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Obama on storm: If they say evacuate, do it now

President Barack Obama pauses in the White House Briefing Room in Washington, on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, where he spoke after returning to the White House from a campaign stop in Florida to monitor Hurricane Sandy. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Barack Obama pauses in the White House Briefing Room in Washington, on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, where he spoke after returning to the White House from a campaign stop in Florida to monitor Hurricane Sandy. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

After canceling his appearance at a morning campaign rally in Orlando, Fla., President Barack Obama walks into the White House in a driving rain after returning to Washington to monitor preparations for early response to Hurricane Sandy, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Barack Obama speaks in the White House Briefing Room in Washington, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, after returning to the White House from a campaign stop in Florida to monitor Hurricane Sandy. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama speaks in the White House Briefing Room in Washington, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, after returning to the White House from a campaign stop in Florida to monitor Hurricane Sandy. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

After canceling his appearance at a morning campaign rally in Orlando, Fla., President Barack Obama walks toward the White House in a driving rain after returning to Washington to monitor preparations for early response to Hurricane Sandy, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama delivered a sober warning to millions in the path of Hurricane Sandy on Monday, declaring that even though food, water and power generators have been moved into position, “this is going to be a difficult storm” with long-term power and transportation outages possible.

In a direct appeal to those who live in harm’s way, the president said, “Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate. Don’t delay, don’t pause, don’t question the instructions that are being given because this is a powerful storm.”

The president made his remarks in the White House briefing room eight days before the Nov. 6 election, and a few hours after he canceled a campaign appearance in Florida to return to Washington. He turned aside a question about the storm’s impact on the campaign, saying safety was his top priority.

The huge storm posed a threat to an estimated 50 million people and some of the nation’s most densely populated areas. Even before a nighttime projected landfall along the mid-Atlantic Coast, dire warnings of winds, rain and storm surges prompted officials to close mass transit systems in New York, Boston and Washington, as well as Connecticut’s highways. The federal bureaucracy was also shuttered.

Obama said he had spoken with the governors of all the states likely to be affected, and he added there had been “extraordinarily close coordination” among various levels of government.

Yet he stressed repeatedly the dangers posed by the slow-moving storm, and said its effects would not dissipate quickly.

“The public should anticipate that there are going to be a lot of power outages,” he said.

He added, “Transportation is going to be tied up for a long time. … We anticipate that there are going to be a lot of trees down, a lot of water.”

The president said, “We’re making sure that food and water and emergency generation are available for communities” that need them.

Associated Press

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