New York reels under force of Sandy
on 30/10/2012 15:18:30
As the storm hit land and moved slowly inwards, millions along the US East Coast awoke without power or transport.
New York's financial heart in Lower Manhattan remained closed for a second day and a huge fire which broke out after the storm struck destroyed up to 100 homes in the Queens district.
Across a wide area of the country the storm killed at least 17 people in seven states, cut power to more than six million homes and businesses from Carolina to Ohio, caused scares at two nuclear power plants, and put the presidential campaign on hold a week before Election Day.
The storm reached well into the Midwest: Chicago warned residents to stay away from the Lake Michigan shore as the city prepared for winds of up to 60 mph and waves exceeding 24 feet well into Wednesday.
But New York was the hardest-hit and President Barack Obama declared a major disaster there after flood surges inundated huge areas.
An unprecedented 13-foot urge of seawater - 3 feet above the previous record - gushed into lower Manhattan, flooding tunnels, subway stations and the electrical system that powers Wall Street.
Skyscrapers swayed and creaked in winds that partially toppled a crane 74 stories up, forcing 900 guests to leave a nearby hotel for safety reasons. A hospital had to evacuate 200 patients after losing its backup generator.
The city's three major airports remained closed. Overall, more than 13,500 flights had been cancelled.
In New Jersey, where the storm hit initially, hundreds of people were being evacuated in rising water. Boats were used to try to rescue about 800 people living in a trailer park.
Just before it made landfall at 8pm local time near Atlantic City, forecasters stripped Sandy of hurricane status - but the distinction was purely technical, based on its shape and internal temperature. It still packed hurricane-force wind, and it was still dangerous to the tens of millions in its path.
It was blamed for at least 17 deaths in the US - in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia. Three of the victims were children, one just eight. At least one death was blamed on the storm in Canada.
Curiosity turned to concern overnight as New York residents watched whole neighbourhoods disappear into darkness as power was cut. The World Trade Centre site was a glowing ghost near the tip of Lower Manhattan. Residents reported seeing no lights but the strobes of emergency vehicles and the glimpses of flashlights in nearby apartments. Lobbies were flooded, cars floated and people started to worry about food.
Remnants of the storm were forecast to head across Pennsylvania before taking another sharp turn into western New York state by Wednesday morning.
Although weakening as it goes, it weather experts said.
While the hurricane's 90 mph winds registered as only a Category 1 on a scale of five, it packed "astoundingly low" barometric pressure, giving it terrific energy to push water inland, said Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at MIT.
Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Atlantic Coast.
Even before it made landfall in New Jersey, crashing waves had claimed an old, 50-foot piece of Atlantic City's world-famous Boardwalk.
New York University's Tisch Hospital was forced to evacuate 200 patients after its backup generator failed. Patients - including babies from the neonatal intensive care unit who were on battery-powered respirators - had to be carried down stairs to dozens of ambulances waiting to take them to other hospitals.
Tunnels and bridges to Manhattan were shut down, and some flooded.
A construction crane atop a luxury high-rise overlooking Central Park collapsed in high winds and dangled precariously. Thousands of people were ordered to leave several nearby buildings as a precaution, including 900 guests at the ultra-modern Le Parker Meridien hotel.