Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hundreds of Thousands Without Power As Death Toll From Hurricane Sandy Expected to Rise

Storm surge from Hurricane Sandy inundating the Inlet section of Atlantic City, NY as seen from above Dan Cuellar photo

From Labrador to South Carolina, much of the eastern seaboard is digging out from the havoc wrought by Hurricane Sandy's impact and local officials are starting to assess the damage as the death toll from the storm is expected to climb.

Hurricane Sandy- dubbed Frankenstorm after some meteorological projections put it on a collision course with another winter storm system moving in from the Midwest- made landfall just south of Atlantic City, NJ on October 30 before moving inland into Pennsylvania. Although it lost strength after moving inland, all five boroughs of New York City were hit particularly hard by the outer bands of Sandy.

Sandy's impact on the Big Apple was a double whammy of storm surges coming around the same time as high tide. From lower Manhattan to Queens, streets, tunnels and subway lines were flooded, stranding residents and forcing the NYPD and FDNY to respond to a number of calls by boat. In the Breezy Point section of Queens, as many as 110 homes were lost during a 5-alarm fire since the FDNY's trucks could not navigate the flooded streets to reach the homes until the tide receded.

State Island was the hardest hit out of all the boroughs in New York City. Portions of the island were under an evacuation order, but a number of residents chose to ride it out after Staten Island was left relatively unscathed by Sandy last year. According to officials 15 of the 39 confirmed fatalities in New York City from Sandy were on Staten Island.

Even amid the storm, several New York City hospitals took the unprecedented step of evacuating hundreds of patients as backup generators failed. Bellvue Hospital, which had received patients from elsewhere during the storm, began evacuating about 400 patients to Mt. Sinai. A New York City Health and Hospital Corporation official said that National Guardsmen activated due to Sandy instrumental in bringing in much needed fuel for the generator and assisting staff with transporting patients into waiting ambulances. Some of the patients had to be moved down 17 flights of stairs.

With some subway lines still inundated with saltwater, New York's MTA announced that it will resume limited subway service in Manhattan beginning Friday.

While power had been restored to some 4 million households throughout the region, at least 2.5 million are still without electricity in the New York metropolitan area. Across the Hudson in New Jersey, people have been lining up by the hundreds at gas stations to fill their cars or keep their generators running. Many gas stations are without power and remain closed while the ones that are open sell out quickly and it could be days before they're resupplied. This means that many in the slow-moving gas lines- some nearly two miles in length- will have waited in vain.

Amtrak announced that limited intercity service to Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC will resume out of New York's Penn station beginning Friday.

Downtown Elkins, WV under a blanket of snow from the western portion of Hurricane Sandy. Higher elevations in the Appalachians received anywhere from 2 to 3 feet of snowfall. AP Photo/Vicki Smith

To the west, Sandy dumped several feet of snow in West Virginia and central Pennsylvania. At least 6 people were confirmed killed in West Virginia and an estimated 109,000 customers throughout the state were still without power on Thursday, prompting Gov. Tomblin to seek a federal disaster declaration. At least 36 state highways remained shut down on Thursday due to rising floodwaters, fallen tree limbs and heavy snowfall. The melting snow is also expected to saturate the Potomac watershed in the coming weeks.

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