Quantcast

Mammoth storm Sandy plunges NYC into darkness

Published: Monday, Aug. 3 2015 1:51 a.m. MDT

Vehicles are submerged during a storm surge near the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in New York. Superstorm Sandy zeroed in on New York's waterfront with fierce rain and winds that shuttered most of the nation's largest city Monday, darkened the financial district and left a huge crane hanging off a luxury high-rise.  ( John Minchillo, Associated Press) Vehicles are submerged during a storm surge near the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in New York. Superstorm Sandy zeroed in on New York's waterfront with fierce rain and winds that shuttered most of the nation's largest city Monday, darkened the financial district and left a huge crane hanging off a luxury high-rise. ( John Minchillo, Associated Press)

NEW YORK — Much of New York was plunged into darkness Monday by a superstorm that overflowed the city's historic waterfront, flooded the financial district and subway tunnels and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people.

The city had shut its mass transit system, schools, the stock exchange and Broadway and ordered hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to leave home to get out of the way of the superstorm Sandy as it zeroed in on the nation's largest city.

Residents spent much of the day trying to salvage normal routines, jogging and snapping pictures of the water while officials warned the worst of the storm had not hit.

By evening, a record 13-foot storm surge was threatening Manhattan's southern tip, howling winds had left a crane hanging from a high-rise and utilities deliberately darkened part of downtown Manhattan to avoid storm damage.

Sandbags protect an entrance of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. There had been plans to allow electronic trading to go forward on the New York Stock Exchange but with a storm surge expected to cover parts of lower Manhattan in water, officials decided late Sunday that it was too risky to ask any personnel to staff the exchanges.  (Richard Drew, Associated Press) Sandbags protect an entrance of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. There had been plans to allow electronic trading to go forward on the New York Stock Exchange but with a storm surge expected to cover parts of lower Manhattan in water, officials decided late Sunday that it was too risky to ask any personnel to staff the exchanges. (Richard Drew, Associated Press)

"It's really a complete ghost town now," said Stephen Weisbrot, from a powerless 10th-floor apartment in lower Manhattan.

Water lapped over the seawall in Battery Park City, flooding rail yards, subway tracks, tunnels and roads. Rescue workers floated bright orange rafts down flooded downtown streets, while police officers rolled slowly down the street with loudspeakers telling people to go home.

"Now it's really turning into something," said Brian Damianakes, taking shelter in an ATM vestibule and watching a trash can blow down the street in Battery Park before the storm surge.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the surge was expected to recede by midnight, after exceeding an original expectation of 11 feet.

"We knew that this was going to be a very dangerous storm, and the storm has met our expectations," he said. "This is a once-in-a-long-time storm."

A man crosses the street in front of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. There had been plans to allow electronic trading to go forward on the New York Stock Exchange but with a storm surge expected to cover parts of lower Manhattan in water, officials decided late Sunday that it was too risky to ask any personnel to staff the exchanges.  (Richard Drew, Associated Press) A man crosses the street in front of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. There had been plans to allow electronic trading to go forward on the New York Stock Exchange but with a storm surge expected to cover parts of lower Manhattan in water, officials decided late Sunday that it was too risky to ask any personnel to staff the exchanges. (Richard Drew, Associated Press)

About 670,000 customers were without power late Monday in the city and suburban Westchester County.

"This will be one for the record books," said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at ConEdison. "This will be the largest storm-related outage in our history."

Because a customer is defined as an individual meter, the actual number of people affected is probably much higher.

It could be several days to a week before all residents who lost power during the storm get their lights back, Miksad said.

Shortly after the massive storm made landfall in southern New Jersey, Consolidated Edison cut power deliberately to about 6,500 customers in downtown Manhattan to avert further damage. Soon, huge swaths of the city went dark.

The New York skyline remains dark Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, as seen from the Williamsburg neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York. In an attempt to lessen damage from saltwater to the subway system and the electrical network beneath the city's financial district, New York City's main utility cut power to about 6,500 customers in lower Manhattan. But a far wider swath of the city was hit with blackouts caused by flooding and transformer explosions.  (Frank Franklin II, Associated Press) The New York skyline remains dark Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, as seen from the Williamsburg neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York. In an attempt to lessen damage from saltwater to the subway system and the electrical network beneath the city's financial district, New York City's main utility cut power to about 6,500 customers in lower Manhattan. But a far wider swath of the city was hit with blackouts caused by flooding and transformer explosions. (Frank Franklin II, Associated Press)

New York University's hospital lost backup power, Bloomberg said. Late Monday, an explosion at a substation at 14th Street and FDR Drive contributed to the outages. No one was injured, and ConEd did not know whether the explosion was caused by flooding or by flying debris.

The underground power lines that deliver electricity to much of New York City are much less vulnerable to outages than overhead lines because they aren't exposed to wind and falling trees or branches. But when damaged, they are harder to repair because the equipment is more difficult to access.

If substations are flooded while in operation, the equipment will fail and need to be replaced. If they are shut down in advance, workers can more quickly power up the machinery and restore service after floodwaters have receded.

After a backup generator failed, New York University's Tisch Hospital began evacuating more than 200 patients to other facilities, including 20 babies from neonatal intensive care, some of them on respirators operating on battery power.

Storm surge hits a small tree as winds from Hurricane Sandy reach Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Water from Long Island Sound spilled into roadways and towns along the Connecticut shoreline Monday, the first signs of flooding from a storm that threatens to deliver a devastating surge of seawater. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) (Jessica Hill, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Storm surge hits a small tree as winds from Hurricane Sandy reach Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Water from Long Island Sound spilled into roadways and towns along the Connecticut shoreline Monday, the first signs of flooding from a storm that threatens to deliver a devastating surge of seawater. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) (Jessica Hill, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Without power, the hospital had no elevator service, meaning patients had to be carefully carried down staircases.

Earlier Monday, another 1 million customers lost power in New York City, the northern suburbs and coastal Long Island, where floodwaters swamped cars, downed trees and put neighborhoods under water.

The storm had only killed one New York City resident by Monday night, a man who died when a tree fell on his home in the Flushing section of Queens.

The rains and howling winds, some believed to reach more than 95 mph, left a crane hanging off a luxury high-rise in midtown Manhattan, causing the evacuation of hundreds from a posh hotel and other buildings. Inspectors were climbing 74 flights of stairs to examine the crane hanging from the $1.5 billion building.

The facade of a four-story Manhattan building in the Chelsea neighborhood crumbled and collapsed suddenly, leaving the lights, couches, cabinets and desks inside visible from the street. No one was hurt, although some of the falling debris hit a car.

On coastal Long Island, floodwaters swamped cars, downed trees and put neighborhoods under water as beachfronts and fishing villages bore the brunt of the storm. A police car was lost rescuing 14 people from the popular resort Fire Island.

The city shut all three of its airports, its subways, schools, stock exchanges, Broadway theaters and closed several bridges and tunnels throughout the day as the weather worsened.

Earlier, some New Yorkers defiantly soldiered on, trying to salvage normal routines and refusing to evacuate, as the mayor ordered 375,000 in low-lying areas to do.

Tanja Stewart and her 7-year-old son, Finn, came from their home in Manhattan's TriBeCa neighborhood to admire the white caps on the Hudson, Finn wearing a pair of binoculars around his neck. "I really wanted to see some big waves," he said.

Keith Reilly posed in an Irish soccer jersey for a picture above the rising waters of New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

"This is not so bad right now," said the 25-year-old Reilly.

On Long Island, floodwaters had begun to deluge some low-lying towns. Cars floated along the streets of Long Beach and flooding consumed several blocks south of the bay, residents said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, holding a news conference on Long Island where the lights flickered and his mike went in and out, said most of the National Guards deployed to the New York City area would go to Long Island.

Anoush Vargas drove with her husband, Michael to the famed Jones Beach Monday morning, only to find it covered by water.

"We have no more beach. It's gone," she said, shaking her head as she watched the waves go under the boardwalk.

Associated Press writers Karen Matthews, Colleen Long and Deepti Hajela in New York, Larry Neumeister, Frank Eltman and Meghan Barr on Long Island, and Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Md., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company