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Offline the leveller

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Hurricane Sandy is set to become the biggest storm in US history

Monday October 29,2012

By Geoff Marsh for

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THE killer superstorm which is set to hit the US east coast tonight could bring down the internet, experts have warned.

Hurricane Sandy, the biggest storm in American history, is set to unleash 100mph winds and an 11ft wall of water on New York endangering thousands of lives.

 But it is also threatening the huge complex data centres that keep the world wide web going.

The front edge of Hurricane Sandy lashes Marshfield, Massechusetts

 Massive companies like Google, Apple and Amazon host their servers in specialist 'farms' - at least six of which are based in areasright in the path of the 'Frankenstorm'.

There are also key cloud service providers in Virginia, Delaware, District of Columbia, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York at risk.

Huge waves break just off the beach in Buxton, NC

 Technology expert Brian Proffitt from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana said: "Based on the path of the storm, the New York and northern New Jersey data centres would seem to be at the most risk right now.

 "High winds, local flooding and sustained power problems could eventually overwhelm any uninterrupted-power scenarios a provider could think of.

"If the Internet exchanges themselves go down, the effect on commercial and personal Internet traffic would be significant.


"It could cause problems for any emergency services relying on Internet communication to broadcast [crucial] information."

A crane hangs precariously from the side of 157 West 57th Street in Manhattan

A terrified pedestrian looks up at the partially collapsed crane

 Neha Prakash, from, added: "These data centres are critical. They house hundreds of computers that power the world's biggest websites. They rely on these server farms.

"And we all rely on the cloud services they provide - Amazon?s cloud is powering at least one percent of the entire Internet.

 "Companies are feverishly working to fortify their centres before it strikes."

 The warning comes as Sandy picked up strength and, as feared, turned toward New York City and the east coast's other largest cities, forcing the mass shutdown of public transport.

The 'perfect' storm has been caused by the hurricane colliding with a cold front from the West.

The combined 'monster' now has the potential to create havoc across 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. Up to 3 feet of snow were also forecast for West Virginia.

 President Barack Obama declared emergencies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and promised the government would "respond big and respond fast" after the storm hits.

 Making a direct appeal to those in harm's way, he 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."

 Obama and Republican Mitt Romney called off their campaign events at the height of the presidential race, with just over a week to go before Election Day. Early voting was cancelled in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

 Authorities warned that New York could get hit with a surge of seawater that could swamp parts of lower Manhattan, flood subway tunnels and cripple the network of electrical and communications lines that are vital to the nation's financial heartland.

 New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "Leave immediately. Conditions are deteriorating very rapidly, and the window for you getting out safely is closing."

Staff at the Soho Grand Hotel in New York prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy

 Major U.S. financial markets, including the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and CME Group in Chicago, shut down today. The United Nations was also closed.

New York shut down all train, bus and subway service Sunday night. More than 5 million riders a day depend on the transit system. Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., also shut down their transit systems.

Authorities moved to close the Holland Tunnel, which connects New York and New Jersey, and a tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

 Jason Mawer, 48, and his wife Tasha, from Hertfordshire, are stranded in Manhattan after their flight home was cancelled today.

The couple, who were celebrating Tasha's 40th birthday with a special weekend in New York, could now face delays of a week or more before they get home.

He said: "It's a total nightmare, but we're just trying to make the best of it.

 "Everybody is pulling together in our hotel and helping the staff with sandbags and preparing the building for the storm.

"We've got no idea when we'll be able to get a flight home. But for now we're just concentrating on staying alive."

A detailed infared image of Hurricane Sandy from the Suomi NPP satellite

 Sandy, a Category 1 hurricane, killed 69 people in the Caribbean before it began traveling northward, parallel to the Eastern Seaboard, with hurricane-force winds extending an extraordinary 175 miles from its centre.

 It is expected to make landfall overnight along or just south of the southern New Jersey coast before cutting across into Pennsylvania and traveling up through New York state.

 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said simply: "Don't be stupid. Get out."

« Last Edit: November 04, 2012, 09:55:32 PM by the leveller »

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