18 Dead as Sandy Leaves New York Devastated

October 30, 2012

Eighteen people died in yesterday’s Hurricane Sandy as it hit New York City with a vengeance, sending

Flood waters pour into Ground Zero

lashing winds into buildings, downing trees, surging water onto streets, and depositing boats in the middle of roads.

As the city began to slowly recover in the aftermath of the storm’s fury, it was clear that global warming is here to stay, and this storm may have been just the beginning of more devastating storms to come. It was also a serious reminder of how fragile our power, transportation and road systems are.

The worst to hit the city possibly ever said experts and observers, Hurricane Sandy poured the Hudson River into the downtown Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and into the construction area of the Freedom Tower.  The Lower East Side of Manhattan was inundated, with water rising to 4 feet on the streets and in garages. Parts of Alphabet City looked like crime scenes from CSI, with fallen trees on crushed cars every few feet. Cars and sidewalks were completely buried by the rising waters. In the financial district vehicles floated by as tourists snapped photos.

Seven subway tunnels remained under water today, and some bus refueling stations were inundated, said the Mass Transit Agency’s Chairman Joe Lhota in a press conference today.

Breezy Point on the Rockaway Peninsula was a scene of epic destruction, and as Mayor Michael Bloomberg toured it this afternoon, he described an area that had been “absolutely devastated by the wind-fed, fast-moving fires that took out more than 80 homes last night.”

“To describe it is as looking like pictures we’ve seen at the end of World War II is not overstating it,” he added.  Chimneys and foundations were all that was left of many of the houses.

The John F. Kennedy and Fiorella LaGuardia Airports also sustained damage, and remained closed today, as water covered the tarmacs, and airport personnel surveyed the damage.

Power was deliberately cut from 42nd Street down in Manhattan to preserve equipment, and as of this afternoon, more than a million homes and apartments were without electricity. With temperatures beginning to drop into the 30’s in some areas tonight and this week, that means many of them will also be without heat.

In the parks and on the streets, more than 7,000 trees were felled by the winds that traveled at sustained levels of 45 to 50 mph, with gusts up to 90 mph.

Some people described the winds as “terrifying,” as it lashed at their windows and rattled their doors.  In Breezy Point, the area was completely leveled, and chimneys and foundations were all that were left of many houses.

As the city began to recover from the storm, all of the major bridges leading into the city which had been closed as of 7 PM last night began to reopen by 12 noon today.

The Mayor spoke again today at a 5:30 Pm press conference in which he reminded New Yorkers that the parks remain closed, primarily because many of the water logged trees and limbs can still fall, and pose a danger to passerbys.

One jogger was killed by a falling tree in Central Park last night. New Yorkers are urged to report downed trees to 311 (not 911 as originally asked.)

Subways and buses were shut down on Sunday night, averting major damage  to equipment from flooding, said Bloomberg.

Buses started working again this afternoon at 5 PM, with fares waived. Limited bus service will continue in the morning but the subway system is not expected to reopen said Lhota.

But in all, there were major system impacts that would take some time to recover from: the Metro-North Railroad lost power from 59th Street to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson Line and to New Haven on the New Haven Line. The Long Island Rail Road evacuated its West Side Yards and suffered flooding in one East River tunnel. And the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel is flooded from end to end.

The subway system will come back in parts at a time, said Lhota, not promising any timeline for the system

Subways were flooded (Source: Twitpic)

to be fully functional again.

The New York Stock Exchange was closed today, but because the building was not damaged, plans to reopen tomorrow. To accommodate transit needs, the Mayor has asked the Taxi and Limousine Commission to allow taxi drivers to take more than one passenger per trip. But livery and taxi drivers must quote fares upfront, though there is a suggested $10 fee per extra passenger, said Bloomberg.

In total, 6,400 people took refuge in the city’s 76 evacuation centers. The Mayor also urged New Yorkers to apply for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-621-3362.

Despite life coming back to Wall Street, the criminal state courts will be closed on Wednesday, with the exception of arraignments and emergencies.

City employees who were asked to come into work during the storm will be asked to resume work tomorrow. But many people remain out of work, mostly because of transportation issues, or because not all personnel can be expected to come in.

One other fatality, the annual Halloween Parade, which has been postponed until next week.

For those who have nothing to do, the city is looking for volunteers, and they are urged to sign up at  www.facebook.com/nycservice .

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