Beyond the driving rain, howling wind, closed schools and canceled flights, Hurricane Sandy evoked fear among East Coast residents battered by other storms in recent years.
People hunkered down in homes and shelters with emergency kits at the ready Monday, unsure of what will happen when the huge storm reaches shore from Maryland to Connecticut and collides with a cold front over New England.
Memories of last year's Hurricane Irene, with flooding and falling trees that killed unsuspecting victims, further unnerved longtime coastal residents who watched storm surges top sea walls and wipe out docks in the hours before the full brunt of Sandy was due to hit.
A shuddering house and snapping tree limbs told Joseph Braha all he needed to know about what was coming.
"It's a real extreme event that's going to take place," the 36-year-old Braha said by phone from Asbury Park, New Jersey, where he and his wife and three daughters sat in the living room, "hoping and praying for the best."
The girls -- a 7-year-old and 3-year-old twins -- were "not too happy" but were handling it pretty well so far, he said, describing a scene right out of "Key Largo" and other films that depict waiting out a hurricane.
"There's a lot of wind that is shaking the house," Braha said. "I'm hearing some crackling in the trees as well. I've seen some branches falling down."
Supplies including flashlights and packed travel bags are ready, as are sandbags and lifejackets in case the ocean two blocks away rises even further.
"The jetties are completely invisible," Braha said of the waterfront. "No one's even attempting to head down to the water. It's just too dangerous."
At Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, newlyweds Jessie and Nicholas Lasko of Mount Airy, Maryland, huddled in a corner of an eerily silent terminal, their flight to a Jamaican honeymoon canceled -- along with thousands of others due to Sandy.
They just didn't think the storm they heard about on the news would disrupt their plans -- a Sunday night wedding followed by an early drive to catch their plane, the couple said.
"We were supposed to be on a plane right now on our way to Jamaica," new Mrs. Lasko said. "We're sad. Guess we'll have to reschedule."
In New York City, CNN iReporter Noah Garden watched rising water levels at his summer home in Ventnor, New Jersey, through a live video feed from his home security camera mounted on the backyard deck.
"My neighbor's deck is submerged under water," said Garden, 41, explaining what that means to the attached boat docks that rise with the water levels. "I am assuming tonight the docks are going to go."
Garden also knew that the storm could easily knock out power at his New York residence, which would end his long-distance viewing of the damage in Ventnor.
In Sea Bright, New Jersey, Yvette Cafaro scrawled a plea on the plywood that covered her burger restaurant: "Be kind to us Sandy."
The seaside area largely dodged Hurricane Irene, and Cafaro was hoping for another reprieve, but not optimistic.
"Everything that we've been watching on the news looks like this one will really get us," she said. "We're definitely worried about it."
Others were less concerned.
On Coney Island in the New York borough of Brooklyn, iReporter Kim Lofgren said she would wait out the storm, just like she did last year with Irene.
"It was exciting, but we didn't have any damage. I know this is going to be a lot worse," said the 30-year-old Lofgren, who acknowledged that others didn't share her sense of adventure.
"Around me, it's always a mix," Lofgren said. "There are people who panic and evacuate and there are people who have been by the ocean for a long time and they're unfazed by it."
CNN's Tom Watkins, Josh Levs, Jareen Iman, Sarah Brown and Chelsea Carter contributed to this report.