Anxiety high as super storm Sandy draws near East Coast

Bill Purnell in Ocean City, Md., prepares for the super storm that is expected to pummel the East Coast when Hurricane Sandy meets an Arctic weather system.
CBS News

(CBS News) OCEAN CITY, Md. - It could be the sequel to the perfect storm.

This will be a very anxious weekend along the East Coast. There is not only a hurricane coming up from the Caribbean, but an Arctic weather system moving in from the west. They have started joining forces to create what forecasters fear will be a powerful super storm, not seen on the East Coast in decades.

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Right now, Hurricane Sandy is centered about 400 miles south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina and is moving northward. Tropical storm watches and warnings are up along the East Coast from Florida to North Carolina and moving northward. The surf is already up in South Florida.

The hurricane is expected to make landfall early next week, somewhere between Virginia and southern New England, potentially affecting 64 million people. More than 40 have been killed in the Caribbean.

States of emergency have been declared on Friday night in Washington D.C., Pennsylvania and Maryland. Last year Ocean City, Md. dodged Hurricane Irene, but it looks like they will not have the same luck with Sandy.

Tourists on the Ocean City boardwalk seemed unfazed by the approaching storm, but it was a darker mood among those who live here. Bill Purnell boarded-up his bike shop.

"On a 10 point scale, this is a nine," he said.

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We are concerned about the intensity of the storm, the wind levels when it gets here and the effects of the storm like flooding in low lying areas of the town," Ocean City mayor Rick Meehan said.

Off Cape Cod, coast guard planes directed fishing boats back to port. On shore, 20,000 utility workers have been put on standby to repair outages along the Eastern seaboard.

Last year, Hurricane Irene caused a loss of power for more than 6 million households in this region. Some were in the dark for weeks.

"When you're facing 50 to 60 mile winds with all the leaves still on the trees and a soaking rain for a long period of time, we're going to see trees come over. We're going to see branches come down so it's going to have an impact on us. And, again patience and working together, I think were going to be able to get through this like we always do," Ralph Larossa, president of New Jersey's largest electric company, said.

Sandy could cause over a $1 billion in damage, threatening nearly 400,000 homes in the most vulnerable areas.

Also in the storm's path: five East refineries that produce 7 percent of the nation's gasoline. They are expected to suspend operations as early as Sunday.

The U.S. military has ordered 24 warships based in Norfolk out to sea to ride out the storm. Here in Ocean City, business are trying to squeeze every last dollar out of the tourists before they have to board up and get out of town.

  • Chip-Reid_bio_140x100_bw.jpg
    Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.