Hurricane Sandy Aftermath: Storm Leaves Millions Without Power, More Than A Dozen Dead
Posted: 10/30/2012 10:58 am EDT Updated: 10/30/2012 12:21 pm EDT
By ALLEN G. BREED and TOM HAYS, ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK (AP) — Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke Tuesday without electricity, and an eerily quiet New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air as superstorm Sandy steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain. The U.S. death toll climbed to 33, many of the victims killed by falling trees.
The full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore Monday night with hurricane force, was unclear. Police and fire officials, some with their own departments flooded, fanned out to rescue hundreds.
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“We are in the midst of urban search and rescue. Our teams are moving as fast as they can,” Gov. Chris Christie said. “The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we’ve ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point.”
At least 7.4 million people across the East were without power. Airlines canceled more than 15,000 flights around the world, and it could be days before the mess is untangled and passengers can get where they’re going.
The storm also put the White House campaign on hold just a week before Election Day. President Barack Obama canceled a third straight day of campaigning, scratching events scheduled for Wednesday in swing state Ohio, which got clobbered by Sandy’s winds as the storm pushed west.
Lower Manhattan, which includes Wall Street, was among the hardest-hit areas after the storm sent a nearly 14-foot surge of seawater, a record, coursing over its seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets.
Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Center, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather in more than a century.
A huge fire destroyed as many as 100 houses in a flooded beachfront neighborhood in Queens on Tuesday, forcing firefighters to undertake daring rescues. Three people were injured.
A downtown hospital, New York University’s Tisch, evacuated 200 patients after its backup generator failed. About 20 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit were carried down staircases and on battery-powered respirators.
And a construction crane that collapsed in the high winds on Monday still dangled precariously 74 floors above the streets of midtown Manhattan. And on Staten Island, a tanker ship wound up beached on the shore.
With water standing in two major commuter tunnels and seven subway tunnels under the East River, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was unclear when the nation’s largest transit system would be rolling again. It shut down Sunday night ahead of the storm.
Joseph Lhota, chairman of the regional Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the damage was the worst in the 108-year history of the New York subway.
The saltwater surge inundated subway signals, switches and electrified third rails and covered tracks with sludge. Workers began pumping the water out and will ultimately have to walk all of the hundreds of miles of track to inspect it.
Millions of more fortunate New Yorkers surveyed damage as dawn broke, their city brought to an extraordinary standstill.
“Oh, Jesus. Oh, no,” Faye Schwartz said she looked over damage in neighborhood in Brooklyn, where cars were scattered like leaves.
Reggie Thomas, a maintenance supervisor at a prison near the overflowing Hudson River, emerged from an overnight shift there, a toothbrush in his front pocket, to find his Honda with its windows down and a foot of water inside. The windows automatically go down when the car is submerged to free drivers.
“It’s totaled,” Thomas said with a shrug. “You would have needed a boat last night.”
Besides the subway and the stock exchange, most major tunnels and bridges in New York were closed, as were schools, Broadway theaters and the metropolitan area’s three main airports, LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark.
“This will be one for the record books,” said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Consolidated Edison, which had more than 670,000 customers without power in and around New York City.
The death toll climbed rapidly, and included 17 victims in New York State — 10 of them in New York City — along with four dead in Pennsylvania and three in New Jersey. Sandy also killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Eastern Seaboard.
In New Jersey, a huge swell of water swept over the small town of Moonachie, near the Hackensack River, and authorities struggled to rescue about 800 people, some of them living in a trailer park.
And in neighboring Little Ferry, water suddenly started gushing out of storm drains overnight, submerging a road under 4 feet of water and swamping houses.
Police and fire officials used boats and trucks to reach the stranded.
“I looked out and the next thing you know, the water just came up through the grates. It came up so quickly you couldn’t do anything about it. If you wanted to move your car to higher ground you didn’t have enough time,” said Little Ferry resident Leo Quigley, who with his wife was taken to higher ground by boat.
Jersey City was closed to cars because traffic lights were out, and Hoboken, just over the Hudson River from Manhattan, dealt with major flooding. In Atlantic City, most of the world-famous boardwalk was intact, but pieces washed away Monday night.
Remnants of the hurricane were forecast to head across Pennsylvania before taking another sharp turn into western New York by Wednesday morning. Although weakening as it goes, the storm will continue to bring heavy rain and flooding, said Daniel Brown of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
As Hurricane Sandy closed in on the Northeast, it converged with a cold-weather system that turned it into a monstrous hybrid of rain, high wind — and even snow in West Virginia and other mountainous areas inland.
In a measure of how big the storm was, high winds spinning off the edge of Sandy clobbered the Cleveland area early Tuesday, uprooting trees, cutting power to hundreds of thousands, closing schools and flooding major roads along Lake Erie.
Hundreds of miles from the storm’s center, gusts topping 60 mph prompted officials to close the port of Portland, Maine, and scared away several cruise ships.
Just before it made landfall at 8 p.m. near Atlantic City, N.J., forecasters stripped Sandy of hurricane status, but the distinction was purely technical, based on its shape and internal temperature.
While the hurricane’s 80 mph winds registered as only a Category 1 on a scale of five, it packed the lowest barometric pressure on record in the Northeast, giving it terrific energy to push water inland.
Obama declared a major disaster in the city and Long Island.
In New York, the construction crane atop a 1,000-foot, $1.5 billion luxury high-rise in midtown Manhattan dangled for a second day while authorities tried to figure out how to secure it. Thousands were ordered to leave nearby buildings as a precaution, including 900 guests at the ultramodern Le Parker Meridien hotel.
Alice Goldberg, 15, a tourist from Paris, was watching television in the hotel — whose slogan is “Uptown, Not Uptight” — when a voice came over the loudspeaker and told everyone to leave.
“They said to take only what we needed, and leave the rest, because we’ll come back in two or three days,” she said as she and hundreds of others gathered in the luggage-strewn marble lobby. “I hope so.”
An explosion Monday night at a substation for Consolidated Edison, the main utility service New York City, knocked out power to about 310,000 customers in Manhattan.
“It sounded like the Fourth of July,” Stephen Weisbrot said from his 10th-floor apartment.
In Baltimore, fire officials said four unoccupied rowhouses collapsed in the storm, sending debris into the street but causing no injuries. A blizzard in western Maryland caused a pileup of tractor-trailers that blocked part of Interstate 68 on slippery Big Savage Mountain.
“It’s like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs up here,” said Bill Wiltson, a Maryland State Police dispatcher.
Hays reported from New York and Breed reported from Raleigh, N.C.; AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this report from Washington. Associated Press writers David Dishneau in Delaware City, Del., Katie Zezima in Atlantic City, Emery P. Dalesio in Elizabeth City, N.C., and Erika Niedowski in Cranston, R.I., also contributed.
A huge tree split apart and fell over the front yard and fence of a home on Carpenter Avenue in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, Oct., 30, 2012, in Sea Cliff, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
Boats are piled onto each other after hybrid storm Sandy wash them off their stands, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Brick, N.J. Sandy, which was downgraded from a Hurricane just before making landfall in New Jersey, left millions without power. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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HuffPost’s Elise Foley reports:
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney urged his supporters on Tuesday to keep up their efforts to help those impacted by Hurricane Sandy, and pitched in to box up donations.”We have heavy hearts, as you know, with all of the suffering going on in a major part of our country,” he said at an appearance in Dayton, Ohio, touted by the campaign as a “storm relief” event. “A lot of people are hurting this morning and they were hurting last night.”
He thanked the crowd for bringing goods, which he said will be sent to New Jersey.
|@ ConEdison : Those in Bk and Manhattan should have power back w/in 4 days. All others in areas served by overhead lines will take at least a week. #ConEd|
A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 in Hoboken, NJ.
Credit: Charles Sykes, AP.
New York City MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota released a statement Tuesday declaring Hurricane Sandy the most “devastating” disaster in the subway’s 108-year history. The hurricane has flooded seven subway tunnels under the East River and affected “every borough and county of the region,” according to the statement.
“In 108 years, our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now,” Lhota wries.
Read the whole story here.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney participated in a “storm relief event” in the key battleground state of Ohio on Tuesday.
Both Romney and President Barack Obama have been careful to avoid the perception that they are placing politics ahead of the needs of storm victims. On Monday, both presidential candidates canceled a number of campaign events, and Obama returned early from Florida to oversee the federal government’s response to Hurricane Sandy from the White House.
But the campaign’s storm relief event also seemed to bear some of the hallmarks of a traditional campaign rally. NPR White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro noted that the event began with a Romney campaign video touting the candidate’s record, and the press badge for the event called it a “victory rally.”
– Sasha Belenky, HuffPost
An explosion at a substation belonging to New York utility company Consolidated Edison (ConEd) rocked Manhattan’s East Village at approximately 9 p.m. on Monday night.
The blast occurred on 14th Street near the bank of the East River and plunged much of lower Manhattan into darkness as Superstorm Sandy battered the city with winds and tidal surges.
ConEd also took parts of its grid offline during the storm. In addition, flooding and downed power lines knocked out power for many in the city. The company said in a press release that 670,000 customers are without power in New York City and Westchester County. During a press conference Tuesday morning, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that as many as 750,000 residents were without power.
According to the Associated Press, ConEd Senior Vice President John Miksad said Tuesday that “the planned outage should take three to four days to restore, while the explosion and the downed lines could take up to a week.”
“[Power for] [m]ost of Manhattan below 39th Street is out,” a ConEd rep told the Village Voice Tuesday morning.
The blast at the 14th street substation could apparently be seen from across the river. Video of the event was uploaded to YouTube Monday night.
– Catharine Smith, HuffPost
The city of Chicago is urging its residents to steer clear of the Lake Michigan shores. Nevertheless, a handful of curious joggers and onlookers with cameras in hand were taking in the dramatic lakeside scene Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service issued a statement early Tuesday on the near-record wave heights — which have hit as high as 20.3 feet.
–Joseph Erbentraut, HuffPost
Credit: MTAPhotos, Flickr
Credit: MTAPhotos, Flickr
From the White House Office of the Press Secretary:
This morning, the President convened a video-teleconference in the White House Situation Room with his team to receive the latest update on Hurricane Sandy, and federal efforts underway to support response activities in several states. Overnight, at the requests of the Governors, the President approved major disaster declarations for the states of New Jersey and New York, making additional federal support for state and local efforts available, as well as direct federal assistance to affected individuals in declared counties. On the video-teleconference the President was joined by Vice President Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Fugate, Secretary of Energy Chu, Transportation Secretary Lahood, Defense Secretary Panetta, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Winnefeld, USNORTHCOM Commander General Jacoby, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius, and National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Knabb. Treasury Secretary Geithner joined the briefing by phone. The President was joined in the Situation Room by Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security John Brennan, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Richard Reed, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew, National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken, and other senior members of the President’s team. During the briefing the President expressed his concern for those impacted by the storm, as well as the heroic first responders who are selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way to protect members of their communities. He also noted his sadness over the loss of life associated with the storm so far. The President was updated on Sandy’s track and impacts, and heard from Administrator Fugate on the federal coordination and resources being brought to bear to support state and local responders, including the extensive deployment of resources, such as generators that were pre-staged ahead of the storm, as well as National Guard units which have been activated in a number of states. Through FEMA, the federal government is leveraging assets from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Health and Human Services. The President also received an update from Secretary Geithner on conditions in financial markets and the operations of the financial system.The President told his team that their top priority is to make sure all available resources are being provided to state and local responders as quickly as possible and directed them to identify and resolve any potential bottlenecks or shortfalls should they arise. The President made clear that beyond the immediate lifesaving and life sustaining activities, which remain the primary focus, he wanted his team to continue to focus on what they can do to support state, local, and private sector efforts to restore power and asked the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to continue to work in support of FEMA towards this goal. The President made clear that he expects his team to remin focused as the immediate impacts of Hurricane Sandy continue and lean forward in their response. The President urges Americans to continue to follow the direction and advice of local officials, Governors, and Mayors, many of whom the President will speak with later today.
In a press conference, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “I told President Obama, ‘We have a 100-year flood every two years now.’ ”
WASHINGTON — The politics of Hurricane Sandy are obviously difficult to game out. But the White House has clearly decided that it would look uncomfortably partisan for the president to be on the stump while the federal government was managing a massive natural disaster. And so, on Tuesday morning, the administration announced that President Barack Obama would be off the trail on Wednesday, canceling a swing through the critical state of Ohio.
From the White House Press Office:
The President will remain in Washington, DC on Wednesday to monitor the response to Hurricane Sandy and ensure that all available federal resources continue to be provided to support ongoing state and local recovery efforts. As a result, the President will not participate in the campaign events that had been scheduled in Ohio tomorrow.
Mitt Romney is doing “relief events” on Tuesday, though those seem to be toned down campaign stops that are also helping raise money for victims of Sandy. He is also scheduled to make campaign stops in Virginia on Wednesday, though it remains to be seen how hard he campaigns against the president during the week ahead.
– Sam Stein