Massachusetts is bracing for the arrival of Sandy. In its Sunday evening advisory, the National Hurricane Center warned that the Category 1 hurricane was "expected to bring life-threatening storm surge flooding to the mid-Atlantic coast."
The National Weather Service in Taunton issued high wind warnings, coastal flood warnings and flood watches in Massachusetts and elsewhere in New England.
At a briefing Sunday afternoon, Gov. Deval Patrick ordered all state offices to be be closed Monday, and recommended schools and private businesses stay closed as well. More than two dozen school districts, including Boston and several colleges, canceled Monday classes.
"This is Mother Nature, and Mother Nature is unpredictable," Patrick said. "But we are doing everything we can with all of the agencies and resources at our disposal, and in concert with both local authorities and federal authorities, to prepare."
Forecaster Mark Rosenthal said some areas of Massachusetts started to see rain and high winds Sunday afternoon. He expected the brunt of the storm to reach the Boston area Monday morning.
"[Sunday night] we'll get drizzly and rainy and windy, and temperatures will be in the lower 50s," Rosenthal said. "and then for [Monday] when you wake up, it should be raining at a pretty good clip, the winds picking up from the east at 30 to 50 miles per hour.
"The wind's gonna start to gust to hurricane force and that's going to last several hours [Monday] night, with rising seas. It's gonna be a major-league problem for the high tide Monday night, which is around midnight. At that point, we'll have hurricane-force winds, and perhaps some very serious coastal flooding."
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Kurt Schwartz said one major concern was storm surge Monday evening.
"We may see storm surges of five to six feet," Schawartz said. "We're particularly concerned from New Bedford west, where we may see storm surges in Buzzards Bay and Narragansett Bay go beyond the six feet to seven, eight, nine, or even 10 feet in some areas."
President Obama issued a Pre-Landfall Emergency Declaration for Massachusetts Sunday night. According to MEMA, the declaration "will facilitate the protection of persons and property throughout the Commonwealth from the impacts of Hurricane Sandy. The various types of assistance available include Search and Rescue; emergency power generation; mass care and sheltering support, commodities and distribution; evacuation support; emergency communications; incident management support; technical and advisory assistance."
Patrick said individual cities and towns would be responsible for deciding whether to order evacuations.
"It's very much a community by community, and in some cases, frankly, block by block decision," Patrick said. "We've been very engaged with local emergency management officials about that.
"We're gonna take it as we can, we're gonna respond to information as it comes," the governor said. "Everybody should be assured that every one of us here have the public's safety paramount in mind."
The Red Cross opened shelters in Fall River, Weymouth, Newbury and on Martha's Vineyard Sunday. Three more were scheduled to open on Cape Cod Monday morning.
NStar and National Grid said they have hundreds of utility workers from other states in place and ready to work on any power outages during or after the storm.
"This is a huge storm of huge magnitude," said National Grid spokeswoman Charlotte McCormick. "There's definitely the potential for widespread outages, and that dictates extra resources. We've been working on gathering those extra resources since the middle of next week."
Sandy also snarled travel plans Sunday. The Associated Press reported that at least 5,000 flights were canceled for the beginning of the week. Amtrak canceled service along its Northeast Corridor as of 7 p.m. Massport recommended that passengers check with their airlines before heading to Logan Airport.
The MBTA suspended commuter boat service as of Monday morning. The transit agency expected subway, bus, commuter rail and The Ride to run as usual Monday morning, "for as long as it is safe to do so during the storm." It recommended that commuters stay home if possible.