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Northeast Feels the Impact of Hurricane Sandy

NEW YORK -- Most of the Northeastern United States is on high alert as Hurricane Sandy approaches New York City, bringing with her a projected "worst case scenario" storm surge with high tides and widespread flooding predicted, according to the Associated Press.

Thousands of businesses and schools have already closed in anticipation of the storm, while multiple oil refineries along the East Coast have cut production rates or begun to shut down entirely.

Sandy is expected to combine with a winter storm system to become a hybrid storm that has aspects of both a tropical storm and a Nor'easter. Additionally, tonight's full moon is expected to increase tide size. Sandy's east-to-west track places the expected worst of the storm surge in New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The sheer size of Sandy, whose winds span a diameter of nearly 1,000 miles, is likely to be a bigger problem than the force of those winds.

"If the forecasts hold true in terms of the amount of rainfall and the amount of coastal flooding, that's going to be what drives up the losses and that's what's going to hurt," said Susan Cutter, director of the University of South Carolina's Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute.

In the New York metro area, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and New Jersey Transit have ceased service on bus, train and subway lines.

U.S. stock markets are closed today, and Duncan Niederauer, chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange's parent company NYSE Euronext, told CNBC that it is "hard to imagine" the exchange will open Tuesday. This marks the first unplanned closing of the NYSE since the one that followed the September 2001 terrorist attacks. If the stock market remains closed on Tuesday, it will be the first two-day closing due to weather since an 1888 blizzard, the AP reported.

Air travel in the region has virtually come to a halt, with thousands of flights to and from New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., cancelled. Almost 7,500 flights scheduled for Monday and Tuesday were grounded, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. Although New York's three major airports remain open, air carriers are not operating.

The convenience store industry is keeping a close eye on Sandy's path, with travel center chains Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and Pilot Flying J announcing their preparations late last week, as CSNews Online previously reported.

Other c-store retailers are making store by store plans. Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Quick Chek announced on its Facebook page that it would close its Highlands, N.J. store, located at 470 Navesink Ave., and promised further updates.

Meanwhile, Wawa stated on its website, "Wherever possible, as long as the safety of our customers and associates is not compromised, we will attempt to remain open in order to serve the community and the first responders who count on us during times of crisis."

A list of the chain's closed stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware is now available on the >Alerts page of the company's website.

Gas station operators and drivers may face difficulty at the forecourt in the days ahead. Demand spiked this weekend as motorists filled up their cars in advance of the storm. In Connecticut, one million drivers arrived at 1,400 gas stations -- approximately three times as many as normal -- within a few days of Sandy's arrival, said Eugene A. Guilford Jr., president of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association. This caused spot shortages; however, they will be temporary as stations are resupplied, Guilford said in an e-mail.

Additionally, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy requested that the task force preparing for the storm ensure that fuel providers remain supplied in order to avoid shortages, the AP reported.

Gas and heating oil prices rose over the weekend as refineries began to prepare for Sandy's arrival. More than two-thirds of the East Coast's refining capacity shut down as of this morning, according to Reuters. Hess Corp. announced it would close its Port Reading, N.J., facility; Philadelphia Energy Solutions began to close key units at its Philadelphia refinery; and PBF Energy stated it would close its Paulsboro, N.J., plant. Phillips 66 previously announced plans to completely shut its Bayway refinery in Linden, N.J., by this morning.

President Obama cancelled a Florida campaign event scheduled for today in order to return to Washington, D.C., and monitor government response to Hurricane Sandy, Reuters reported.

"This is a serious and big storm," the President said. "We don't yet know where it's going to hit; where we're going to see the biggest impacts."

More than 116,000 people in seven states were already without power as of Monday morning, according to a CNN tally. CSNews Online will continue to keep you posted on Hurricane Sandy’s impact.

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