Watch Live News Coverage Of East Coast Storm, Sandy
Downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm Sandy is presently whipping torrents of water through the northeastern United States leaving millions in the dark as violent winds bring down trees and power-lines while sending powerful storm surges, as high as nearly 14 feet in New York City, into the streets. Associated Press has reported as least 13 deaths have resulted from the storms fury. Five deaths confirmed in New York including three children in Westchester County just north of the city. One death was recording in the city and a fifth in Ulster County. Two more people were reported in New Jersey, two others in Connecticut, and three in Pennsylvania and another in West Virginia.
The superstorm Sandy packed a hurricane-sized punch as it slammed into the Jersey Shore on Monday, ripping up part of Atlantic City’s fabled boardwalk.
The storm surge set records in Lower Manhattan, where flooded substations caused a widespread power outage. It swamped beach fronts on both sides of Long Island Sound and delivered hurricane-force winds from Virginia to Cape Cod as it came ashore.
The storm hit near Atlantic City about 8 p.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center reported. It packed 80-mph winds at landfall, down from the 90 mph clocked earlier Monday.
“I’ve been down here for about 16 years, and it’s shocking what I’m looking at now. It’s unbelievable,” said Montgomery Dahm, owner of the Tun Tavern in Atlantic City, which stayed open as Sandy neared the Jersey Shore. “I mean, there’s cars that are just completely underwater in some of the places I would never believe that there would be water.”
Dahm’s family cleared out of Atlantic City before the storm hit, but he says he stayed put to serve emergency personnel. At nightfall Monday, he said the water was lapping at the steps of his restaurant, where a generator was keeping the lights on.
The storm had already knocked down power lines and tree limbs while still 50 miles offshore and washed out a section of the boardwalk on the north end of town, Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford told the CNN crew stationed there. He said there were still “too many people” who didn’t heed instructions to evacuate, and he urged anyone still in town to “hunker down and try to wait this thing out.”
“When Mother Nature sends her wrath your way, we’re at her mercy, and so all we can do is stay prayerful and do the best that we can,” Langford said. And in Seaside Heights, about 30 miles north of Atlantic City, Police Chief Thomas stated, “The whole north side of my town is totally under water.”
Atlantic City officials implemented an emergency curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and a travel ban has been put in effect.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had harsh words for Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, who told residents they could shelter in place instead of moving inland.
Christie told residents that it was now too dangerous for crews to go in to rescue people who chose to stay, and they would have to “ride out the storm” and wait until daylight.
“For those people who ignored my warnings, this is what you have to deal with now,” the clearly irked governor said.
In addition, the captain of the sunken tall ship HMS Bounty, Robin Walbridge, 63, was missing. His 15 crew members were plucked to safety by Coast Guard helicopters.
President Obama, who left the campaign trail just a week before the election, cautioned that the storm will impact millions of Americans.
“Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying,” he said today from the White House briefing room. “When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate. Do not delay, don’t pause, don’t question the instructions that are being given, because this is a serious storm and could potentially have fatal consequences if people haven’t acted.”
The president abandoned the campaign trail with only days left before the election, canceling events in the key battleground of Florida to return to Washington.
As of 11 p.m. Monday, Sandy was packing maximum sustained winds of 75 mph as the post-tropical cyclone moved toward the northwest at 18 mph, according to an update from the National Hurricane Center.
More than 4 million customers were without power from the East Coast to Ohio, according to figures from the Department of Energy and local power company reports.
In Lower Manhattan, a blowout at a Con Edison substation cut power to thousands of customers. The outage was likely the result flooding or flying debris, said John Miksad, senior vice president of electrical operations for the company.
Approximately 670,000 customers in New York City and Westchester County were without power, due to factors including the explosion, outages in the overhead system and pre-emptive shutdowns.
“When we went into today, we knew the forecast was for strong winds from Sandy as well as the potential for flooding, so we had anticipated and reported to you all that we were expecting overhead outages,” Miksad said.
What the company had not anticipated, he said, was the continued flooding following the peak tides.
New York University Medical Center was among the millions left without power in the wake of Sandy. A full evacuation was under way after the hospital’s back-up generators had failed.
Around midnight this morning, approximately 200 patients had been evacuated by private ambulance with assistance from the FDNY.
Miksad said it was too soon to say when power could be restored and that inspectors would be out once it was daylight to assess the damage.
The usually congested streets of New York City were ominously empty, as people stayed indoors to avoid flying debris, loose tree branches and ripped fixtures from skyscrapers.
One of the more frightening threats was a broken construction crane that dangled atop a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. Neighboring buildings were evacuated as the massive metal crane arm swayed in winds that gusted above 65 miles per hour.
In lower Manhattan’s Battery Park officials recorded nearly 14-foot tides, smashing a record set by 1960’s Hurricane Donna by more than 3 feet. The city had already halted service on its bus and train lines, closing schools and ordering about 400,000 people out of their homes in low-lying areas of Manhattan and elsewhere.
Flooding forced the closure of all three of the major airports in the area, LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty. Water seeped into subway stations in Lower Manhattan and into the tunnel connecting Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, while high winds damaged a crane perched atop a Midtown skyscraper under construction, forcing authorities to evacuate the surrounding area.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters there was an “extraordinary” amount of water in Lower Manhattan, as well as downed trees throughout the city and widespread power outages.
“We knew that this was going to be a very dangerous storm, and the storm has met our expectations,” he said. “The worst of the weather has come, and city certainly is feeling the impacts.”
The storm was blamed for more than 2.8 million outages across the Northeast. About 350,000 of them were in the New York city area, where utility provider Con Edison reported it had also cut power to customers in parts of Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan to protect underground equipment as the storm waters rose.
But as water crept into its substations, Con Ed said it had lost service to about 250,000 customers in Manhattan — including most of the island south of 39th Street.
And before hitting land, it overwhelmed the sailing ship HMS Bounty, a replica of the historic British vessel, off North Carolina. Fourteen of the ship’s crew of 16 were rescued, but the body of one deckhand was found Monday evening and the ship’s captain was still missing Monday night, the Coast Guard said.
Sandy had already claimed at least 67 lives in the Caribbean, including 51 in Haiti.
Sandy’s storm surges were boosted by a full moon, which already brings the highest tides of the month. And forecasters said the storm was likely to collide with a cold front and spawn a superstorm that could generate flash floods and snowstorms.
“It could be bad,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Steven Rattior, “or it could be devastation.”
Mass transit shut down across the densely populated Northeast, landmarks stood empty and schools and government offices were closed. The National Grid, which provides power to millions of customers, said 60 million people could be affected before it’s over.
On Fire Island, off Long Island, the water rose above promenades and docks on Monday afternoon, homeowner Karen Boss said. Boss stayed on the island with her husband despite a mandatory evacuation order. She said they own several properties and a business there and had weathered previous storms.
“I’m concerned that it might come into the first floor,” she said. “If that’s the case, I’ll just move into another house that’s higher up.”
Based on pressure readings, it’s likely to be the strongest storm to make landfall north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, CNN senior meteorologist Dave Hennen said. The benchmark storm, the 1938 “Long Island Express” Hurricane, contained a low pressure reading of 946 millibars; Sandy had a minimum pressure of 943 millibars. Generally speaking, the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.
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 last year’s Hurricane Irene, but Cafaro was not optimistic that Sea Bright would be spared Sandy.
Hospitals in New Jersey have been inundated with calls for help coming from around the county as Hurricane Sandy hit the area, said Rita Smith, senior vice-president of the Jersey City Medical Center.
Patients were unable to get the hospital and ambulances were not able to get outside the hospital on Grand Street. Water was four to five deep around the hospital, Smith said.
Like most hospitals in the region, Smith said, the Jersey City Medical Center was operating on generator power, which could last for days.
The New Jersey State Police said there were no major evacuations at area hospitals.
The state police said they were expecting the strength of the storms’ winds to diminish after 2 a.m., which would make it easier for first responders to help residents.
Some hospitals were spared the fallout from the storm. St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic reported no disruptions to its electrical power. So far there have been no storm related injuries, she said.
There were quite a few people who use powered ventilators and oxygen machines showing up at the hospital, but they were taken care of immediately.