The wind has been teasing the city all night. Anxiety has been building for two days now and reached a peak when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all public transportation suspended beginning 7 p.m. on Sunday. But the rain that was supposed to have started in the early evening has yet to arrive, and the wind gusts are intermittent —sometimes loud enough to be heard inside buildings even as the World Series was being broadcast; sometimes noticeable when you sneak a peak out the window to see the trees, already greatly shorn of their foliage, shaking and fussing like nervous but noiseless fans at a prize fight.
And yet the historic storm awaits offshore, a few hundred miles away. A fishing pier in Ocean City, Md., has reportedly been damaged by waves and may be destroyed as the intensity of the surging water increases. In the Upper West Side of Manhattan, every loud ripple of wind through the trees raises fears that I have not checked out as many of the imperfections of my apartment as I should have. The financial district, about 100 or so blocks to the south of where I live, has been evacuated. My colleague Nate Rawlings, who lives near there, reports that, despite the fears, most stores have not boarded up their windows yet. A few had signs saying they’d be open on Monday. Rawlings will be keeping an eye on the construction cranes in the many rising buildings downtown. The last big hurricane to hit New York — Irene — did not cause any problems with them. But there is so much talk about the winds this time.
The entire city has been spooked into preparing for Sandy, more than previous storms. A friend said it took 20 minutes to get into a Trader Joe’s for supplies today — and it closed at 5 p.m. But the rush for emergency larder has been evident for two days now. Another TIME colleague, Josh Sanburn, reported Sunday evening from Brooklyn that at a local supermarket “there was virtually no lunch meat, no milk and absolutely no bottled water. Each register was at least three to four people deep, much busier than a normal Sunday night. A cashier said it had been like that since 7 a.m., when the store opened.” Smaller groceries, however, had supplies.
There are still folks who say that the fears are exaggerated. But the potential for mayhem is huge. Apart from flood damage from the 4 to 8 in. of rain expected, the winds could prove terrifying. While they may gust up to 40 m.p.h. close to the ground, they could reach speeds of 90 m.p.h. if you live above the 10th floor. And this is a city of skyscrapers. I am happy to be living on the second floor of a lowly brownstone. I can hear the winds picking up now. But still no rain.
Chua-Eoan is the News Director of TIME.