Sandy, the Atlantic superstorm, churned across Pennsylvania after blacking out much of southern Manhattan and leaving a trail of flooding, death and destruction along the East Coast.
The storm came ashore in southern New Jersey at 8 p.m. New York time yesterday and drove floodwaters to life-threatening levels in a region with 60 million residents. It temporarily stopped the U.S. presidential race eight days before Election Day and led President Barack Obama to declare New York and New Jersey as disaster regions eligible for federal relief. Government offices and U.S. stock markets were shut for a second day amid damage that may total billions of dollars.
“Now she’s overland, she’s lost her power source and is diminishing in strength,” Dan Williams, an Exeter, U.K.-based spokesman for the Met Office, said today by phone. “The pressure in the center is not as low as before. She’s forecast to make a turn to the north and by Friday will still be over parts of Canada on its current track.”
Sandy, now termed a post-tropical cyclone packing maximum sustained winds of 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour, down from 75 mph earlier, was centered about 90 miles west of Philadelphia at 5 a.m. local time, according to the Maryland-based Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. The storm was moving west-northwest at 15 mph, and was expected to weaken steadily over the next two days and move north into western New York state later today. The cyclone will reach Canada tomorrow.
At least 3.6 million homes and businesses without power yesterday, the U.S. Energy Department said. Shuttered oil refineries boosted gasoline futures prices
Power was lost in Manhattan “river to river,” south of 35th Street, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press briefing. Some of the blackout was deliberate, as Consolidated Edison Co. (ED) shut off electricity to protect its underground equipment from potential damage, said Chris Olert, a spokesman for the company.
A flood gauge in New York City’s Battery Park, at the southernmost end of Manhattan, registered 13.46 feet as of 8:30 p.m. The National Weather Service said the modern record was 10.02 feet in September 1960 during Hurricane Donna.
A fire in Breezy Point in the New York City borough of Queens has about 198 firefighters working to contain a blaze that has already destroyed at least 50 homes and left two people with minor injuries, a New York Fire Department official said today. The department also posted details on the fire on the social media site Twitter. Separately, a man was killed in the borough by a falling tree, emergency officials said.
Sixteen deaths were reported in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, according to the Associated Press. Some of the victims were killed by falling trees; at least one death was attributed to the storm in Canada. The storm was blamed for 69 deaths in the Caribbean, the AP said.
Sandy may cause as much as $20 billion in economic damage and losses, according to Eqecat Inc., a risk-management company in Oakland, California.
Insured losses may exceed $6 billion in the U.S., led by costs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and New York, according to estimates from Kinetic Analysis Corp. compiled by Bloomberg. As many as 10 million people may lose power, according to Seth Guikema, a Johns Hopkins University engineer.
Counting yesterday’s disruptions, airlines are flying about 12,500 fewer trips than they had planned in the 48 hours ending today, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based tracking company, and mass transit stopped in New York, parts of New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.
All U.S. equity markets, which were closed yesterday, will be shut again today, the first shutdown for consecutive days due to weather since 1888. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association said bond trading would be suspended today.
Crude oil fell to a three-month low yesterday while gasoline prices rose as East Coast refineries curbed operations. Both futures contracts advanced in electronic trading today.
Phillips 66 (PSX), NuStar Energy LP (NS) and Hess Corp. (HES) shut or reduced output at three New Jersey refineries ahead of the storm’s landfall. At least three other plants were running at reduced rates.
In New York, Mayor Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, issued evacuation orders for 375,000 people and opened 76 shelters. The Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey was the only major crossing in and out of Manhattan by about 8:30 p.m. yesterday. The Brooklyn-Battery and Holland tunnels shut because of flood risks, and high winds closed the George Washington and Verrazano bridges.
On 57th Street, a crane on a 90-story residential building under construction partially collapsed and was dangling over the street. No injuries were reported.
With Lower Manhattan almost a ghost town for a second day, seawater cascaded into the still-gaping construction pit at the World Trade Center, the AP reported today.
Off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, one person was killed and another was missing after the crew of the HMS Bounty, a replica of the vessel that was the scene of a 1789 mutiny, abandoned ship when it capsized in 18-foot seas.
In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie ordered evacuations of coastal barrier islands and casinos in Atlantic City, which was flooded. A large number of people were stranded as water levels rose. Christie said further evacuations from Atlantic City and the barrier island would be impossible until daylight.
“For those of you who are on the barrier islands who decided it was better idea to wait this out than to evacuate, and for those elected officials who decided to ignore my admonition, this is now your responsibility,” Christie said at a 5:35 p.m. news briefing. “Evacuations are no longer possible.”
A 21-member search-and-rescue team will be sent to Atlantic City starting at daybreak today. Another team with 40 members and 10 boats, based in Lakehurst, will be dispatched to other barrier islands. About 130 miles of the 172-mile Garden State Parkway were closed.
In Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy appealed to residents near the coast and low-lying areas to get to higher ground. “Thousands of people are stranded,” he said at a news briefing.
In New London, on Long Island Sound, Mayor Daryl Finizio told WFSB television that Sandy was worse than the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. That storm, which produced tides of as much as 25 feet, killed 564, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The storm is also affecting the Nov. 6 elections. Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney canceled appearances.
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