Hurricane Sandy leaves Washington, D.C., drenched and desolate

A man wearing a rain pouch walks past the White House in Washington during the approach of Hurricane Sandy. The nation's capital was largely deserted as the federal government and most businesses shut down.
(Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

WASHINGTON -- The nation’s capital was drenched and desolate Monday morning as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, affecting even President Obama’s plans.

With the federal government shut down and Washington, D.C.'s subway system closed, streets were largely deserted. Traffic looked more like early Sunday morning than the beginning of rush hour in a region that normally has one of the nation’s most gridlocked commutes.

Hurricane Sandy was set to make landfall north of Washington, sparing the region the worst of the storm. But the capital area still was expected to get as much as eight inches of rain and tropical-storm-force winds through Monday into Tuesday.

As the slate gray waters of the Potomac River rose under heavy rain Monday morning, the monuments on the National Mall stood sentry alone, absent the usual throngs of sightseers.

Many companies followed the federal government’s lead and closed for business Monday, leaving restaurants -- including the usually bustling Starbucks shops -- as dark as espresso.


Obama canceled plans to attend a campaign event in Orlando, Fla., and was heading back to Washington on Monday morning to monitor the storm, the White House said.

But some federal government activity continued despite the storm.

The Commerce Department issued its monthly report on consumer spending and personal income. Standard & Poor’s Dow Jones Indices said it still planned to release the latest S&P;/Case-Shiller Home Price index on Tuesday morning, but said it might change that depending on the hurricane’s impact.

The storm already forced the first unscheduled closure of the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq stock market since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Both were closed Monday as New York prepared to bear the brunt of the storm.

Auctions of Treasury bills went on as scheduled, though officials moved up a planned auction to Monday from its scheduled date of Tuesday, when the hurricane was forecast to give Washington its strongest punch. The auction of four-week bills was now set to close at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Justice is blind, as the saying goes, and it turns out it’s hurricane-proof, too. The Supreme Court remained open Monday to hear two cases. The court has arguments scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday as well, and it planned to remain open.


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