* New York officials consider closing subway lines next week
* Utilities' response to any outages to be closely watched
By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Governors up and down the U.S. East Coast declared states of emergency on Friday before a potential pounding from Hurricane Sandy, as authorities urged residents to stock up on food, water and batteries in case the storm lives up to forecasters' worst fears.
From the Carolinas to Maine, municipal authorities kept a close watch on forecasts tracking the shifting path of the fierce "Frankenstorm," which could come ashore on Monday with heavy rain, storm surges and near hurricane-force winds.
In New York City, officials were considering closing down bus and subway lines next week, a step taken only once before - when Hurricane Irene slammed the city in 2011.
New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland declared states of emergency to free up resources. The District of Columbia also declared a state of emergency as the U.S. capital prepared for a possible hit.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell urged residents in coastal areas to prepare to evacuate before the storm hits and advised others in the state to stock up on provisions needed to get through any disaster.
"I encourage all Virginians to gather batteries, blankets, water, canned goods and other necessities prior to the anticipated onset of storm conditions," McDonnell said in a statement. "We could see severe weather lasting for 48 hours or more in the state."
The storm's likely impact on Virginia prompted Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign to cancel his Sunday night rally in Virginia Beach.
In Pennsylvania, officials warned about the dangers of driving during the storm, especially over roads and bridges already under water.
"Just a few inches of moving water can sweep away the average car," warned the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency in a statement. "Turn around, don't drown."
Gusts from the storm's 550-mile (890-km) wind field were being felt in southern Florida on Friday as the slow-moving hurricane that killed at least 41 people in the Caribbean roared toward the United States.
Forecasters dubbed it "Frankenstorm" because three merging weather systems were expected to meld into a single "hybrid" super storm.
Utilities from neighboring inland states readied staging areas so that crews could answer calls for help as they come in from stricken towns and cities along the East Coast.
The utilities' response to outages caused by Hurricane Sandy will be closely watched after they promised to correct problems in restoring electricity lost during Hurricane Irene and last year's freak October snowstorm - the worst outages in Connecticut history.
Massachusetts Energy Secretary Richard Sullivan told a news conference: "They are under strict scrutiny on their response to this particular storm. We are expecting that the level of service is going to be much higher."
Consolidated Edison in New York said it was gearing up for tidal surges that may be worse that during Irene.
"All company personnel and field crews are preparing for high winds, heavy rains and flooding conditions that could wallop electric, gas and steam systems when the storm moves into New York City and Westchester County," Con Ed said in a statement.
The utility pressed customers to heed safety tips regarding downed electrical wires and keeping flashlights at the ready as well as freezers closed during power outages.
Residents offered their own storm-preparation ideas on Facebook, Twitter and through email messages.
"I have a magnetic flashlight that adheres to the fridge. The idea is that, in case of a sudden blackout, we can always find the flashlight which will help us find the candles!" wrote Linda Federico-ó Murchú of Montclair, New Jersey, in response to a friend's Facebook request for tips.
"So, note to self: make sure batteries are fresh. Ditto cellphones charged up," she added.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
11/04/2012 12:26 AM EDT
PHOTO: A Marathon Wedding Proposal, Minus The Marathon
HuffPost's Katie Bindley reports:
Like all the competitors who trained for the 2012 NYC Marathon, Hannah Vahaba will not be running the race this year. But she also will never forget her moment at the finish line. After traveling in from Atlanta, Vahaba picked up a marriage proposal in Central Park on Saturday without having to traverse the 26.2-mile course.
"This is my fiance," said Vahaba, 31, who had tears running down her face as she stood in Central Park where the race would have ended, just moments after Martin O'Donoghue had proposed.
Photo by Damon Scheleur
11/04/2012 12:25 AM EDT
Check Donation Lists
Be sure to check donation lists to see what items are needed. For example, at one Staten Island donation center, there is a critical need for batteries batteries batteries, candles, matches, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, pet food, baby supplies, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner. Clothing isn't needed as much at that center.
-Catharine Smith, HuffPost
11/03/2012 10:42 PM EDT
Brooklyn Regions Still Lack Electricity, Heat and Water Days After Storm
HuffPost's Tim Stenovec reports:
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 48 people in New York when it battered the Northeast last week, frustrated residents in this corner of South Brooklyn are coping without electricity, heat and running water.
11/03/2012 10:18 PM EDT
On Long Island, Cuomo demands Accountability from Utilities
At a massive food distribution event at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Cuomo said power has been restored to 60 percent of the New York metropolitan area.
LIPA reported Saturday evening that 460,000 customers remained without power, down from more than 900,000 initially.
"I've warned the utility companies repeatedly they operate under a state charter, essentially," Cuomo said. "The utility companies are not happy with my warning and frankly, I don't care."
"The customers are not happy. The bill payers are not happy and the people without power are not happy," Cuomo said. "People are suffering. It is an issue of safety and if the utilities were not prepared we will hold them accountable."
Read the full story on Huntington Patch.
11/03/2012 9:38 PM EDT
Gasoline Shortage Likely To Last For Several More Days
Even as power returns to parts of the region assailed by Hurricane Sandy, millions of drivers seeking gasoline appear likely to face at least several more days of persistent shortages.
11/03/2012 8:50 PM EDT
Behind @ConEdison: The 27 Year-Old Preventing Panic, One Tweet At A Time
HuffPost's Bianca Bosker:
On Saturday, 27-year-old Kate Frasca was manning Con Edison’s Twitter account, @ConEdison, responding to customers’ frustrations, questions, praise and criticism at an average clip of one tweet every six minutes.
11/03/2012 8:35 PM EDT
Estimate Says 600 Million Gallons Of Water Hit Mass Transit System
@ USACE_HQ :
Roughly 600 M gallons of storm water infiltrated the nation’s busiest and oldest underground mass transit system... http://t.co/5jMXDhRc
11/03/2012 8:15 PM EDT
$12 Million Donated So Far To NYC Mayor's Fund For Recovery
@ MikeBloomberg :
If you would like to donate: visit http://t.co/9w8egqxD So far $12 million has been contributed. 100% of funds go to #Recovery efforts.
11/03/2012 7:52 PM EDT
Don't Touch Downed Power Lines
@ usNWSgov :
Post #Sandy reminders: never touch a downed power line or anything touching one. Washing your hands prevents illness. #NWS #CDC