Philadelphia essentially will be closed Tuesday. Mayor Nutter and Schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said city schools, SEPTA lines, and city and court offices would remain shut. Catholic schools will be closed, too.
"The morning is pretty much going to be a mess," the mayor said. "That's not the kind of weather . . . that people should be out in."
He and other officials across the region sent out this plea: Stay home. Don't travel. If threatened by rising water, move to higher ground.
Nutter urged the 10,000 people living in low-lying parts of the city to evacuate. By Monday afternoon about 300 people were in city shelters, but Nutter said that was not a good measure of how many had followed warnings, because many may have gone to friends or family.
"The fact that Philadelphia is dead-on in the path, and that this thing is not only slow-moving but may hover over us for a little while, is reason enough for us to take this very, very seriously," Nutter said.
Council President Darrell L. Clarke recalled floods during which people died because they drove into deep water, or stepped into rising waterways and were swept away.
People still made last-minute runs for batteries, food, and gasoline, even as the wind kicked debris across roads and shook trees to their roots. No one was immune to rain nor need.
"Had to get some snacks for the house," said 76ers rookie power forward Arnett Moultrie, among a stream of customers searching for gas and supplies at the Lukoil station at Spring Garden Street and Columbus Boulevard.
Forecasters warned that the storm would strengthen into Tuesday. But Sandy's early fight already was impressive.
Between 500 and 1,000 people were ordered to evacuate in Bensalem because of expected flooding along the Neshaminy and Poquessing Creeks and the Delaware. Some people did not want to go.
"This is barely a storm," said Ed Carver, 46, of Crescent Avenue, near the Neshaminy Creek, standing outside the house he grew up in as visitors filed in, eating stromboli and sipping beer.
"They're only talking about 10 feet. That's nothing," he said of the creek level. "We're used to 17 feet, 23 feet."
Police slid notices under doors at the Creek Side Apartments near the Poquessing Creek.
"We can't make them leave," Cpl. Brian Oliverio said, explaining the township's evacuation order. Residents are told that if they stay, authorities might not be able to reach them later.
Tim Soto, 19, was packing his clothes and planning to take his mother and teenage sister to his aunt's house in Bristol Township. "I'm taking blankets and my animals and moving out," he said, gathering up two guinea pigs and four hermit crabs.
In Chester County, two emergency shelters opened to serve up to 350 people.
In Bucks and Montgomery Counties, all nonessential county government offices were closed and emergency shelters were open.
Across the region, motorists were urged to stay away from low-lying areas and submerged roads and bridges with a stark warning: "Turn around, don't drown."
Stores on a flood-prone stretch of Main Street in Darby Borough were closed, with sandbags pressed up against doors - except for Benett's, a 65-year-old family-owned clothing store, which opened at 9 a.m. as usual.
"We have to serve the public," owner Paul Feldman said.
Last year, about two feet of sewage and water backed up into Feldman's basement during Hurricane Irene. But on Monday night, borough officials said they did not expect the creek to flood because less rain fell than was expected.
"We sort of dodged the bullet somewhat," Darby Police Chief Robert Smythe said.
But with Darby Creek touching the bottom of the bridge at MacDade Boulevard, emergency personnel and fire apparatus stayed in place, and the shelter at Ridge Avenue remained open. About 75 people already were there Monday night.
A separate shelter for animals was set up at the Barn in Chester Park, where maintenance equipment is usually stored.
There, Joanne Cichetti of Broomall choked back tears as she bid a temporary goodbye to her dog, Pogo, an American Staffordshire terrier she took in this year.
"He keeps my feet warm at night," Cichetti said. "Now, I'm being flooded out and separated from him all at the same time."
Cichetti had been evacuated from a basement condominium on Lawrence Road near Darby Creek and was being sheltered at the Martins Run senior community, also in Broomall.
At Killian's Hardware in Chestnut Hill on Monday, D batteries were the first to go. Flashlights, candles, propane, lamp oil, and wicks were selling out this weekend, as were fire extinguishers, sump pumps, manual can openers, and gloves.
"I try to keep a six-month supply of D batteries on hand, just in case, for situations like this," said Russell Goudy, great nephew of founders William A. and Minnie Killian. "Then you wish you had a one-year supply."
Paula Seitchik bought rope to lash her Weber grill to the deck. One man wanted beach chairs.
Goudy planned to be open Tuesday, depending on the weather.
"We didn't sell out of buckets," he said. "But my guess is people will be coming back in for them."
Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Martha Woodall, Melissa Dribben, Darran Simon, Mari A. Schaefer, Porus Cooper, Rita Giordano, Allison Steele, Karen Heller, Carolyn Davis, Bill Reed, Angela Couloumbis, Dan Hardy, Walter F. Naedele, and Miriam Hill.
Contact Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415, email@example.com, or on Twitter @JeffGammage.