• Sandy death toll rises to 33


    NEW YORK - Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke Tuesday without power, and an eerily quiet New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air as superstorm Sandy steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain.

    The full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore Monday night with hurricane force, was unclear. Police and fire officials, some with their own departments flooded, fanned out to rescue hundreds.

    "We are in the midst of urban search and rescue. Our teams are moving as fast as they can," Gov. Chris Christie said. "The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we've ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point."





    The death toll from Sandy in the U.S. climbed to 23, including 15 in New York, four in Pennsylvania and three in New Jersey, with many of the victims killed by falling trees. Sandy also killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Eastern Seaboard.

    At least 7.4 million people across the East were without electricity. Airlines canceled more than 12,000 flights.

    Lower Manhattan, which includes Wall Street, was among the hardest-hit areas after the storm sent a nearly 14-foot surge of seawater, a record, coursing over its seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets.

    Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Center, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather in more than a century.

    A huge fire destroyed as many as 100 houses in a flooded beachfront neighborhood in Queens on Tuesday, forcing firefighters to undertake daring rescues. Three people were injured.

    A downtown hospital, New York University's Tisch, evacuated 200 patients after its backup generator failed. About 20 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit were carried down staircases and on battery-powered respirators.

    And a construction crane that collapsed in the high winds on Monday still dangled precariously 74 floors above the streets of midtown Manhattan. And on Staten Island, a tanker ship wound up beached on the shore.

    With water standing in two major commuter tunnels and seven subway tunnels under the East River, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was unclear when the nation's largest transit system would be rolling again. It shut down Sunday night ahead of the storm.

    Joseph Lhota, chairman of the regional Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the damage was the worst in the 108-year history of the New York subway.

    The saltwater surge inundated subway signals, switches and electrified third rails and covered tracks with sludge. Workers began pumping the water out and will ultimately have to walk all of the hundreds of miles of track to inspect it.

    Millions of more fortunate New Yorkers surveyed damage as dawn broke, their city brought to an extraordinary standstill.

    "Oh, Jesus. Oh, no," Faye Schwartz said she looked over damage in neighborhood in Brooklyn, where cars were scattered like leaves.

    Reggie Thomas, a maintenance supervisor at a prison near the overflowing Hudson River, emerged from an overnight shift there, a toothbrush in his front pocket, to find his Honda with its windows down and a foot of water inside. The windows automatically go down when the car is submerged to free drivers.

    "It's totaled," Thomas said with a shrug. "You would have needed a boat last night."

    Besides the subway and the stock exchange, most major tunnels and bridges in New York were closed, as were schools, Broadway theaters and the metropolitan area's three main airports, LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark.

    "This will be one for the record books," said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Consolidated Edison, which had more than 670,000 customers without power in and around New York City.

    In New Jersey, a huge swell of water swept over the small town of Moonachie, near the Hackensack River, and authorities struggled to rescue about 800 people, some of them living in a trailer park.

    And in neighboring Little Ferry, water suddenly started gushing out of storm drains overnight, submerging a road under 4 feet of water and swamping houses.

    Police and fire officials used boats and trucks to reach the stranded.

    "I looked out and the next thing you know, the water just came up through the grates. It came up so quickly you couldn't do anything about it. If you wanted to move your car to higher ground you didn't have enough time," said Little Ferry resident Leo Quigley, who with his wife was taken to higher ground by boat.

    Jersey City was closed to cars because traffic lights were out, and Hoboken, just over the Hudson River from Manhattan, dealt with major flooding. In Atlantic City, most of the world-famous boardwalk was intact, but pieces washed away Monday night.

    Remnants of the hurricane were forecast to head across Pennsylvania before taking another sharp turn into western New York by Wednesday morning. Although weakening as it goes, the storm will continue to bring heavy rain and flooding, said Daniel Brown of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

    As Hurricane Sandy closed in on the Northeast, it converged with a cold-weather system that turned it into a monstrous hybrid of rain, high wind — and even snow in West Virginia and other mountainous areas inland.

    In a measure of how big the storm was, high winds spinning off the edge of Sandy clobbered the Cleveland area early Tuesday, uprooting trees, cutting power to hundreds of thousands, closing schools and flooding major roads along Lake Erie.

    Hundreds of miles from the storm's center, gusts topping 60 mph prompted officials to close the port of Portland, Maine, and scared away several cruise ships.

    Just before it made landfall at 8 p.m. near Atlantic City, N.J., forecasters stripped Sandy of hurricane status, but the distinction was purely technical, based on its shape and internal temperature.

    While the hurricane's 80 mph winds registered as only a Category 1 on a scale of five, it packed the lowest barometric pressure on record in the Northeast, giving it terrific energy to push water inland.

    President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in the city and Long Island. The storm brought the presidential campaign to a halt with a week to go before Election Day.

    In New York, the construction crane atop a 1,000-foot, $1.5 billion luxury high-rise in midtown Manhattan dangled for a second day while authorities tried to figure out how to secure it. Thousands were ordered to leave nearby buildings as a precaution, including 900 guests at the ultramodern Le Parker Meridien hotel.

    Alice Goldberg, 15, a tourist from Paris, was watching television in the hotel — whose slogan is "Uptown, Not Uptight" — when a voice came over the loudspeaker and told everyone to leave.

    "They said to take only what we needed, and leave the rest, because we'll come back in two or three days," she said as she and hundreds of others gathered in the luggage-strewn marble lobby. "I hope so."

    An explosion Monday night at a substation for Consolidated Edison, the main utility service New York City, knocked out power to about 310,000 customers in Manhattan.

    "It sounded like the Fourth of July," Stephen Weisbrot said from his 10th-floor apartment.

    In Baltimore, fire officials said four unoccupied rowhouses collapsed in the storm, sending debris into the street but causing no injuries. A blizzard in western Maryland caused a pileup of tractor-trailers that blocked part of Interstate 68 on slippery Big Savage Mountain.

    "It's like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs up here," said Bill Wiltson, a Maryland State Police dispatcher.

    Channel 2’s Tom Jones was by the Delaware River in Philadelphia, where the eye of the storm was nearby.

    “Just a few minutes ago, I had to hold on to a ‘Dead End’ sign just so I wouldn’t get blown away,” Jones said.

    He was able to make it there before thousands of flights were canceled. Delta canceled 2,500 flights to and from the mid-Atlantic and Northeast and Airtran cancelled more than 250 flights, some through Tuesday and Wednesday. At Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, general manager Louis Miller told Channel 2’s Linda Stouffer the biggest problem is not stranded passengers but stranded planes. He said they closed taxi-ways to accommodate the parked planes.

    “They have to move the plane to a remote location because another plane is going to fly to Los Angeles or somewhere else out of that gate, it's just managing the air traffic on the airfield,” he said.

    Sandy is also being blamed for fueling strong wind gusts in parts of Georgia that knocked out power for thousands of people. A wind advisory was set to last until 8 a.m. Tuesday for 40 mph gusts in Atlanta, and up to 50 mph gusts in the north Georgia Mountains.

    Channel 2’s Craig Lucie went to Helen, where neighbors said gusts were knocking out power lines. City officials said they were dealing with multiple downed trees and five blown power transformers.

    “I expect we’re going to see a good deal more of that in the next 24 to 36 hours, and those winds blowing in cold air,” Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said.

    Meteorologist David Chandley took Severe Weather Chaser 2 to Yancey County, N.C., where a winter blast was under way. Falling temperatures and more snow were expected to bring power outages and a Snow Day for school children Tuesday.


    Georgia Power was also heading northbound, with 340 employees in two different waves to assist residents in Maryland.  Half the crews left Sunday and are positioned in Richmond, Virginia.  The other left around 6:00am Monday and are positioning themselves in Raleigh, N.C.

    Locally, Georgia Power crews have been out handling spotty outages around north Georgia as gusty winds knock down trees onto power lines.  A company spokesperson said they have enough crews to handle the local outages.

    "Our customers here remain our number one priority," said Georgia Power spokesman Brian Green.  "We'll always make sure that we're covered here in the state before we send crews out to support any other state's restoration efforts."

    While Sandy will only skirt the region controlled by the FEMA regional headquarters in Atlanta, local teams have headed north to assist with the crisis.

    "We currently have an Incident Management Assistance Team in New Hampshire," said FEMA Region Four Deputy Director Lora Goza. "They'll provide the same level of detail and resource and response that they would do here if the impact was here in region four."

    Goza said they also have crews on the ground in North Carolina assisting with disaster response there.


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