President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in New York City and Long Island early Tuesday, making federal funding available to the areas most decimated by the sea surge. Authorities say it could take weeks, or months, to clean up the damage.
Sandy roared onto land near Atlantic City, N.J., just as night fell Monday, whipping huge, frothy waves over the streets and leaving splintered boardwalk planks in its wake. About a dozen deaths are being attributed to the storm across the tri-state area, including a woman who died after coming into contact with wires in a flooded area and others killed by falling trees.
At least 50 homes were destroyed in the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens, where firefighters were battling an overnight fire that had escalated to a six-alarm blaze early Tuesday. It wasn’t clear if anyone was injured.
“We knew that this was going to be a very dangerous storm, and the storm has met our expectations,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “This is a once-in-a-long-time storm.”
The MTA said floodwaters surged into the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and into a number of train stations. The entire mass transit system was shut down Sunday ahead of the storm, and most bridges and tunnels were closed as Sandy approached.
MTA Chairman Joe Lhota told NBC 4 New York on Tuesday that he couldn’t even begin to say when subways, commuter rails and buses might be up and running.
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever experienced before,” he said. “We are in the assessment stage.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said bridges would likely open later Tuesday to emergency personnel, and possibly to the public, but warned New Yorkers not to venture out unless it was crucial.
More than 650,000 Con Ed customers in New York City and Westchester County lost power due to Sandy in what the utility’s senior vice president for electric operations called “the largest storm-related outage in our history.”
There was no estimate for when power would be restored. Those in the dark included “pretty much everyone” below 39th Street at one point, Con Ed said.
NYU’s Langone Medical Center had to move 200 patients late Monday after its backup generator failed. NYU Medical Dean Robert Grossman said patients — among them 20 babies from neonatal intensive care that were on battery-powered respirators — had to be carried down staircases and to dozens of waiting ambulances.
Con Ed preemptively shut off power to parts of lower Manhattan to lessen storm damage to some underground networks. The majority of the borough’s outages were caused by an explosion at a substation at East 14th Street. Con Ed officials were uncertain whether the explosion had been caused by flooding, or perhaps flying debris whipped around by intense winds.
The howling winds ripped through the canyons of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, likely contributing to the collapse of a crane at 57th Street and Sixth Avenue, where police stopped traffic on nearby streets and evacuated buildings as it dangled 90 stories above the ground. Downtown, rescuers responded to a building collapse on Eighth Avenue as Battery Park began to flood.
Hundreds of thousands had been ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, but many still remained when the waters began to swell Monday. By evening, officials said it was too late to get out of flood-prone areas, and as Sandy swirled into the city, the sea washed into coastal areas including swaths of Manhattan, the Rockaways in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn.
Rescuers responded in boats as the water line rose, reaching attic level in some Staten Island homes. The 911 system became overloaded with 20,000 calls an hour, officials said, asking those without urgent emergencies not to call.
Flooding in low-lying areas complicated police rescues, with water overtaking precincts in parts of the city.
The rising water also made rescues dangerous in New Jersey, where the barrier islands and Atlantic City had been under an evacuation order since Sunday. As the storm surge lapped over the sea wall in Cape May, punching through dunes in other communities, Gov. Chris Christie said that anyone stuck on the barrier islands would have to wait until Tuesday for rescue.
“I hope, I pray, that there won’t be any loss of life because of it,” he said.
Sandy had intensified as it churned toward the Jersey shore near Atlantic City, hurtling toward the region with sustained winds of 90 mph. The storm then changed over to a post-tropical cyclone, which was being absorbed into what forecasters describe as a large Nor’easter. It is predicted to gradually wind down over the next 24 to 36 hours, but will continue to produce heavy rain and cause more flooding as it moves over the Northeast.
The destructive winds and coastal storm surge will persist for much of the day Tuesday before gradually ebbing by Wednesday morning, meteorologists say.
- Hundreds of thousands of Con Ed customers were without power Monday night, including 38,000 in the Bronx, 71,000 in Brooklyn, 193,000 in Manhattan, 74,000 in Queens and 76,000 in Staten Island. Con Ed shut off power preemptively to residents in Brighton Beach and in lower Manhattan.
- At least six storm-related deaths were reported, including a teenage girl who was found near the shore on Staten Island. A 29-year old man in Flushing, Queens was killed in bed when a tree crashed into his home and a woman in South Richmond Hill, Queens died after coming into contact with wires in a flooded area. A man in his 50s was also found dead in a flooded lower Manhattan basement, authorities said.
- Con Ed’s steam station on East 14th Street was under water Monday night.
- A record-high 32.5-foot wave was recorded in New York harbor.
- Hundreds of thousands of people live in New York City’s primary evacuation zone, shown in orange on this map.
- Monday morning about 3,100 people were staying in 76 city shelters. Locations can be found on the city’s website or by calling 311.
- The city’s 1.1 million-pupil school system, the largest in the nation, was closed Monday and Tuesday.
- City parks are closed.
- The city is under a high wind warning from 6 a.m. Monday to 6 p.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.
- PATH Train service remains suspended indefinitely, the Port Authority said.
- Long Island Power Authority reported more than 250,000 customers without power.
- At least two storm-related deaths have been reported. In Suffolk County, a 39-year-old man was struck by falling tree and in Nassau County, a 84-year-old man died after being struck by a falling tree.
- Suffolk County officials reported considerable storm surge flooding on the south shore.
- Residents in Long Beach and Mill Neck in Nassau County were told not to drink tap water due to potential contamination.
- Nassau County police say a man in Garden City Park accidentally blew off his hand when he lighted fireworks during a power outage, thinking it was a candle.
- Fourteen people were rescued from deserted Fire Island, and a police vehicle was lost in the rescue effort, said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
- Cars were floating along the streets of Long Beach in Nassau County, which was under a mandatory evacuation order. Flooding had consumed several blocks south of the bay, said Long Beach resident Jay Bochner.
- Cuomo said most of the National Guard troops deployed to the area would be stationed on Long Island.
- Nearly 2.2 million customers were without power.
- Authorities in Morris County said two people died after a tree fell on their car Monday evening in Mendham Township.
- Hundreds of people may need to be moved after reports that a levee broke in Moonachie, N.J. early Tuesday. Water as deep as 6 feet has submerged parts of the town.
- Sandy Hook reached a record high watermark of more than 13 feet.
- By mid-afternoon Monday, all three ways into and out of Ocean City were closed, and Atlantic City was cut off, meaning that those who had not left already were likely stuck for the duration of the storm.
- Flooding forced officials to close the Garden State Parkway in both directions south of the Atlantic City Expressway at Exit 38.
- To find shelters by county, go here. Officials say shelters are set up in 18 counties to accommodate roughly 12,000 people and, if needed, the state will mobilize five shelters to house another 5,000 people. For a list of county OEM coordinators, go here.
- Christie said of the state’s 590 school districts statewide, about 350 districts were closed on Monday, and about 250 of those would also be closed on Tuesday. The decisions were being made at the county level, so parents are urged to check locally.
- Tolls were suspended on the northbound Garden State Parkway — from Cape May to the Driscoll Bridge — and on the full length of the westbound Atlantic City Expressway to assist with evacuations. The suspension remains in effect indefinitely, officials said.
- All New Jersey Transit lines remain suspended through Tuesday. PATH Train service is suspended indefinitely, the Port Authority said.
- More than 600,000 were without power.
- Water from Long Island Sound spilled into roadways and towns along the Connecticut shoreline Monday.
- More than 500 people evacuated to shelters from low-lying areas.
- A firefighter in Easton died of cardiac arrest while responding to an emergency call after a tree landed on his vehicle.
- Hundreds of residents in Greenwich did not heed instructions to evacuate.
- A home on Binney Lane in Greenwich caught fire and firefighters could not get there because of flooding and live wires. Four houses were burned or damaged.
- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said 850 National Guardsmen are deployed around the state, and will remain in Connecticut during the storm and its immediate aftermath