Hurricane Sandy takes aim at New Jersey

2012-10-30 00:11

Atlantic City - A furious Hurricane Sandy made the westward lurch that forecasters feared and took dead aim at New Jersey and Delaware on Monday, washing away part of the Atlantic City boardwalk, putting the presidential campaign on hold and threatening to cripple Wall Street and the New York subway system with an epic surge of seawater.

Gaining speed and power through the day, the storm knocked out electricity to more than 1 million people and figured to upend life for tens of millions more.

It clobbered the boarded-up big cities of the Northeast corridor, from Washington and Baltimore to Philadelphia, New York and Boston, with stinging rain and gusts of nearly 140km/h.

As it drew near, Sandy moved closer to converging with two cold-weather systems to form a hellish superstorm of snow, rain and wind. Forecasters warned of 6m waves bashing into the Chicago lakefront and up to 1m of snow in West Virginia.

Airlines cancelled more than 12 000 flights, disrupting the plans of travelers all over the world, and storm damage was projected at $10bn to $20bn, meaning it could prove to be one of the costliest natural disasters in US history.

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney canceled their campaign appearances at the very height of the race, with just over a week to go before Election Day.

The president pledged the government's help and made a direct plea from the White House to those in the storm's path.

"When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate," he said. "Don't delay, don't pause, don't question the instructions that are being given, because this is a powerful storm."

Sandy, which killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Atlantic, began to hook left at midday and was about 60km south of Atlantic City by evening, moving west-northwest at almost 50km/h - faster than forecasters expected.

Pete Wilson, who owns an antiques shop in Cape May, New Jersey, at the state's southern tip and directly in Sandy's path, said the water was 15cm above the bottom edge of the door.

He had already taken a truckload of antiques out but was certain he would take a big hit.

"My jewellery cases are going to be toast," he said. "I am not too happy. I am just going to have to wait, and hopefully clean up."

By early evening, the hurricane was expected to barrel into southern New Jersey or Delaware. That would put New York City and Long Island along its dangerous northeastern wall, facing perhaps 11 feet of water.

Off the charts

While the hurricane's 145km/h 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.

"We are looking at the highest storm surges ever recorded" in the Northeast, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director for Weather Underground, a private forecasting service.

"The energy of the storm surge is off the charts, basically."

In New York City, authorities worried that salt water would seep through the boarded-up street grates and through the sandbags placed at subway entrances, crippling the electrical connections needed to operate the subway.

Authorities also feared the surge of seawater could damage the underground electrical and communications lines in lower Manhattan that are vital to the nation's financial centre.

Hours before landfall, there was evidence of the storm's power.

A construction crane atop a luxury high-rise in New York City collapsed in the wind and dangled precariously over the streets. Forecasters said the wind atop the building may have been close to 153km/h.

Off North Carolina, a replica of the 18th-century sailing ship HMS Bounty that was built for the 1962 Marlon Brando movie Mutiny on the Bounty went down in the storm, and 14 crew members were rescued by helicopter from rubber lifeboats bobbing in 4.5m seas. Two other crew members were missing.

They were believed to be wearing survival suits capable of protecting them from cold water for 15 hours.

At Cape May, sloshed over the seawall, and it punched through dunes in other seaside communities. Sandy also put most of Atlantic City under water and tore away an old section of its historic boardwalk.

"When I think about how much water is already in the streets, and how much more is going to come with high tide tonight, this is going to be devastating," said Bob McDevitt, president of the main Atlantic City casino workers union. "I think this is going to be a really bad situation tonight."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, addressing those who had not yet evacuated the state's narrow barrier islands, said in his characteristically blunt way: "This is not a time to be a show-off. This is not a time to be stupid."

In Maryland, at least 30m of a fishing pier at the beach resort of Ocean City was destroyed, and Governor Martin O'Malley said there would be devastating flooding from the swollen Chesapeake Bay.

"There will be people who die and are killed in this storm," he said.

Too late to evacuate

At least half a million people had been ordered to evacuate, including 375 000 from low-lying parts of New York City, and by the afternoon authorities were warning that it could be too late for people who had not left already.

Millions of people stayed home from work. Sheila Gladden evacuated her home in Philadelphia's flood-prone Eastwick neighbourhood, which took on 1.7m of water during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and headed for a hotel.

"I'm not going through this again," she said.

Those who stayed behind had few ways to get out. New York's subways, which serve 5 million people a day, were shut down.

The Holland Tunnel connecting New York to New Jersey was closed, as was a tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Stock and bond markets were closed on Monday and on Tuesday, the first shutdown since the days after the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the first two-day closing of the stock market because of weather since a blizzard in 1888.

The New York Stock Exchange is inside the mandatory evacuation zone in lower Manhattan, blocks from New York Harbour.

If the storm reaches the higher estimate of $20bn in damage, that would put it ahead of Hurricane Irene, which raked the Northeast in August 2011 and caused $16bn in damage.

Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1 200 people, cost $108bn.

  • erica.t.woods1 - 2012-10-30 01:04

    Thats bad I nun of that going happen over here!

  • JohnRambo1723 - 2012-10-30 01:08

    "and storm damage was projected at $10bn to $20bn, meaning it could prove to be one of the costliest natural disasters in US history." More modern storms will always be more costly than their predecessors simply due to the fact that we have more infrastructure now per m^2 than we had before, as well as higher population densities. In the 1800's a storm of the exact same size might have caused only a fraction of the financial damage than the one in today's age. Or the exact same storm could hit Namibia's coast and have absolutely no damage at all. The cost doesn't really illustrate the potential size of the storm as much as it does the density and abundance of infrastructure in the effected area.

      JohnRambo1723 - 2012-10-30 01:09

      In other words, a smaller storm in 20 years from now could turn out to be the next costliest storm in US history...

      gusto79 - 2012-10-30 07:13

      You are 100% right there, but I think that figures is a typo. Katrina cost the USA $145bn. Hurricane Sandy will run into the $100 - $250bn at the magnitude they are projecting. All we can do is hope and pray for them that it dies out soon.

  • johnnie.walker.7503314 - 2012-10-30 02:02

    Gotta love New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's comments in times like these: "If it looks stupid, it is stupid, and you're going to wind up hurting yourselves and others," and also "Don't be stupid; get out". Last year with Hurricane Irene: "Your tan is done - get the hell off the beaches".

      george.thysse - 2012-10-30 06:06

      Let us just pray and hope that loss of life is minimal. Watching the news last night it is amazing that so many people is still in their homes with 1 meter deep water running down the street. Either they did not get the message to "get out" or they are just too "hardegat".

  • mark.schulz.796 - 2012-10-30 02:22

    Just waiting around for some crazy right-wingers to claim that God has finaly taken action to wipe Snookie and co. off the face of the earth.

  • thunder.clap.587 - 2012-10-30 06:17

    The whole city under water.

      allen.smith.16752754 - 2012-10-30 17:16

      One way of taking out the trash

  • ali.asgar.58323 - 2012-10-30 06:18

    Hope the good thing that will come out of this storm will be the weakening of America to launch yet another devastating war on Iran that will most certainly lead to WW3. The more the storm will cost,the less money they will have for war. The more houses they will have to rebuilt,the less houses they will be able to destroy in other countries. Its time to spend American Taxpayer money on its own people and not on Israel building houses for fanatical israeli settlers on OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN LAND . Perhaps the water will wake the American masses up to the crimes their administration is committing all over the world or perhaps they will continue to have the American dream albeit a wet one.

  • Abdul Motala - 2012-10-30 06:32

    who is behind sandy who is prime suspect

      andrez.kolesky - 2012-10-30 07:20

      I believe that Sandy is an international conspiracy perpetrated by evil roofing contractors

  • Christiaan Apollis - 2012-10-30 06:43

    Please stay on your knees for all of those people.This is all what we can do and be gratefull to God.Are we south africans ready for something like this???

  • john.omar.161 - 2012-10-30 06:58

    Sandy...and Al Qaeeda terrorist???

  • samantha.alldred - 2012-10-30 09:02

    It is so sad that so many people and cities are affected by this natural disaster. I do agree with Gusto79 that is is going to cost more that Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Sandy hasn't killed as many as Katria but the damage on the buildings and homes are much much worse though if you think bout it logically. I think people get stupid and reckless in this situation due to the fact they start pancing. Okay I would also start freaking out but like Obama said "When you are told to evacuate, you evacuate do not stop and ask questions just go according to the instructions given to you." But that is how it always goes down. When people get warned they never bladly well listen and when the disaster has hit then they start acting but by then its too late. Then they still have the cheek to turn around and say why didn't you warn us. Clearly it happened in this situation. Im not judging anybody and yes i would also start freaking out if it was coming toward us but rather listen to the authorities cos in the end it could save your life.

      robin.stobbs.9 - 2012-10-30 10:23

      Why do so many bottom feeders feel it necessary to bring in issues of race, politics or religion when commenting on news items? Right now there are people on the American East coast battling to save their lives, their livelihood and their possessions. It matters not that they happen to live in America (or Outer Mongolia or the Moon), they are people like you and me, like us, who have been forced into a conflict with the forces of nature – they deserve and need kind words, support and assistance, not ridicule or contempt. These are ordinary people who can no more dictate how their country is run than we can dictate how SA is (mis)managed. I salute the brave people of search and rescue – imagine keeping a helicopter hovering over, and rescuing, the survivors of the HMS Bounty in those terrible winds. And I salute the brave captain of this ship who, it seems, gave his life in saving his crew. RIP all the poor souls who have been beaten by nature, and condolences to their friends and family. Storm Sandy is a natural event which has occurred before and will happen again. It is not the result of some perceived ‘climate change’, it is not retribution from some angry god, nor is it the result of human activity. We need to be very thankful that South Africa is not subject to the vicious storms that so often lash the American east coast.

  • amelia.maritz.9 - 2012-10-30 09:27

    Let's all pray that God will help these people.

  • thabo.lenong - 2012-10-30 12:30

    Im praying for my friends and everyone on the East Coast hope everyone is safe. Jersey City New Jersey used to be my hometown years ago God bless America !

  • sandy.kroukamp - 2012-10-30 13:00

    I cant believe some of you who commenting crap on America at time like this....when they are all in a turmoil............

      blessing.foromozo - 2012-10-31 21:12

      They are still human beings like all of us!!No one asks for such in their lifetime,so please pray for them that they overcome this tragedy,,remember there are kids out there who have no idea of whats happening,only fear surrounds them.God Help them all.-B

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