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A resident with his dog in tow, escapes his home as high tide, rain and winds flood local streets yesterday in Lindenhurst, New York.
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama suspended campaign stops yesterday and returned to Washington to monitor the impact of Hurricane Sandy, while Republican challenger Mitt Romney dropped some events as well to show respect to the storm’s potential victims.
More than 12,000 flights have been grounded as Hurricane Sandy thwarted travel up and down the US East Coast yesterday with powerful winds and blinding rain that could linger for days. That number is expected to grow as the slow-moving “Frankenstorm” churns its way inland after making expected landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey on Monday evening.
Along the way the storm will encounter a cold front coming down from Canada that could whip up as much as three feet of snow.
Tens of thousands were stranded as the mega storm’s impact on air travel was felt as far afield as Asia and Europe, ruining holiday plans, delaying business trips and likely keeping scores of parents from getting home in time to take their children out for Halloween on Wednesday.
Pablo Gomez decided to drive the 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from New York to home in Chicago after his 6:00 am Monday flight was cancelled.
“The drive is exhausting, but they said I might not get back until Thursday,” Gomez, 41, said.
Gomez left Sunday evening to avoid highway closures and the oncoming storm but didn’t expect to be home until late Monday afternoon.
At Washington’s Reagan National Airport, Italian exchange student Joelle Carota, 21, said she has been waiting 36 hours for a flight to Rochester in upstate New York and is taking it with patient resignation.
Obama arrived in Florida on Sunday night, coming a day early to try to beat the storm. He was to have held a joint campaign event with former President Bill Clinton. He ended plans to speak at a Florida university and cancelled another event scheduled for today in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“Due to deteriorating weather conditions in the Washington area, the president will not attend today’s campaign event in Orlando,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
“The president will return to the White House to monitor the preparations for and early response to Hurricane Sandy,” he said. Obama will remain in Washington today to follow the storm’s impact and aftermath, the White House added.
Sandy, a massive storm bearing down on the US East Coast, has forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands residents. Romney had planned to hold an event in Wisconsin on Monday night and speak in Iowa and Florida today.
All the states are out of Sandy’s path but Romney does not want to be seen focusing only on the campaign while a possible natural disaster looms. “Governor Romney believes this is a time for the nation and its leaders to come together to focus on those Americans who are in harm’s way,” said Romney communications director Gail Gitcho.
Romney had risked being seen as insensitive by continuing to campaign while Obama had stopped to focus on the hurricane, giving the incumbent a chance to show off the powers of his office and appear presidential.
Romney staged a campaign rally in Avon Lake, Ohio, on Monday and was still headed to Iowa for another event.
“I want to mention that our hearts and prayers are with all the people in the storm’s path. Sandy is another devastating hurricane by all accounts, and a lot of people are going to be facing some real tough times as a result of Sandy’s fury,” Romney told supporters in Avon Lake.
Clinton, who has been a popular surrogate for Obama, will continue to hold events that he was to have done together with the president. Obama delivered pizzas to a local campaign office in Florida on Sunday night and told volunteers that the burden would increase for them because he would have to curtail his campaign activities in the coming days.
Florida, Wisconsin and Iowa are all critical states in the November 6 election. Obama has also cancelled events in the swing states of Virginia and Colorado because of the storm.