The destruction caused by superstorm Sandy mounted yesterday as electrical fires and record power outages added to the misery of epic flooding already plaguing the Northeast.
By early Tuesday, more than 7 million customers shivered in the dark in at least 10 states and the District of Columbia. Sandy also claimed at least 33 lives across the United States, bringing the total number of deaths to at least 94 after the storm wreaked havoc in the Caribbean.
A levee break in Moonachie, New Jersey, sent authorities scrambling in boats to rescue trapped residents in several towns. “Within 30 minutes, those towns were under 4 or 5 feet of water,” said Jeanne Baratta of Bergen County police.
Meanwhile, the stench of smoke permeated across flooded streets as fierce winds and and rising waters shorted power lines and sparked fires in places such as Lindenhurst, New York.
At least 50 homes burned to the ground in the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens, fire officials said. More than 200 firefighters battled the leaping flames.
Elsewhere in New York City, emergency backup power failed and 10 feet of water flooded the basement of NYU Langone Medical Center, prompting the evacuation of 260 patients. Nurses manually pumped air to the lungs of those on respirators. Over 20 babies in the hospital also had to be evacuated.
Along the East Coast, residents reported images they’d never seen before. “We just looked out the window, and there’s this river flowing through the middle of Manhattan,” said Earl Bateman, a stockbroker who has lived in New York for 30 years.
More fury to come
But the weather nightmare isn’t over yet. Forecasters say the entire Northeast corridor of the United States will bear the brunt of Sandy. Fierce winds will blow from northern Georgia into Canada and as far west as Lake Michigan. Meanwhile, heavy rains will soak New England and parts of the Midwest.
And a blizzard spawned by Sandy will bring 2 to 3 feet of snow to the mountains of West Virginia by Wednesday morning.
“It’s three feet of heavy snow. It’s like concrete,” said meteorologist Reed Timmer, who is riding out the storm in Elkins, West Virginia.
Thousands of flights remain ed grounded yesterday. Federal government offices also stayed closed. And officials said it would take between 14 hours and four days to get the water out of the subway tunnels in New York.
“The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night,” said Joseph Lhota, chairman of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region.”
The full scale of Sandy’s wrath has yet to be determined. But according to a government prediction, Sandy’s wind damage alone could result in more than $7 billion in economic loss. Power outages spanned from Virginia to Maine, and the Manhattan skyline turned eerily dark. “This will be the largest storm-related outage in our history,” said John Miksad, vice president of power company Con Edison.
Officials blame Sandy for at least 16 deaths in the United States. Several, including an 8-year-old boy in Pennsylvania, died after being hit by a tree or tree limb. In New York, Battery Park recorded a nearly 14-foot tide, smashing a record set by 1960s Hurricane Donna.
As residents in New York and New Jersey surveyed the flooding left by Sandy, many discovered their apartments were islands. “I am looking outside my apartment, and I see that a new lake has formed,” William Yaeck said. “I would be concerned, but now my building has a view of the river.”
US nuclear plants slowdown, oldest declares alert
Hurricane Sandy slowed or shut a half-dozen US nuclear power plants, while the nation’s oldest facility declared a rare “alert” after the record storm surge pushed flood waters high enough to endanger a key cooling system.
Exelon Corp’s 43-year-old New Jersey Oyster Creek plant remained on ‘alert’ status, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said.
The alert came after water levels at the plant rose by more than 6.5 feet above normal, potentially affecting the "water intake structure" that pumps cooling water through the plant, an NRC spokesman said.
12,000 Number of flights that have been cancelled to and from the US
$7 bn The economic losses that the US will incur