing, as he said, some 10 million people could lose power in the next few days. That is a serious number.

The storm surge here in lower Manhattan very much a story as Sandy bears down on the East Coast. That is all for EARLY START this morning. Our special coverage of Hurricane Sandy, a monstrous storm, continues right now on "STARTING POINT".