Millions brace for Hurricane Sandy's wrath

With Hurricane Sandy approaching, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has already declared a state of emergency. CBS News

Updated October 28, 2012, 1:06 AM ET

(CBS News) Hurricane Sandy is churning its way up the East Coast Saturday evening heading for landfall in the mid-Atlantic region early next week and a rendezvous with a wintry storm system from the west.

Here's the latest: Sandy has already killed at least 58 people in the Caribbean, and states of emergency have now been declared in nine states and the District of Columbia.

As reported by The Associated Press, as of 11 p.m. ET Saturday, Sandy is at winds of 75 mph, approximately about 305 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. CBS News hurricane consultant David Bernard from station WFOR had earlier reported that based on the track, the best chance for significant winds -- meaning 58 mph or greater -- are going to be in the area from the Delmarva, along the Jersey Shore, and right into the New York City metropolitan area. When mentioning significant winds, it means they that have a good chance of causing power outages and a lot of downed trees.

Watch CBS News hurricane consultant David Bernard explain the progress of Hurricane Sandy:

Millions of people in Sandy's sights are already bracing for the storm. We cover the scene first in Ocean City, Maryland; and then later in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

On Friday, the mayor of Ocean City, Maryland, said a mandatory evacuation was not even on the table. But on Saturday, he announced that for people in low lying areas they should begin to prepare for evacuation.

At the Home Depot a few miles from the Maryland coast, worried shoppers Saturday were snapping up plywood, generators, flashlights and whatever else might help protect them from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy.

Watch Chip Reid's report on the storm from Ocean City, Maryland:

"Where we are there's a lot of trees, right outside Ocean City, so we're taping our windows," said Jeff Sparenzella. As whether they are taking this seriously, Patty Sparenzella said: " Yes we are."

Sandy has already inflicted enormous suffering. As she roared through the Caribbean, she caused at least 29 deaths in Haiti, where mud-slides flattened shelters built after the 2010 earthquake. In Cuba, the storm killed 11 more, another in the Bahamas, and one in Puerto Rico.

Now as Sandy takes aim at the most-densely populated region in the United States, about 64 million people -- more than 1 in 5 Americans -- potentially lie in the storm's path.

Also in her sights are five oil refineries which produce 7 percent of the nation's gasoline. They're expected to suspend operations as early as Sunday, putting upward pressure on the price of gas.

Some Navy ships stationed near Virginia Beach have been ordered out to sea to ride out the storm.

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Last year, Hurricane Irene caused a loss of power for more than six million households in the mid-Atlantic and the northeastern U.S. Forecasters say Sandy could leave even more in the dark.

On Saturday, millions of people like Robin Ledbetter are nervously calculating their own odds. On how much likely she'll need this generator, she said. "Maybe 50 percent."

It's not yet clear where Sandy will make landfall -- it could be here in Maryland. Or it could be just north of here in Delaware where the Mayor of Wilmington has ordered an evacuation of the low-lying southeast part of the city by noon tomorrow.

Just north of Ocean City, the governor of Delaware has ordered a mandatory evacuation of many coastal areas. This storm could make landfall somewhere in Delaware Bay and Long Island Sound Monday night into Tuesday morning. But in New Jersey, the governor has already declared a state of emergency. And the weather here is expected to begin deteriorating Saturday night.

Watch Elaine Quijano's report on the storm from Point Pleasant, New Jersey:

James Bradley said in 25 years in Point Pleasant Beach, he'd only boarded up once. Now, he's doing it again. "This is really the first time we've had a hurricane on our doorstep," he said.

Businesses along New Jersey's boardwalk are bracing for Hurricane Sandy. Just days before shop owners hoped to lure in crowds for Halloween, crews took down those decorations, and put up sheets of plywood instead.

Forecasters say the storm surge combined with high tide could bring floodwaters farther inland. Water levels could rise 4 to 8 feet above normal levels, from along the Delaware Bay to Rhode Island.

The worst damage could happen north of where the storm makes land fall. Bulldozers are shoring up miles of sand dunes, and residents are hoping that walls of sandbags will hold.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has ordered people on barrier islands to evacuate. "The damage to our homes, and the shore lines, beach erosion," he said, "we're looking at some pretty significant damage to the Shore. I think this could be more severe than Irene."

Among those packing up are seniors at Francis Asbury Manor in Ocean Grove. "You just don't know, so you do what you're told," said one resident.

Another resident, Charlotte McDevitt, doesn't like the idea of leaving home. "This is my first experience for an evacuation. I hope I don't have to go through it again. It's very frightening."

After it comes ashore, the storm is expected to move inland slowly. That means an increased risk of downed trees, power outages, flooding, and in some areas heavy snow.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.

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