Obama declares state of emergency in Maryland for Hurricane Sandy

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U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday declared a state of emergency for Maryland, making federal aid available for local response as Hurricane Sandy is threatening to devastate the East Coast.

Obama signed the emergency declaration for Maryland, a state close to the country's capital, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures.

The White House said the president is heading to the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Sunday afternoon to get updated on response efforts for Hurricane Sandy.

Obama is balancing between his job and the home stretch of his re-election campaign just nine days before the Election Day. He will travel to Florida later Sunday to prepare for a campaign event Monday.

Several northeastern states, including Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, have already declared state of emergency by themselves since Friday in preparation for the approaching Hurricane Sandy.

Speaking on CNN's State of Union on Sunday, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said the state had learned lessons from the last storm which left many local residents without power for days, and already got about 2,000 additional people this time to help with the state's power supply.

He also said the state Board of Election was already planning for extended hours in advance for absentee voting as the hurricane may potentially prevent voters getting out to cast ballots on Election Day.

The Virginia National Guard was authorized to call up to 300 personnel on state active duty for possible severe weather recovery operations from Hurricane Sandy.

In New Jersey, where Hurricane Sandy most likely to make landfall, Governor Chris Christie ordered a mandatory evacuation of the state's barrier islands, including the casino center Atlantic City, as well as the shutdown of 12 casinos by Sunday afternoon.

New York City also announced the closings of its mass transit and school systems and ordered residents to leave some low-lying areas on Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center extended its warning on Sunday urging residents of the mid-Atlantic coast to be prepared for life- threatening storm surges.

As of 11 a.m. ET, the storm was about 270 miles (434 km) southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Sandy is moving at a speed of 14 miles (23 km) per hour, and is expected to move parallel along the Southeast coast Sunday, approaching the mid- Atlantic coast by Monday night.

As Sandy approaches, the situation along the East Coast is lining up to repeat the "perfect storm" of 1991, which impacted around Halloween of that year. Just like in 1991, Sandy will meet up with cold front coming out of the Northwest and a high pressure system from Greenland, fueling it with enough energy to make it as powerful as, or even worse than the 1991 storm.

Because it is impacting around the time of Halloween, meteorologists have been using the term "Frankenstorm" to describe the havoc Sandy could wreck for the hundreds of millions of people living along the East Coast. Endi

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