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

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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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One of the most dramatic tales came from lower Manhattan, where a failed backup generator forced New York University's Langone Medical Center to relocate more than 200 patients, including 20 babies from neonatal intensive care. Dozens of ambulances lined up in the rainy night and the tiny patients were gingerly moved out, some attached to battery-powered respirators as gusts of wind blew their blankets.

In Moonachie, N.J., 10 miles north of Manhattan, water rose to 5 feet within 45 minutes and trapped residents who thought the worst of the storm had passed. Mobile-home park resident Juan Allen said water overflowed a 2-foot wall along a nearby creek, filling the area with 2 to 3 feet of water within 15 minutes. "I saw trees not just knocked down but ripped right out of the ground," he said. "I watched a tree crush a guy's house like a wet sponge."

In a measure of its massive size, waves on southern Lake Michigan rose to a record-tying 20.3 feet. High winds spinning off Sandy's edges clobbered the Cleveland area early Tuesday, uprooting trees, closing schools and flooding major roads along Lake Erie.

Most along the East Coast, though, grappled with an experience like Bertha Weismann of Bridgeport, Conn.— frightening, inconvenient and financially problematic but, overall, endurable. Her garage was flooded and she lost power, but she was grateful. "I feel like we are blessed," she said. "It could have been worse."

The presidential candidates' campaign maneuverings Tuesday revealed the delicacy of the need to look presidential in a crisis without appearing to capitalize on a disaster. President Barack Obama canceled a third straight day of campaigning, scratching events scheduled for Wednesday in swing-state Ohio, in Sandy's path. Republican Mitt Romney resumed his campaign with plans for an Ohio rally billed as a "storm relief event."

And the weather posed challenges a week out for how to get everyone out to vote. On the hard-hit New Jersey coastline, a county elections chief said some polling places on barrier islands will be unusable and have to be moved.

"This is the biggest challenge we've ever had," said George R. Gilmore, chairman of the Ocean County Board of Elections.

By Tuesday afternoon, there were still only hints of the economic impact of the storm. Airports remained closed across the East Coast and far beyond as tens of thousands of travelers found they couldn't get where they were going.

Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight predicted the storm will end up causing about $20 billion in damages and $10 billion to $30 billion in lost business. Another firm, AIR Worldwide, estimated losses up to $15 billion — big numbers probably offset by reconstruction and repairs that will contribute to longer-term growth.

"The biggest problem is not the first few days but the coming months," said Alan Rubin, an expert in nature disaster recovery.

Sandy began in the Atlantic and knocked around the Caribbean — killing nearly 70 people — and strengthened into a hurricane as it chugged across the southeastern coast of the United States. By Tuesday night it had ebbed in strength but was joining up with another, more wintry storm — an expected confluence of weather systems that earned it nicknames like "superstorm" and, on Halloween eve, "Frankenstorm."

It became, pretty much everyone agreed Tuesday, the weather event of a lifetime — and one shared vigorously on social media by people in Sandy's path who took eye-popping photographs as the storm blew through, then shared them with the world by the blue light of their smartphones.

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Additional Photos

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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