Hurricane Sandy swept through the East Coast on Monday, leaving a devastating trail of flooding, millions of power outages, and fatalities. Now, some have begun to wonder whether those public safety problems could affect Election Day, which is just one week away.
Though the presidential campaigns have been focused on Hurricane Sandy, the politically sticky topic of disaster relief is making its way to the forefront.
With Sandy bearing down on the East Coast, supporters of President Barack Obama are saying that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would gut FEMA, leaving it incapable of handling a massive hurricane or tornado.
How would Romney handle FEMA if he was elected president?
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and NOAA's NHC Director Dr. Rick Knabb held a conference call Monday afternoon to give an update on Hurricane Sandy's progress.
Fugate said his agency is working with the American Red Cross and other organizations to provide bottled water, meals, blankets and cots to those impacted by the storm. They are also in the process of providing large generators to critical facilities such as hospitals and water treatment plants.
Fugate added that the impacts of the storm, such as widespread power outages, could last in to next week. FEMA will also be ready to support states' election teams should there be any election-related impact, he said.
Dr. Knabb said the storm is set to hit land Monday evening, although it is difficult to predict an exact time. Sandy is speeding up as she swirls toward the coast, but the speed is temporary, and the storm should slow some by tomorrow over the mid-Atlantic region. He warned it will continue to bring elevated water levels, and that it could transition to a post-tropical storm cyclone later tonight. The region from the Delmarva Peninsula to Rhode Island is likely to be hit with hurricane force gusts, and rainfall could exceed one foot in some locations. Dr. Knabb cautioned that flash flooding is a continued possibility.
He also added that because the circulation of the storm is so large, and it is capable of pushing huge amounts of water unlike a typical hurricane with a tighter core, when Sandy reaches land is less likely to correlate with peak surge times, so residents should exercise extra caution.
-- EMILY DERUY
1:28 P.M. -- Obama Talks Hurricane Sandy
President Barack Obama said Monday that he's focused on overseeing the response to Hurricane Sandy for now, and not his reelection effort.
With just eight days left until voting ends, Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney have curtailed their campaign schedules due to the storm, which is expected to hammer the East Coast.
"I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election," Obama said, adding that he's thinking about the impact of the storm on families and first responders. "The election will take care of itself next week."
During a brief appearance in the White House briefing room, Obama said he has spoken with state and local officials along the Eastern Seaboard and expressed confidence in the readiness of authorities to respond to the storm.
"We're confident that the assets are pre-positioned for an effective response in the aftermath of this storm," he said.
Obama urged the public to listen to local officials who are giving evacuation orders and other instructions.
"Don't question the instructions that are being given, because this is a serious storm and could potentially have fatal consequences if people haven't acted," he said.
The president said it could take a "long time" for power and transportation service to be restored to affected areas and urged people to have patience.
"We will clean up and we will get through this," he said.
-- JORDAN FABIAN
1:20 P.M. Hurricane Sandy Leaves Death Toll of 69 in the Caribbean
As Hurricane Sandy barrels towards the East Coast on Monday afternoon, the storm has left death and destruction in its wake, killing at least 69 people thus far. Caribbean countries, including Cuba and Haiti, felt the worst of it last week and over the weekend.
1:08 P.M. -- Electoral Votes Could be Affected by Hurricane Sandy
The total number of electoral votes represented states potentially affected by the storm is 172 out of a total of 538. That's 32% of all electoral votes.
The breakdown is:
North Carolina: 15
West Virginia: 5
New Jersey: 14
New Hampshire: 4
Rhode Island: 4
New York: 29
12:30 P.M. -- President Obama Set to Give Statement on Sandy
President Barack Obama will give an update on the response to Hurricane Sandy this afternoon as his campaign schedule looks increasingly up in the air.
The president will speak from the White House press briefing room at 12:45 p.m., his office said Monday. On a separate conference call with reporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina asserted they are beating Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but said the president's personal campaign schedule is largely dependent on Sandy.
"We are going to go day by day on his schedule," he said.
The president called off campaign stops in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Tuesday as well as scrubbing his Monday campaign schedule in order to monitor the storm.
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said it is Obama's duties as president are his first responsibility, and would not comment on Romney's own travel schedule.
"For us, it's not a matter of optics. It's a matter of responsibility. Gov. Romney can decide himself what he wants to do," Axelrod said.
The Romney campaign canceled the candidate's event in Wisconsin tonight and running mate Paul Ryan's appearance in Florida, according to reports. Romney was in Ohio this afternoon and will make its last appearance of the day in Davenport, Iowa.
That brings the total number of Sandy-related campaign appearances canceled to 22.
The Romney campaign announced that Romney and Ryan's Tuesday events would also be canceled, "out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy."
11:30 A.M. -- Hurricane Sandy Throws Campaign Into Chaos
Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast with a wallop starting Sunday night, tossing a new element of unpredictability into the presidential race with just nine days before the election.
President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney were forced to alter their campaign schedules, which had been carefully tailored to reach battleground state voters during the last full week of a race that has grown increasing close.
Sunday October 28, 8:30 P.M. -- Prepping for the Storm
The East Coast is preparing for hurricane Sandy, also known as Frankenstorm. It is said to be one of the worst to hit the area in decades. No one's looking forward to that, but most are preparing like never before.
Full Storify with photos.