Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley says fatalities are inevitable as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the Mid-Atlantic state with all its force.
'Hurricane Sandy is going to come over Maryland, she's going to sit on top of Maryland and beat down on Maryland for a good 24 to 36 hours,' he told reporters at the Maryland emergency co-ordination headquarters.
'This is going to be a long haul,' he said. 'The days ahead are going to be difficult. There will be people who die and are killed in this storm.'
O'Malley warned of 'very high winds', lengthy power outages and severe flooding in the countless rivers and streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.
He urged motorists to stay off the roads until Tuesday night.
Ocean City, on Maryland's easternmost Atlantic coast, is already being lashed by a combination of wind, rain and 'very heavy surf', with the resort town's pier sustaining heavy damage, the governor said.
The mandatory evacuation of downtown Ocean City has been completed, he said, and 'there are few if any residents left in the town'.
While the potential for loss of life was 'my biggest concern right now', O'Malley said several days' warning had given Maryland time to prepare for Sandy's wrath, with help from reinforcements from other states.
Twenty-three emergency shelters have opened around Maryland for those most in need, he said, but others should 'hunker down' and remain indoors with their families until the 'monster storm' passes.
'There will undoubtedly be some deaths that are caused by the intensity of the storm, by the floods, by the tidal surge and by the waves. The more responsibly citizens act, the fewer people will die.'