Americans told to 'prepare for worst' with arrival of 'monster storm'
Sandy halted early voting – a process which favours Obama – in the key swing state of Virginia.
“Obviously, we want unfettered access to the polls because we believe that the more people come out, the better we’re going to do, and so, to the extent that it makes it harder, . . . that’s a source of concern,” Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, told CNN on Sunday.
But the hurricane also provides Obama with the opportunity to demonstrate his skills as commander in chief, just one week before the election. The president visited Fema headquarters on Sunday, and held a White House situation-room meeting with the heads of the departments of homeland security, energy, transportation and other government agencies yesterday.
Obama then went on live television to brief the country about the “big and powerful storm” that was already striking the US capital. Sandy would affect millions of people, he warned.
“When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate . . . Don’t question the instructions that are being given, because . . . it could potentially have fatal consequences.”
It might take “several days” to restore power after the wind dies down, Obama said.
By lunchtime yesterday 116,000 people in seven states were already without electricity, and up to 10 million are expected to lose power before Sandy dissipates. Jersey Central Power and Light warned it might take 10 days after the storm clears to repair lines, polls and damaged equipment.
Consolidated Edison, which provides electricity to Manhattan, said it would shut off two networks on the lower part of the island, as well as networks in low-lying parts of Brooklyn and Queens, rather than have its infrastructure destroyed by flooding.
East-coast power companies brought thousands of line and tree crew workers from as far away as Florida, Iowa and Washington state so they can begin work as soon as the wind subsides.
Obama tried to turn the storm into an object lesson on the benefits of solidarity and government. “This is going to be a big storm,” he said. “The great thing about America is when we go through tough times like this, we all pull together. We look out for our friends. We look out for our neighbours. And we set aside whatever issues we may have otherwise to make sure that we respond appropriately and with swiftness.”
Americans “need to prepare for the fact that this is going to take a long time for us to clean up”, Obama added.
Asked how the storm would affect the November 6th election, he said: “I’m not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I’m worried about the impact on families . . . on our first responders . . . on our economy and on transportation. The election will take care of itself next week.”