October 31, 2012

Chaos, pain in Sandy's wake

At least 55 people are dead, 8 million are without power, entire neighborhoods have been destroyed and thousands have been displaced.

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — The most devastating storm in decades to hit the country's most densely populated region upended man and nature as it rolled back the clock on 21st-century lives, cutting off modern communication and leaving millions without power Tuesday as thousands who fled their water-menaced homes wondered when — if — life would return to normal.

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A fire fighter surveys the smoldering ruins of a house in the Breezy Point section of New York, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. More than 50 homes were destroyed in a fire which swept through the oceanfront community during superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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The tailend of a SUV is perched on top of a postal mailbox in the aftermath of floods from Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Coney Island, N.Y. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

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A weakening Sandy, the hurricane turned fearsome superstorm, killed at least 55 people, many hit by falling trees, and still wasn't finished. It inched inland across Pennsylvania, ready to bank toward western New York to dump more of its water and likely cause more havoc Tuesday night.  Behind it: a dazed, inundated New York City, a waterlogged Atlantic Coast and a moonscape of disarray and debris — from unmoored shore-town boardwalks to submerged mass-transit systems to delicate presidential politics.

"Nature," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, assessing the damage to his city, "is an awful lot more powerful than we are."

More than 8.2 million households were without power in 17 states as far west as Michigan. Nearly 2 million of those were in New York, where large swaths of lower Manhattan lost electricity and entire streets ended up underwater — as did seven subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn at one point, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

The New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day from weather, the first time that has happened since a blizzard in 1888. The shutdown of mass transit crippled a city where more than 8.3 million bus, subway and local rail trips are taken each day, and 800,000 vehicles cross bridges run by the transit agency.

Consolidated Edison said electricity in and around New York could take a week to restore.

"Everybody knew it was coming. Unfortunately, it was everything they said it was," said Sal Novello, a construction executive who rode out the storm with his wife, Lori, in the Long Island town of Lindenhurst, and ended up with 7 feet of water in the basement.

The scope of the storm's damage wasn't known yet. Though early predictions of river flooding in Sandy's inland path were petering out, colder temperatures made snow the main product of Sandy's slow march from the sea. Parts of the West Virginia mountains were blanketed with 2 feet of snow by Tuesday afternoon, and drifts 4 feet deep were reported at Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

With Election Day a week away, the storm also threatened to affect the presidential campaign. Federal disaster response, always a dicey political issue, has become even thornier since government mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And poll access and voter turnout, both of which hinge upon how people are impacted by the storm, could help shift the outcome in an extremely close race.

As organized civilization came roaring back Tuesday in the form of emergency response, recharged cellphones and the reassurance of daylight, harrowing stories and pastiches emerged from Maryland north to Rhode Island in the hours after Sandy's howling winds and tidal surges shoved water over seaside barriers, into low-lying streets and up from coastal storm drains.

Images from around the storm-affected areas depicted scenes reminiscent of big-budget disaster movies. In Atlantic City, N.J., a gaping hole remained where once a stretch of boardwalk sat by the sea. In Queens, N.Y., rubble from a fire that destroyed as many as 100 houses in an evacuated beachfront neighborhood jutted into the air at ugly angles against a gray sky. In heavily flooded Hoboken, N.J., across the Hudson River from Manhattan, dozens of yellow cabs sat parked in rows, submerged in murky water to their windshields. At the ground zero construction site in lower Manhattan, seawater rushed into a gaping hole under harsh floodlights.

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Lower Manhattan goes dark during the hybrid storm Sandy, on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, viewed from the Brooklyn borough of New York. Authorities warned that New York City and Long Island could get the worst of the storm surge: an 11-foot onslaught of seawater that could swamp lower areas of the city. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

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Vehicles are submerged on 14th Street near the Consolidated Edison power plant, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in New York. Sandy continued on its path Monday, as the storm forced the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain.  (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

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Robert Connolly, left, embraces his wife Laura as they survey the remains of the home owned by her parents that burned to the ground in the Breezy Point section of New York, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. More than 50 homes were destroyed in the fire which swept through the oceanfront community during superstorm Sandy. At right is their son, Kyle. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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Brian Hajeski, 41, of Brick, N.J., reacts after looking at debris of a home that washed up on to the Mantoloking Bridge the morning after superstorm Sandy rolled through, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Mantoloking, N.J. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  


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Today's poll: Bad food

Did you throw out food because of safety concerns due to a power outage?

Yes

No

View Results