Officials are particularly worried about the possibility of subway flooding in New York City, said Uccellini.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prepare to shut the city's subways, buses and suburban trains by Sunday, but delayed making a final decision. The city shut the subways down before last year's Hurricane Irene, and a Columbia University study predicted that an Irene surge just 1 foot higher would have paralyzed lower Manhattan.
Up and down the Eastern Seaboard and far inland, officials urged residents and businesses to prepare in big ways and little.
The Virginia National Guard was authorized to call up to 500 troops to active duty for debris removal and road-clearing, while homeowners stacked sandbags at their front doors in coastal towns.
Utility officials warned rains could saturate the ground, causing trees to topple into power lines, and told residents to prepare for several days at home without power. "We're facing a very real possibility of widespread, prolonged power outages,'' said, Ruth Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
Warren Ellis, who was on an annual fishing pilgrimage on North Carolina's Outer Banks, didn't act fast enough to get home.
Ellis' 73-year-old father, Steven, managed to get off uninhabited Portsmouth Island near Cape Hatteras by ferry Friday. But the son and his 10-foot camper got stranded when high winds and surf forced the ferry service to suspend operations Saturday.
"We might not get off here until Tuesday or Wednesday, which doesn't hurt my feelings that much,'' said Ellis, 44, of Amissville, Va. "Because the fishing's going to be really good after this storm.''
Last year, Hurricane Irene poked a new inlet through the island, cutting the only road off Hatteras Island for about 4,000.
In Maine, lobsterman Greg Griffen wasn't taking any chances; he moved 100 of his traps to deep water, where they are less vulnerable to shifting and damage in a storm.
"Some of my competitors have been pulling their traps and taking them right home,'' said Griffen. The dire forecast "sort of encouraged them to pull the plug on the season.''
In Muncy Valley north of Philadelphia, Rich Fry learned his lesson from last year, when Tropical Storm Lee inundated his Katie's Country Store.
In between helping customers picking up necessities Saturday, Fry was moving materials above the flood line. Fry said he was still trying to recover from the losses of last year's storm, which he and his wife, Deb, estimated at the time at $35,000 in merchandise.
"It will take a lot of years to cover that,'' he said.
Christie's emergency declaration will force the shutdown of Atlantic City's 12 casinos for only the fourth time in the 34-year history of legalized gambling here. The approach of Hurricane Irene shut down the casinos for three days last August.
Atlantic City officials said they would begin evacuating the gambling hub's 30,000 residents at noon Sunday, busing them to mainland shelters and schools.
Tom Foley, Atlantic City's emergency management director, recalled the March 1962 storm when the ocean and the bay met in the center of the city.
"This is predicted to get that bad,'' he said.
Mike Labarbera, who came from Brooklyn to gamble at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, thought the caution has been overblown.
"I think it's stupid,'' he said. "I don't think it's going to be a hurricane. I think they're overreacting.''