They say that New York is the city that never sleeps, but throughout Manhattan today, it seemed as if many businesses were preparing to tuck in, perhaps for days.
A monster of a hurricane - potentially the largest on record - was barreling toward the city, threatening business owners with catastrophic damages, biblical flooding and power outages that could last for days.
In Times Square, restaurants, electronics shops and perfumeries were sending employees home before 7 pm, when the city's subways were set to close.
It was the same throughout Midtown, along Madison Avenue and down into the Bohemian enclave of Greenwich Village, where many of famed Bleeker Street's shops were closing early - and indefinitely.
"After Monday, employees will be on call," said Jerome Ison, a clerk at Burberry.
At Magnolia Bakery, the cupcakes shop made famous by the TV show "Sex and the City," the ovens were turned off around noon.
"We won't have any extra cupcakes," a worker said.
Throughout Manhattan, the pretzel and hot dog vendors were packing up too, often to travel across bridges and tunnels to New Jersey, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
"Everybody's leaving," said peanut purveyor Miah Daras of the Bronx. "For me, this is losing $300 a day."
The mad dash out of Manhattan was spurred by the shut down of mass transit today. The loss of transportation illustrated a socio-economic divide - there are many wealthy residents of Manhattan.
Those who serve them tend to live elsewhere - the outer boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.
Without public transit, and with the possibility of bridges and tunnels being closed, cutting off vehicular traffic, those two populations were going to be apart from one another. And who knew for how long?
"I need my workers to get home safely," said health food deli owner Gale Shim.
Heavy rain, high winds
Shim decided to stay behind and deal with the situation himself, meaning he'd bunk down in his deli. He had been hearing the news all week - 30cm of rain, 120km/h winds - though was happy he has insurance for food spoilage.
But like a lot of New York business owners, it was the flooding that worried him. He stood in the back of the deli's kitchen, surrounded by cases of the hipster health drink Kombucha, and pointed to a place in the ceiling where rainwater routinely surges in.
His plan was to fight off the expected deluge with a sump pump, though he didn't know what he would do if the electricity went out. He also hadn't figured out how to get a blanket if he got cold.
On the Upper West Side, lines wrapped around the block at grocery store Trader Joe's. At Abingdon Deli, the cheese and meat shelves had been picked clean.
Throughout the day, more and more closings were announced.
But New Yorkers - who survived the September 11 attacks, a blackout in 2003 and Hurricane Irene last year - can be hard to rattle. Some delighted in being contrarians.
As many stocked their fridges with water and food, others blew the whole thing off.
"You know what I have in my fridge?" said Chris Conway, a 41-year-old who lives in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. "Four different kinds of Tabasco and one jar of A-1 steak sauce."
There were also plenty of businesses that were daring the storm to bother them.
"We'll be open, no matter what," said Clarence Ricketts, who manages the 24-hour Walgreens at Times Square. The building has its own in-house engineer, a military-grade power generator and a full staff in the store.
Ricketts will pay for cab fare if an employee needs to go home, but he's cleared out space in the store's fifth-floor offices and has air mattresses for workers.
"We sell air mattresses," he said. "So however many [workers] need, we have."
One business that storms treat positively well - bars.
Downtown Manhattan's Corner Bistro was full today. The Bistro, legendary for its salty bartenders and tender burgers, stayed open throughout Hurricane Irene.
During the 2003 blackout, one manager tried to close the bar - and was fired.
"The Bistro only closes on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that's it," said bartender Jeff Sheehan.
Justice never rests
While Hurricane Sandy may shut down much of the federal government and halt public transport in Washington DCtomorrow, it will be business as usual at the US Supreme Court, where justices - appointed for life - pride themselves in all manner of staying power.
The country's highest court is keeping to its oral-argument schedule and intends to hear cases through Wednesday, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said today.
"It was the decision of the chief justice, in consultation with court officials," Arberg said, in a reference to Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed in 2005.
There is a tradition to this. In 1996, when a major snowstorm closed the federal government and brought Washington DC, to a near standstill, court arguments went on. Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Wisconsin native undeterred by snow and ruled by a strong sense of punctuality, made sure business that January 8 began on schedule.
Roberts, 57, who grew up in Indiana, was once a law clerk to Rehnquist, who died in 2005.
The justices are starting their second two-week round of arguments for the annual term, beginning tomorrow with a foreign intelligence wiretap case and a copyright dispute. Non-emergency federal workers have been told to stay home.
Arberg said court officials would be monitoring the hurricane to determine whether safety factors might require a change in the schedule. Two cases are scheduled for each of the following two days.
During the January 1996 snowstorm, court officials picked up some of the justices in four-wheel-drive vehicles. Seven of the nine arrived on time for the 10 am opening session. Justice David Souter eventually made it to the bench that Monday.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who was in Florida at the time, did not. Both have since retired.
Arberg said she was unaware of any justices who would not make it in on Monday.
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