WASHINGTON—Hurricane Sandy stormed across the East Coast of the United States this week leaving a water logged trail of destruction. The aftermath will test agencies struggling to protect people and maintain services across the Eastern Seaboard, from North Carolina to Maine.
Sandy a Category 1 hurricane that moved north from the Bahamas over the weekend turned into a ferocious storm as it crossed the coast near Atlantic City, N.J., Monday night. Packing wind gusts of up to 90 mph, the storm created record surges of over 13 feet in worst hit areas, including New York Harbor.
To date, 39 people have died as a result of the storm that drove people from their homes as it knocked down trees and scaffolding, and flooded low-lying areas along America’s most populous seaboard.
Transport systems, government offices, and thousands of service providers were forced out of action for two days from Washington, D.C., to New York. Utility companies as far north as Chicago have drawn on extra teams from around the country to help restore power.
Virginia alone expected over a million people to lose power, according to Dominion Virginia Power, and national estimates peaked at 10 million without power over affected areas.
Meteorologist Jared Klein, speaking from the National Weather Service in Baltimore, said colleagues who have been working with the service for 20 and 30 years had never seen anything like Sandy.
“There have been stronger winds in other storms before, and there have been heavier winds in other storms before, but in terms of how large the storm itself was, how low the pressure was .. people haven’t seen a storm like this,” Klein said.
Klein said the storm, which moved slowly up the coast as it headed northeast, dropped nearly 2 feet of snow on the high mountain areas of Virginia and Maryland. Working further inland the storm’s wind and rains subsided, he said, but the devastation is widespread.
Klein noted that New Jersey and New York experienced stronger storm surges and flooding than regions in the south due to the counterclockwise spin on the northern face of the hurricane as it crossed the coast.
“We had winds coming out of the Chesapeake Bay whereas they were north of the storm so they had winds coming onshore and water piling up there,” he said.
“If you’ve got a neighbor nearby, you’re not sure how they’re handling a power outage, flooding … go over, visit them, knock on their door, make sure that they’re doing okay. That can make a big difference.”
– President Barack Obama
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Hurricane Sandy had hit the state hard.
“The devastation is unprecedented, like nothing we’ve ever seen reported before,” he said at a morning press conference Tuesday.
Atlantic City, a coastal casino town right in the path of the storm, was one of the areas most impacted.
Approximately 70 to 80 percent of the city was underwater Tuesday morning and some houses in the region were literally moved off their blocks. “I didn’t expect it to be that bad. I didn’t expect we would see homes off of their foundations and in the middle of state highways,” Christie said.
New York City was also heavily impacted, with low-lying areas flooded, including Wall Street and the new World Trade Center (WTC).
“We had to run out of there last night,” a construction worker at the WTC site said. “It’s all underwater, second level, all the way up.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg described Sandy as a “a storm of unprecedented proportions.”
The MTA subway and other transport systems remained closed Tuesday. According to New York power company Consolidated Edison, around 680,000 customers were without power in the New York City region.
Bloomberg said the two biggest challenges facing the city were restoring the transit system and power.
“Our administration will move heaven and earth to help MTA and Con Ed,” Bloomberg said at a press conference Oct. 30.
‘Just a Little Water’
For Lower Manhattan resident Debbie Lougee, the storm was just another part of living in the Big Apple, her building still connected to gas and water but without power.
“We’re 9/11 survivors, so this is just a little water,” she said with a hint of New York humor.
Describing the flooded Brooklyn Battery Tunnel she said, “It was like a waterfall. … You could have done white water rafting in there.”
Sandy was not as intense as the early derecho storms that wiped out power for thousands of people for days in June, but it was wide and slow moving.
All transport systems and services remained closed in Washington, D.C., as of Tuesday. In Maryland over 250,000 were without power, according to Ed McDonough, spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
There had been three deaths in the state as a result of Sandy. Roads were closed due to snow in the far western mountain regions, and considerable flooding had occurred on the coast.
“Tidal flooding: the city of Crisfield on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland has standing water over almost the entire city,” he said in an email.
President Obama canceled campaign events in Colorado and Wisconsin Monday and Tuesday and Ohio on Wednesday to “ensure that all available federal resources continue to be provided to support ongoing state and local recovery efforts,” according to a White House representative.
Speaking at a meeting with Red Cross personnel in D.C. Tuesday afternoon Obama said he had talked to state governors early in the day and commended them and local state and federal agencies for their coordination.
“Sadly, we are getting more experience with these kinds of big impact storms along the East Coast, and the preparation shows,” he said.
The president encouraged people to look out for each other, saying the extent of the damage along the Eastern Seaboard was great and in many cases first responders were swamped.
“If you’ve got a neighbor nearby, you’re not sure how they’re handling a power outage, flooding … go over, visit them, knock on their door, make sure that they’re doing okay. That can make a big difference,” Obama said.
Kristen Meriwether, Zachary Stieber ,and Amelia Pang contributed to this report.
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