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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Hurricane Sandy Threatens U.S. East Coast; Interview with Mayor Cory Booker; Interview with Governor Jack Markell; Giants Win World Series; Hurricane Sandy Targeting Northeast; Tracking Sandy; East Coast Braces For Massive Storm; FEMA Prepares For Storm Fallout; Monster Storm On Collision Course; Sandy Hits North Carolina Coast; Con Edison Bracing For Sandy

Aired October 29, 2012 - 07:00   ET

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


ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: Winds and rains have picked up. Blizzard warning and heavy snows. We've got it all as hurricane Sandy heads toward shore.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: With our reporters up and down the east coast we're able to cover this hurricane like nobody else can. It is October 29 and you are watching our special coverage rolling live coverage of hurricane Sandy.

Right now hurricane Sandy -- right now hurricane Sandy is a category 1 monster. It is 1,000 mile wide swath. It will affect some 50 million people from North Carolina all the way to New England. It's predicted to smash into a cold front. And what that means, that it would create a super-storm. That's what they're calling it, a super-storm. It would sit on top of the eastern seaboard for days, expected to create dangerous storm surge, flooding, as well.

CNN has hurricane Sandy covered like no other network. We're talking with the Delaware governor Jack Markell, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, and Craig Fugate will be our guest. Virginia Governor bob McDonnell. John Berman is live in battery park, lower Manhattan, expecting big storm surge there. Rob Marciano has the forecast but also is live in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Sandra Endo is in Ocean City in Maryland. You've seen the deteriorating weather conditions there. George Howell in kill devil hills, North Carolina, on the outer banks and has for hours now.

Let's begin with Rob Marciano for the latest on what Sandy is doing right now. When she is expected to make landfall, and how it will be all the way through. Rob?

MARCIANO: Good morning, again, Soledad. The center of Sandy is about 380 miles southeast of New York City. The wind field expanding, we've got 800 miles of tropical storm force winds that will be battering this coastline. And just in the last hour, winds and rain have picked up here along the jersey shore. Satellite pictures showed you just how immense this storm system is. Second only to hurricane Olga but tied now with the 1938 historic hurricane, the long island express, as far as barometric pressure goes. So this is a historic event unfolding already. This expected to make a left turn toward the Delmarva on the peninsula, making landfall later on tonight. As massive as this is, the effects are going to be felt as far north as the Canadian border and far south as north Georgia. The radar scraping the coastline have been heavy rains and wind across Virginia beach and through Washington, D.C. and certainly in through North Carolina. Some of the wind gusts, as you're seeing here, from as far north as New York City, into the 20s, Atlantic City, seeing winds gusting over 30 miles an hour. And Virginia Beach seeing that, as well.

Speaking of winds, wind warnings, forget about the hurricanes, wind warnings extend from Maine to as far west as Columbus, Ohio, to as far south as north Georgia. And with that wind, in some cases, will be snow. Cold air infused in this system, blizzard warnings are up for places in West Virginia, could see snow over two feet in total.

And blinding snows whipped by winds no doubt about that. Here along the jersey coastline, massive evacuations along coastal communities here in Monmouth County, and in Asbury park. We've got a couple of thousand people that have been evacuated. Two shelters have the capacity of 2,000 people, 600 people already in shelters. But most are in the homes of friends and families, just trying to wait out this storm. And it will be a wait, Soledad. We expect this to be a one to two-day event before things begin to wind down, and widespread power outages across northeast. We'll have people in the dark for days, if not weeks. When this storm is all said and done. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Rob Marciano monitoring things for us. Thank you, Rob. Let's get right to Ocean City in Maryland where Sandra Endo has been watching things for the last 24 hours. Sandra, good morning.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. We've felt constant, steady rain, and a steady wind at about 30 miles per hour here with wind gusts reaching up to 55 miles per hour at some points. And as it gets lighter you can start seeing the situation here, which is not high tide yet, but you can tell those rough waves out there, those waves are fierce. And they're toppling over this protective sand dune at times, and they're starting to be flooding around the coastal property areas here.

You can see it's about 100 yards from where the water line is to where the property starts here in ocean city. And that's a big concern for local residents, and local authorities here. They are going to be watching that coastal surge, the storm surge, and the tidal surge, as hurricane Sandy starts pounding this area later on this evening. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Sandra Endo for us this morning. Thank you for that update. Let's get right to George Howell in Kill Devil Hills. Nice to talk to you. How's it looking where you are, George?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, where Sandra is starting to see those winds, winds 50 miles an hour plus, we are seeing less wind here, after what has been a three-day event. We've seen the strong winds, we've seen sideways rain. This area has really been under the gun for several days. And the problem now, they're keeping a very close eye on two things. Number one, the storm surge. You can't really see it right now but when you look at the Atlantic, it is very high covering the beach that was there. They're concerned about a storm surge, Soledad, anywhere from 4 to 6 feet on this area where we are. And further south along the outer banks could get up to seven feet.

On the other side of the outer banks, the sound side, they're worried about flooding as the winds continue to shift out here. They're worried about pushing water in different places, three to five feet of flooding, a possibility there.

I also want to talk about what's happening out at sea. About 90 miles from where we are, about 160 miles from the eye of the storm, there is a shipping -- rather a sailing ship out there with 17 people on board. It's the same ship that was used in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean." There are 17 souls on board, the U.S. coast guard doing its best to get out there, to get people off that ship. This is a ship that lost propulsion, not able to go, at the mercy of the sea just floundering right now. It's definitely a bad situation that they're trying to deal with.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my gosh, that sounds absolutely horrible. George Howell updating us on what's happening on the outer banks.

Here in New York city, everything's shut down. We haven't seen the inclement weather that we saw in ocean city and Maryland, but we are expecting it to come our way. But they've shut down the subways. They've shut down the buses. They've shut down the schools. Central park, they kicked everybody out at 5:00 last night. John Berman is a little bit south of me, in Battery Park City, where they are predicting a severe storm surge. Tell me a little bit of what they're expecting where you are in the evacuation zone.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Soledad, this is the evacuation zone. Battery park, also Staten Island, areas in Brooklyn and queens as well. They're concerned a storm surge from six to eleven feet high. That's a full two feet higher than it was during hurricane Irene which do cause some minor flooding in this area. They're concerned this could cause major flooding. There was a study out of Columbia University that said had hurricane Irene been one foot worse it could have caused an additional $50 billion in damage. The fear here is that if the water comes up over this seawall, which is right here next to me, it could flood the subway tunnels, even the electrical grid here.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he's considering shutting down two electrical networks in lower Manhattan. That would shut down power to some 17,000 people but it could quickly get much, much higher than that. As the day continues we're expecting this storm surge to grow. High tide is about 8:50 tonight. There's a full moon so it's an even higher tide than usual. If that storm surge of six to eleven feet hits right at that bad moment, that is what concerns them most, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Of course, John, it's cold. Usually when we cover these hurricanes it's much warmer. But if they lose power, as many people are predicting, 10 million people up along the east coast could lose power, you're talking about 30 degree temperatures with no power that will make a bad situation brutal for some folks.

BERMAN: That's exactly right. You have that problem particularly in the suburbs here, too, where they may not get the storm surge and flooding but the wind could cause so many trees to fall down. With hurricane Irene in Connecticut and areas around here they had about a week without power. That goes on for a very long time. You start to feel that in the colder weather.

O'BRIEN: John Berman updating lower Manhattan. Let's get right to Zoraida Sambolin who's got a look at some of the other headlines regarding the storm. Zoraida, good morning.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. We're going to start with breaking news this morning. We just learned that president Obama has canceled his event in Orlando today. White house press secretary jay carney released this statement, quote, "Due to deteriorating weather conditions in the Washington area, the president will not attend today's campaign event in Orlando. The president will return to the White House to monitor the preparations for and early response to hurricane Sandy."

And nearly half of a million people have been evacuated from homes in low-lying areas up and down the east coast. In New York, where forecasters say an 11-foot storm surge could cause catastrophic damage tonight, and into tomorrow, mass transit is shut down along with Wall Street, and public schools, as well. In New Jersey, and Philadelphia, shelters have been opened. And thousands of cots are being prepared for all of the evacuees, the oncoming storm also causing airlines to cancel more than 7,000 flights in the northeast alone. That's triggering delays across the country, with the ripple effect hitting travelers as far away as Paris, Soledad. Can you believe that?

O'BRIEN: I believe it. I believe it because, the conditions continue to deteriorate, you can imagine things are just going to go to a full- on stop until this storm passes. Unfortunately it's a very slow- moving storm so it is reportedly going to just sit over the east coast once it makes landfall and sit there for hours upon hours. Zoraida, thank you for that update.

Here in New York City it's begun to rain a little bit, just slightly. Up till now it's been pretty clear, cold but clear. We're going to continue to monitor what happens here in New York, as well.

Coming up this morning we're going to talk to Delaware Governor Jack Markell is our guest. And Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker will talk to us about what they're doing there. That's straight ahead in this special edition of STARTING POINT as we monitor what is happening with hurricane Sandy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Live picks from Ocean City in Maryland. You can see the big waves and a steady rainfall. It's where our reporter Sandra Endo has been reporting for the last 24 hours. And conditions have been deteriorating there. Want to get to Christine Romans this morning because, of course, big financial news is what's not happening today. Christine, good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning again. You know, no trading of GM or Google today. Stock markets are closed. The NASDAQ New York stock exchange will shut down because of this storm. The New York Stock Exchange hasn't been closed for weather since hurricane Gloria in 1985. The bond market will close early today at noon eastern.

Some 284,000 homes are in the path of this huge storm, and $87 billion in home at risk because of storm surge alone. Protecting all that property meant a rush for retailers this weekend, selling flashlights, plywood, food, water. Now the retailers are shutting their doors in the northeast and mid-Atlantic and insurance companies are preparing for the claims about to come.

Quick reminder about your homeowners' insurance. You want to check, Soledad. You want to check and see what your coverage is. Make sure you slide all of your paperwork in a zip-lock bag and keep that with you because the next couple of days will be crucial.

O'BRIEN: Very smart to do that now when it's not an emergency yet and you're holed up at home anyway.

Let's get to Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker. He comes on our show a fair amount. Going to update with him what's happening in this city. Good morning, Mayor Booker. Thanks for talking with us. What are your biggest concerns right now, sir?

MAYOR CORY BOOKER, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: My biggest concern is people not taking it seriously and not taking the proper precautions. We still have some time here for people to prepare, get ready, to move out of low-lying areas, if necessary. To stay with other folks and to prepare not only for the storm to hit, but we anticipate there could be many days without power afterwards.

O'BRIEN: You know what's interesting, I think, when we had hurricane Irene come through there are many people because it packed a wallop, but only for specific communities. Many of us got off without any damage at all and there was a lot of notice about it. And I think people, I worry, that people may sort of be inured to any issued. Do you think people are not taking these warnings seriously? I mean this is a much different storm than Irene.

BOOKER: I think frankly people, me, like yourself, and a lot of the leaders around the region, have been doing a good job in trying to communicate to people how this is a different storm. It's going to have a different kind of impact. So I was around -- riding around until late last night seeing people really feeling understandably scared. That's actually a good thing that people, you know, feel the fear of this coming -- or doing the appropriate things. It's very necessary.

So I think people are getting the message. In our city I see a lot of people doing the right thing. I have to just say, give a lot of credit to folks the thing that inspires me most is seeing how people are helping people, checking in on seniors, delivering supplies. This is the time that we pull together. No matter how hard the storm blows, it doesn't beat us if we're standing strong and standing to the.

O'BRIEN: I have to say I'm a little anxious. I've covered a lot of these hurricanes but I've got my kids in the apartment and they're anxious. Reading all these reports, they're, they're quite -- they're quite dire they don't call storms "epic," you know, by the willy-nilly if you will.

You use Twitter a lot. I follow you on twitter. What's your strategy for tweeting during this storm, because you're the kind of guy who actually gets out a lot of information and responds to a lot of emergencies via Twitter?

BOOKER: First and foremost making sure that people know what's happening, from closure information to evacuation information. Whatever it is I push it out a lot. Second thing I want to make sure is I'm engaging with people. If I get a question on my Twitter feed I always assume it's a question probably represented by a lot of folks. So engagement, and then the final thing for me always to look for is people that need help, so that I or emergency personnel can help them out. So it's a great medium in a crisis, and it's something that I'm on really around the clock.

O'BRIEN: All right, Governor Cory Booker joining us, he's the governor of Newark -- I just promoted you yet again. Mayor Cory Booker -- I do that a lot -- Mayor Cory Booker from Newark, New Jersey, joining us by phone this morning talking a little bit about the preparations there in his city and, of course, in the state as well. We've been showing you some of the pictures there.

It's New Jersey that is expected to get the landfall for this storm. And it's a big, massive, super-storm. We're continuing to monitor what happens in the hours between now and when that storm makes landfall.

Coming up in just a moment we're going to take you to Delaware, talk to Delaware Governor Jack Markell with what he's doing in his state. We're back right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Zoraida sambolin. We're following hurricane Sandy all morning for you. But first here's a quick look at the rest of our top stories.

We're going to begin here with breaking news. The storm has just forced president Obama to cancel a campaign event this morning in Orlando. He flew in last night but due to deteriorating weather conditions in Washington, D.C., he will return right away to the White House to monitor the storm. And both Mitt Romney and president Obama had already canceled campaign stops in Virginia, as well. For the first time in 40 years, the "Des Moines Register" has endorsed a Republican for president. The newspaper's editorial board admitting it struggled with its decision, ultimately deciding on Mitt Romney because he, quote, "offers a fresh economic vision." The registered board goes on to say, "Voters should give Mitt Romney a chance to correct the nation's fiscal course and to implode the partisan gridlock that has shackled Washington and the rest of America."

And early voting is under way in a lot of states, but in Maryland it has been canceled, for today at least, due to the hurricane. Virginia's governor said his state will do what it can to make sure that voters can get to the polls despite Sandy's impact, which may include power outages.

And it is a great day to be a Giants fan. San Francisco beat the Detroit Tigers last night to complete a four-game World Series sweep. It's their second title in three years. Pablo Sandpval was the series MVP, most valuable panda, that is. The city will honor the champs with a ticker tape parade scheduled for Wednesday.

O'BRIEN: All right, Zoraida. Thank you very much. Always love when the guys jump on each other.

SAMBOLIN: It's exciting.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, appreciate it. I want to get to Delaware and Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who can update us on what's happening in his state. Good morning, governor, nice to talk to you. Why don't you walk me through what your biggest concerns are for your residents?

GOV. JACK MARKELL, (D) DELAWARE: The biggest concerns, the rain, and the winds together, make driving conditions absolutely miserable. So we've put in a driving restriction today. Also, concerns because the storm is so long-lasting we're concerned that people could be without power for some period of time.

O'BRIEN: Are you finding that people are actually heeding the evacuation orders? Or I should say heeding the warnings?

MARKELL: I -- and those -- well there were evacuation orders that ended at 8:00 last night for some of our coastal areas and we appreciate those who did. Those who did not, we're afraid may find themselves cut off. But, there's not much we can do about that now. The main thing now is for people to realize, there are significant driving restrictions in place. And one of the reasons we did that is conditions are going to get worse and worse. So we didn't want people to go to work today and then have to drive home or through really bad conditions or not get home at all.

O'BRIEN: Do you have numbers on how many people are in shelters? Sometimes people don't even take a storm itself seriously but it sounds as if many people in your area. What about folks moving into shelters?

MARKELL: So we have, obviously, a small state, we have seven shelters. 500 people last night. We expect a lot more during the course of the day, because the, you know, the conditions are going to get so much worse during the day. We're ready with the shelters. We've got a great emergency response community in Delaware, working for many days to prepare for this. But at the end of the day, people really need to take a lot of responsibility for themselves, as well.

O'BRIEN: We're looking at you, also looking at this satellite loop of this storm, which is 1,000 miles wide, just massive. Have you ever, you know, in all the years that you've been through emergencies like this, have you ever seen anything like this?

MARKELL: No, I haven't. But I was down at the beach yesterday, down in Rehoboth beach in Lewis. And it seemed yesterday, as though it has seemed in previous storms where it was the height of the storm, and it was hundreds of miles away. So we can just imagine what it's going to be like today and tonight and tomorrow as the storm makes landfall, and, you know, so it's a very significant event. We're very grateful to all the members of the emergency response community in Delaware who are working so hard.

O'BRIEN: Delaware Governor Jack Markell joining us this morning. Thank you for talking with us. I know you're swamped. So we appreciate your time.

MARKELL: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Coming up next, we'll take you to Virginia and the Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will join us with an update of what he is doing in his state, the emergency preparations there and what they're worried. That's straight ahead on the other side of this break as we continue our live special coverage of Virginia, which is what you're looking at there. Look at some of that storm surge.

We are obviously monitoring what hurricane Sandy is doing with our live rolling coverage. We're back in just a moment

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT, but today we are focused on our special coverage of hurricane Sandy as it is scheduled to make landfall in New Jersey sometime this evening.

It is being called an epic storm and it's churning nearly 1,000 miles wide. Hurricane force winds extending 175 miles from the eye. We're being told there is potential for widespread catastrophe, and for damage.

Schools are closed. Subways closed. Up and down the east coast, in Washington, D.C., in Philadelphia, and in New York, they're closed. And 7,500 flights have been canceled already with the major carriers shutting down service here in New York.

It's causing, of course, delays all around the country and even as far away as Paris, France. Sandy is expected, as I mentioned, to make landfall in Southern New Jersey either late today or sometime early tomorrow morning. More than 450,000 people up and down the east coast have already been evacuated. We have corresponds covering this story all up and down the coast.

John Berman is live for us in Battery Park city in Lower Manhattan. Sandra Endo is in Ocean City in Maryland. George Howell is in Kill Devil Hills for us in North Carolina and the outer banks there.

Rob Marciano is in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He's also got an update on the storm, the very latest. Rob, let's start with you.

MARCIANO: Good morning, Soledad. Well, the winds and the rain have picked up and certainly the outer limits of Hurricane Sandy beginning to reach north towards the metropolitan area and the tri-state New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

You mentioned that the winds have strengthened with Sandy now 85-mile- per-hour wind. Let's go over the stats and bring you through the forecast. The wind field, still extraordinarily large, over 40-mile- per-hour winds extend 900 miles across.

So we're going to see some damage from this in the way of power outages across hundreds of miles of real estate. As far as the wind and the radar is concerned, a lot of rain has been pouring across Southern Jersey, across the Delmarva, certainly across parts of Virginia, and the Carolinas.

And wind with this also has been gusting in places like Virginia Beach, Atlantic City, and up through -- and New York City, as well. Winds have been gusting to over 30 miles an hour. That's all visual usually there for you.

Wind warnings extend as far north as Maine, as far south as North Jersey and as far west as Columbus, Ohio. It's hard to describe to you just how large this system is, and how far inland it is going to affect people.

So this is -- this has far reaches beyond just what a hurricane, including blizzard warnings that are out. Preps are up and down are going on up and down the Jersey coastline.

Thousands have evacuated from coastal communities and yesterday Governor Chris Christie, who is certainly a straight talker, had these dire words of advice for his constituents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE, NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: We want everybody to stay off the roads. Again, you know, we can't emphasize this enough, don't try to go out there and be hero or act as if there's nothing going on here. Something is happening. It's important and we need to have you stay inside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: So that's important advice because even if you don't live along the coastline, the winds are going to be such that trees are going to come down. If you live in an area that has a lot of trees certainly stay indoors and get down from the upper areas of your home to a lower interior room, and even sky scrapers, you know, Soledad.

You go up 30 floors in elevation, and that pretty much increases the winds by one category in hurricane strength. So you're going to be feeling it across the high rises of Manhattan, not to mention at the lower levels the storm surge is going to be of historic proportions likely to be greater than Irene.

High tide across many of the beaches, communities, happening in the next couple of hours and again tonight timing out with the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, just to the south of us, probably around 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 this evening.

O'BRIEN: Rob, let me ask a quick question before I let you go. so the winds now at 85 miles an hour, I'm in Midtown Manhattan. What kind of damage can winds like that do obviously? It can knock down trees?

I see scaffolding all around us obviously. You talked about sky scrapers. People are not being evacuated out of the tallest skyscrapers. I know the Empire State Building many years ago, I think back in the 1930s, was actually swaying in one of the hurricanes, right?

MARCIANO: Yes, Soledad, the buildings are designed to sway. The windows are reinforced and built to sustain serious wind. There's always going to be weaknesses in the cracks. You mentioned scaffolding.

You know, that stuff is built to code hopefully, but some of that could easily come down when you talk about winds and then also the canons, especially across Lower Manhattan. The winds can accelerate through some of those tighter streets and it's hard to predict how strong those winds will get.

So it's going to be much, much worse than Hurricane Irene. I can guarantee you that and it will stretch much farther inland for folks, I mean, even Chicago they're going to feel it in the form of wind and big waves across Lake Michigan.

It's going to be like something that certainly I haven't seen in my lifetime and I'm sure a lot of folks across the northeast will echo those thoughts before this is all done in the next couple of days.

O'BRIEN: Rob Marciano for us. Thank you, Rob. Appreciate the update. Let's get right to Richard Knabb. He is with the National Hurricane Center.

Let's start with what Rob was just talking about, Richard, if we can. He talked about how this storm is headed inland and how unusual that is. Why is it heading inland? Normally they, they head out, right?

RICHARD KNABB, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, this time of year, it's not typical to see a system like this, hurricane approaching the mid-Atlantic coast from the southeast, but that's what we've got.

And not only is it going to be moving inland, around a trough of low pressure pulling it in, but it's going to slow down and start to merge with that big low over land, and so it's going to be a very prolonged event.

I really don't like it when I see a large system that is expected to move slowly, once it strikes land, because that means a prolonged duration of wind and rain, and a larger system like this, certainly more prone to being able to create the storm surge from the ocean that we're going to see starting later today and tonight.

O'BRIEN: Richard, as being a superstorm. I know some of that is because it's actually going to connect up with two other storms really just making it massive. You talked about the size, 1,000 miles. What kind of damage can that do? And when will see start really seeing the effects alone the coast a little farther up north? We've shown some of the southern states.

KNABB: Well, you know, the damage is going to be caused locally by the wind and the wind pushing the water, and the rain falling from the sky. The size of the storm, what that does is make it a more prolific storm surge, producer, and for those conditions that anyone spots to last a longer period of time.

And this does have a wintertime component to it with the snowfall that's going to be seen in places like the mountainous areas of West Virginia. So the large size and the fact that it's going to be making this transition to a post-tropical system, more of a wintertime low, just complicates the set of hazards that are going to be expected.

And the large size just means a lot of people are going to be affected and for a long period of time. So once the weather starts going downhill, which it's starting to do in the mid-Atlantic coast and all the way up to southern New England, it's going to get worse as the day goes on.

Once the weather gets bad it's going to stay that way for a couple days. Maybe even a little bit longer, but it's going to take awhile for this to make that turn and move north.

It's going to be a long duration event and whatever emergency managers are telling folks to do, that includes just staying off the roads, do that because being outdoors or being in dangerous places that you should have been evacuated from, that's how people get in trouble and get injured or killed.

O'BRIEN: Richard Knabb, it seems like at least from the governors who I've spoken to this morning, people are actually heeding the warnings and that they understand that this is a serious, serious storm.

Thanks for the update. We'll continue to check in with you. Craig Fugate, of course, is the head of FEMA. Let's check in with him now. Mr. Fugate, appreciate your time this morning because I know you're really busy. First of all, tell me a little bit about the relief supplies that you have staggered. I know normally you sort of position them and then you move them in to where they're needed.

But as Mr. Knabb just pointed out to us and Rob Marciano before it's such a wide storm, is that compromising your ability to get close to where you might need to some emergency supplies?

CRAIG FUGATE, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, what we did was we sent stuff throughout the region. We began moving generators and water and all kinds of supplies back and Friday, Saturday, getting them in yesterday, so we're moving stuff.

We've also got to remember the private sector is not idle either. They're doing everything to get their stores back open. We have been moving things from outside the area, basically from the Carolinas all the way up into the New England states.

And as inland as, you know, the West Virginia with the blizzard there and Pennsylvania, from flooding so we've been moving stuff. Now is time as Rick said, people need to be safe so we can get to recovery next.

O'BRIEN: So walk me through if you haven't evacuated and you are thinking about evacuating or maybe even you don't necessarily have to evacuate but you want to get out of town for example you're in New York City.

What should people take so that when if they have damage they're much better position to be able to recover? What would you advice them to grab on their way out?

FUGATE: Passports, birth certificates, your driver's license, your checkbook, all of your insurance papers. Basically, the stuff you would need to be able to get back or get with your insurance adjuster, and get those assistance going.

But take all your important papers. The things you can't replace or are difficult to replace, put them in a Ziploc bag or something safe, keep them dry, and take them with you.

O'BRIEN: They keep calling this a superstorm, you know, once in a lifetime storm. I don't get the sense that people are exaggerating this. Do you feel that people are, are heeding the message, about how dangerous, how risky this storm could be up and down the east coast?

FUGATE: Yes, I think so. But again, as you talk about this, you try to describe what's going to happen. It's hard to personalize this to everybody. I think that's why the weather service, the local forecast offices are doing a good job trying to tell people what the impacts are going to be.

You look at this big system. Doesn't always tell me what it's going to do with my house. But the weather service local forecast offices are really trying to get those products out to tell people what to expect in their community. O'BRIEN: Craig Fugate with FEMA for us this morning. Thank you, sir. I have a feeling we'll be talking together a lot over the next many days. We appreciate your time this morning.

Let's take a look at how it's looking in the state of Virginia. Governor Bob McDonnell is there with an update for us. Thank you for talking with us. We appreciate your time. What are you most concerned about this morning?

GOVERNOR BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: Thanks, Soledad. Well, it's the sustained winds and rain, and coastal flooding followed by cold temperatures. We actually have a blizzard warning in western and Southwest Virginia, and it's snowing now out there, Soledad. And that's going to continue for a couple days.

But it's downed power lines from the high wind and probably over 1 million people without power would be our estimate right now. But fortunately we're prepared, the state, local folks and federal folks working very well together.

And so far, there are no fatalities and people are heeding the mandatory evacuation warnings in certain coastal areas, so it's going OK.

O'BRIEN: What are your power utility folks doing? I know some have been prepositioning people from out of state like New Mexico and getting them in so that when they're finally able to get in to do repairs, they're positioned to do repairs.

MCDONNELL: Well, I declared a state of emergency, Soledad, on Friday morning and so we've had extra National Guard called up, extra state police. We've asked for 2,000 additional utility employees from other states. They're cooperating and either here or on the way.

And so, because of the massive power outages that we expect I think we're going to be positioned to get those people up to speed pretty quickly. But you know, it's all about downed trees and downed power lines, and their coastal area that's our major concern.

Today's going to be the worst impact. Even though the coast has been hit now for two days, most of Virginia is going to be hit today and into the morning.

O'BRIEN: Yes, you know, it's interesting, as they always talk about more people are injured actually when things calm down in the storm because they don't realize it's really being hit by a tree, or a power line that you think is safe that's not.

That really ends up killing you. Do you think people are taking the warning seriously? You know out here we had Hurricane Irene and it wasn't as bad as it was predicted certainly in this area.

Some areas got hit really hard. You know, in New York City, it was not as bad and I worry that some people think last time they told us to evacuate, and we really didn't have to. And this time maybe we shouldn't. MCDONNELL: You know that's always a challenge. We live in a coastal state like Virginia. We're pretty used to these warnings, but this is a unique storm, because of its breadth, and the tropical storm force winds extending so far out. And followed by a cold front ee crating those dangerous conditions afterwards is unique. The mandatory evacuations and low-lying areas, people are heeding, I think we had plenty of run-up in the prep time.

And people did what they need to do. And everything we've heard from our local governments, they're working well. Shelters are open, and people are staying of the roads.

So all we're telling people right now, Soledad, is be a good neighbor, keep your radios on, your transistor radios, listen to what's going on and help one another and we'll get through this just fine.

O'BRIEN: Good. I'm glad to hear that people are heeding those warnings. Governor Bob McDonnell, it's nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us. I know you're busy so we truly appreciate it.

MCDONNELL: OK. Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Want to remind everybody if you want to send us pictures of what it looks like where you are go ahead and tweet them to us. You can send them to me @soledad_obrien. No apostrophe obviously or you can send them to @startingptcnn.

We'd love to see what it looks like where you are give us your name, obviously and what we're seeing where you are. We got to take a short break. When we come back in just a moment, we're going to continue our rolling coverage of Hurricane Sandy.

The rains lessened a little bit here in New York City. But other places down south not so fortunate at this hour. We'll check in with our reporters up and down the eastern seaboard when we're back.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Sandy. You're looking at live pictures of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Take a look at those dramatic pictures.

They got voluntary evacuations under way in Virginia Beach. They're using some of the parking garages there as shelters for folks. And obviously they're saying time is running out as this storm is approaching.

That people who are going to evacuate need to evacuate so they're not putting any rescuers in additional danger when the storm gets even closer.

Want to head now to Sandra Endo. She is reporting to us this morning from Ocean City in Maryland. This morning, and it looks like, Sandra, things have cleared up from what I can see behind you. It looks better. Is it? ENDO: Actually, no, not at all, Soledad. Because let me show you what the problem is right here, beach erosion. You can see the massive waves, and this is a tidal surge, it's not even high tide yet.

You can see where the fence has been washed away by these waves and just yesterday we were standing on that beach. But now, there's no beach left. And you can see how the waves are toppling over this protective sand dune, and coming in to this area.

The water flooding this area here even approaching some of the property lines going under the homes here in Ocean City and of course, that's a big concern for residents and local authorities who are going to keep a watchful eye on this storm surge.

On the high tide and the full moon creating a higher tide than normal and that certainly is a big concern. You were mentioning it looks a little clearer. That's probably because the sun is coming up.

But the rain has been coming down all day long for the last 24 hours. The wind gusts have certainly been shifting and changing. The temperature has dropped a bit. But clearly it's the personality of Hurricane Sandy, a little unpredictable, but already feeling the effects of it. But it's still hundreds of miles away -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: My goodness and for those homeowners, with that water coming right under their house already, as you point out at this time, when there's still a lot more time to pass before that storm comes, hits land.

They have got to be very, very nervous. Sandra Endo for us this morning. Thanks, Sandra, for watching it. It does look clearer, but I guess you're right. The sun coming up is what makes it look better.

It looks pretty bad where you are. Let's get right to George Howell. He is in Kill Devil Hills, which is on the outer banks of North Carolina.

Good morning, George. How's it looking where you are?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning. You know, the winds have died down a bit. The rain, that sideways rain that we saw in the last two days really is not happening now. So conditions are getting a bit better here.

But you look at what's happening out there on the Atlantic. We've seen that storm surge rise. They're concerned about a storm surge anywhere from four to six feet. Also want to talk about another story we're following. There is a ship out there that has been floundering at sea about 90 miles from where we are, about 160 miles from the eye of the storm.

The HMS Bounty, now that is a replica ship. It was created for the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty" and then also used for the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean." That ship had 17 people onboard. It lost propulsion, was basically at the mercy of the ocean, had waves out there, not able to move forward. We know the Coast Guard was able to get out there. All of the people abandoned ship. They are currently on lifeboats. That is some good news that we can report. We've been watching this very closely. Again, that ship was just out there stranded and not able to move forward -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: My goodness, what a terrible situation for those people who are now heading -- it looks like heading into dry land from that ship. George Howell for us in the outer banks reporting on what's happening there. Thanks, George. Appreciate it.

One of the big elements of the story will be power outages. There are predictions that 10 million people, 10 million people along the east coast could, in fact, lose power once this storm hits. Of course, with the tree branches taking out power lines, high winds as well could be responsible for that.

Ahead this morning, we'll take a look at what Con Ed is doing not only to prepare here specifically in New York City, but also what to do in case there are needs for repairing all those power lines. We'll talk about those strategies straight ahead.

You're watching our special coverage of Hurricane Sandy. We're back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. As we cover what will be a devastating impact from Hurricane Sandy, we want to take a look at the potential loss of power for some 10 million people all along the eastern seaboard.

Alfonso Quiroz is with Con Edison, which operates power for New York, New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania as well. Thank you for talking with us, sir. Appreciate your time because I know you're very busy.

First let's talk about New York if we can. We know Mayor Bloomberg was saying that he may have to shut down power if the underground grid is potentially exposed because of some of the massive flooding that is predicted. What can you tell me about that?

ALFONSO QUIROZ, CON EDISON SPOKESPERSON (via telephone): Well, first of all we want to let you know Con Edison handles electric, gas and steam for New York City and Westchester County. We don't handle Pennsylvania or the other tri-state areas.

We're just New York City and Westchester County. But what we're looking at right now is that we're paying attention to a lot of the low lying areas such as Lower Manhattan.

We're really paying attention to how high the sea water is coming. You have to remember a lot of the electrical cables that feed New York City are underground. That kind of sea water can really damage those cables.

O'BRIEN: My apologies for the error. What happens if, in fact, you have to shut it down? As they're predicting, downtown, I know you know, may be an 11-foot storm surge. Walk me through the potential scenario here.

QUIROZ: Sure thing. What we have are storm riders. They are either people or cameras or another type of monitoring device that we watch how high the water is coming near our equipment throughout New York City, but especially those low lying areas.

If the water gets too high, we will pre-emptively shut down some pieces of equipment. Some maybe clustered together. Because it is easier for us to make restoration once the water goes as opposed to just letting it burn out by itself and causing a fire. That would take much longer to restore.

O'BRIEN: What's the impact if you have to shutdown part of the power grid in the lower part of Manhattan, for example? What does that mean literally?

QUIROZ: Well, it could mean that there would be no power to parts of Lower Manhattan through Wall Street, Battery Park City, the tip of Manhattan. And so that would basically mean that we would have to cut power to those areas if the water were to rise to a certain level on some of our facilities and some of our equipment.

O'BRIEN: That's a decision that you would make once the storm has hit and the water begins to rise. You can monitor it that closely?

QUIROZ: That's exactly right.

O'BRIEN: All right, we appreciate your time this morning, representative from Con Ed walking us through what the strategy would be if, in fact, they do have to shut down the grid in Lower Manhattan.

Saying that it's, in fact, easier to try to fix it once the grid's shut down then the potential of fire or something happening if the grid isn't shutdown and that area's flooded.

All right, we're going to take a short break. When we come back in just a moment we'll continue tracking the path of Hurricane Candy. You can take a look at some of these pictures from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Really dramatic pictures of what's happening there. They're encouraging people in a voluntary evacuation. More on the storm straight ahead.

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