It’s hard to know where to begin to describe the devastation wrought by Cyclone, or rather Superstorm, Sandy. Though officially downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone by the time it made landfall around 8:30 pm some 9 miles south of Atlantic City in New Jersey, Sandy has wreaked her full share of havoc. A total of 38 people have died and President Obama has signed major disaster declarations for New York and New Jersey. Some $20 billion in damages is estimated and the storm knocked out power in parts of at least 17 states.
Residents of Manhattan (and of Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island) were reminded that they live on islands when the storm surge sent water pouring into the streets (including much of the West Side Highway and FDR Drive), inundating basements and cars on the Lower East Side and Red Hook. People described walking in water up to their knees on Avenue C and, with Wall Street flooded, the New York Stock Exchange remains closed for a second day. In Breezy Point, Queens, 80 houses have been completely destroyed in a six-alarm blaze; firefighters initially had difficulties reaching the fire due to severe flooding.
The New York City transit system has been crippled with officials saying they have “no idea” how long it will take to restore service. All seven subway tunnels connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn have been flooded. Train service has been suspended and thousands of flights in and out of the region have been cancelled with airports flooding. Most of the bridges connecting New York to New Jersey were still closed early Tuesday, with the Lincoln Tunnel the sole means of getting between the two states.
I live about 100 miles north of Atlantic City and spent the night listening to wind rattling and shaking my house and woke to the burr of generators and yellow police tape blocking off parts of my street in two directions. We’re very lucky to stil have electricity, but 2.2 million people in New Jersey, including entire towns, are in the dark. The casinos of Atlantic City are going to be shuttered for some time. With as much as 80 percent of the city underwater, it is, in the words of its public safety director, Willie Glass, “basically flooded.”
The Jersey shore was right in the path of Sandy; waves started pouring over sea walls and destroying boardwalks on Monday. Further to the north in Bergen County, across from the uptown Manhattan, officials used boats to rescue some 800 people from a trailer park in Moonachie which flooded after a berm overflowed.
On Tuesday morning, the storm (with 65 mph winds) was headed west of Philadelphia. Gale-force winds are still expected up and down the Eastern Seaboard from Virginia to New England on Tuesday and officials are warning of more storm surges at high tide on the East Coast, as well as inland flooding in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
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After Hurricane Irene and a freak late October snowstorm last year, a lot of us were anticipating flooding and power outages. While the parking lot at my local Home Depot was packed on Sunday, the store had long been stripped of generators and D batteries and stores’ shelves were cleared of cases of bottled water. Every single school in New Jersey was closed on Monday. The thought of New York City without a subway even for a few days is staggering to contemplate.
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