USA/Suffolk: People from East Anglia among the millions caught up in Hurricane Sandy

PEOPLE from East Anglia were among the millions bracing themselves for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy on the US East Coast last night.

Parts of New York were evacuated amid fears of an 11 ft storm surge, flooding and power cuts as the superstorm - predicted to hit land at around 7pm local time - approached.

One Suffolk family, holidaying in the region, described how they were sheltering in their New York hotel and had been warned the lights may be turned off.

Last night, President Barack Obama urged anyone in affected areas to “heed warnings to evacuate” as members of the county’s large American population at RAF Lakenheath and Mildenhall said they were “monitoring the storm’s progess.”

Mr Obama, who left the election campaign trail to track the storm, said: “Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying.”

“When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate.

“Do not delay, don’t pause, don’t question the instructions that are being given, because this is a serious storm and it could potentially have fatal consequences if people haven’t acted quickly.”

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Caroline Driver, from Debenham, whose family are on holiday in Greenwich Village, said they were sticking to guidance issued by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to stay inside.

Mrs Driver, who is with her husband Tim, and sons Thomas, 16 and Andrew, nine, said: “People were panic buying in shops yesterday and shelves are empty. We have stocked up with water and food and been warned electrics may be turned off.

“There is a crane hanging precariously from a tower. It is very windy and raining a lot at present.”

She added: “We didn’t know about this hurricane before we came - it took us by surprise.

“It is quite scary to be here but staying in doors, as advised by the Mayor, Mr Bloomberg.”

Mrs Driver, who said the holiday was a half-term break, said Battery Park is flooded and many tourist events, including evening shows have been cancelled.

Emily Noble, 24, who lives in Holbrook, flew out to New York on Saturday with her family.

Speaking from her hotel last night, she said: “It is raining right now and a little windy.

“It is expected to make landfall in four hours from now.

“I am just staying in the hotel to keep away from the worst of it.

“And everywhere is shut because of it so we can’t do much anyway.”

Many travel agents across Suffolk said they had been in touch with their clients as flights were cancelled and US transport networks shut down.

Gillian Fouracre of Bury St Edmunds-based Travel Counsellors, said they had been working hard to reach every customer currently in the US.

“We’ve been checking up on all our people there, just to contact them and say ‘Is everything alright?”

Sandy is due to collide with a storm moving in from the west and cold air from the Arctic, and is expected to wreak havoc over 800 miles (1,287km) from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.

States of emergency have been declared from North Carolina to Connecticut.

There are fears that parts of lower Manhattan could be swamped by the storm surge, flooding subway tunnels and crippling electrical and communications lines.

Britons living in New York described people stocking up on supplies for when the storm hits tonight.

Divya Samtani, 22, from London, said: “Everyone is freaking out. Flashlights are sold out everywhere, queues are really long in the supermarkets and all the hardware shops are closed. We’re all kind of hanging in there and waiting.”

Novelist Philip Hensher, 47, from Sheffield, said the main fear was of power cuts, with doormen taking ladders into lifts in case they break down.

Asset Tarabayev, 26, a quantitative software developer, also originally from London, said New York was “cut off from the outside world”, and Debbie Dreyfuss, 22, who is studying at New York University, said: “The city is completely dead.”

Stephen Davenport, senior meteorologist at MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said winds could get up to 50mph-75mph and the northern side of the hurricane, which will hit New York, is likely to produce a storm surge around Long Island Sound.

Lt. Col. Will Phillips, 100th Mission Support Group Deputy Commander, of RAF Mildenhall said they had been touched by the concern expressed from their “British friends”.

He added: “Both RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall are monitoring Hurricane Sandy’s movement toward the United States.

“If deemed necessary, the bases will ask all units to take accountability of all Airmen or family members who are currently in the eastern part of the United States.”

We have members paying close attention to the news as areas of the Eastern United States evacuate and prepare for the hurricane.

“I appreciate that our British friends are asking about the well being of our Airmen and their families even though the storm is far from England. We have a great relationship in the local community, and that shines through when one of our nations faces an event like this.”

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