President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in the New York City area Tuesday as superstorm Sandy pounded the Northeast, killing at least 15, sweeping homes into the ocean, flooding large swaths of coastal areas, crippling public transit, and leaving millions without power.
As the East Coast woke up Tuesday, authorities were struggling to measure the full wrath of the once-in-a-generation hurricane. But as the sun rose, more details of the deaths and devastion were becoming clear:
About 7.8 million homes were without power across many states, The Weather Channel reported. NBC meteorologist Bill Karins warned to “expect the cleanup and power outage restoration to continue right up through Election Day.”
A massive fire destroyed at least 50 homes in Breezy Point, a seaside community in Queens, N.Y., about a 45-minute drive from midtown Manhattan. Firefighters had great difficulty reaching the blaze due to the severe weather, NBCNewYork.com reported. The cause of the fire, which began about 11 p.m. ET Monday, was not immediately known.
Seven subway tunnels under East River in New York City were flooded, leading MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota to declare: “The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night.”
Half of Hoboken, N.J., was under water, preventing emergency crews from reaching areas of the city, according to Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “We want people to be aware that it’s a very dangerous situation,” she told MSNBC.
At least four towns in north New Jersey — Moonachie, Little Ferry, South Hackensack and Hackensack — were submerged by up to 6 feet of water after a levee broke.
New York University Medical Center evacuated 215 patients to other hospitals because its backup generator was out. Critical patients — including infants in neonatal intensive care — were being taken by ambulance to Mount Sinai Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and New York Presbyterian Hospital.
The storm surge destroyed a number of houses on Fire Island, New York, where some people had decided to sit out Sandy, according to a local official.
A crane atop a luxury, high-rise under construction in midtown Manhattan toppled over and was dangling over the side, forcing nearby offices and streets to be evacuated.
More than 13,000 flights were canceled Monday and more than 3,500 called off Tuesday. Rail traffic was also heavily affected, with Amtrak canceling all of its Northeast Corridor service, in addition to some other lines.
Rising waters sparked an alert at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey at 8:45 p.m. ET Monday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a statement. It said the alert was the “second lowest of four NRC action levels” and was “due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant’s water intake structure.” Exelon said in a statement that there was no danger to equipment and no threat to public health or safety.
“I think the losses will be almost incalculable,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told TODAY. A disaster forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion, Reuters said.
Source: NBC News