News Column

Storms Slam US, Leaving 16 Dead and Millions in the Dark

October 30, 2012

Floods, fires and high winds caused by one of the biggest storms to ever hit the United States continued to batter the north-east on Tuesday, killing at least 16 people and leaving 6.5 million without electricity.

Sandy, which was downgraded from a hurricane to post-tropical cyclone Monday night, is blamed for deaths in New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Canada. Many were caused by falling trees, with electrocution and flying debris also responsible.

The storm was centered 145 kilometers west of Philadelphia, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center in its 5 am (0900 GMT) advisory. It was packing maximum sustained winds of 105 kilometers per hour (kph), down from 135 kph, and is moving north-west at 25 kph.

Strong winds and high water levels were wreaking havoc from Virginia northward through New England, with coastal areas of New Jersey and New York especially hard hit.

Much of Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Hurricane Sandy made landfall, was underwater. Large chunks of its famed boardwalk floated in the city's flooded streets.

Rising water caused a levee to break in Moonachie, New Jersey, prompting a rescue operation of nearby residents, according to state police. There were reports of people stranded on rooftops waiting to be evacuated.

Parts of New Jersey have received nearly 30 centimeters of rainfall since the storm's arrival on Monday.

Hundreds of firefighters were at the scene of a massive blaze in Queens, the easternmost borough of New York City. The New York Fire Department said that more than 50 homes had been destroyed in an area that had been flooded. Several other small fires sparked by Sandy were reported across the city.

Wind gusts in New York City reached 120 kph. A collapsed construction crane dangled beside an unfinished 74-story luxury skyscraper, and the facade fell from an older tenement building.

Nearly 14,000 flights have been cancelled, subways and buses halted in major cities along the east coast and the federal government shut down in Washington. The US stock market will remain closed for a second day on Tuesday, the market's first two-day weather postponement since 1888.

Around 6.5 million households from North Carolina to Massachusetts were without power, news broadcaster CNN said.

"This is the largest storm-related outage in our history," said John Miksad, a vice president at New York and Connecticut utility Con Edison.

New York University's Langone Medical Center in Manhattan had to evacuate more than 200 patients - including infants and adults in critical condition - to other hospitals in the city after a backup generator failed and electricity was cut to the facility.

Sandy assailed New York with 4-meter record-breaking storm surges, flooding coastal areas and the subway system.

The Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) said it was the worst storm in the 108-year history of New York's rail system, cutting power to wide swaths of the transport network and inundating seven subway tunnels under the East River with water.

New York authorities had shut down the tunnels that link the city to New Jersey on Monday. No subways, trains or buses were operating, and Grand Central and Penn stations, two major transportation hubs used daily by millions of people, were closed.

Voluntary evacuations were ordered ahead of the storm for low-lying areas near the coast, affecting 375,000 people in the city.

As forecast, the hurricane combined with a cold front and formed what was being called a Frankenstorm ahead of Halloween on Wednesday.

The National Hurrican Center said the mountains of West Virginia could experience blizzard conditions, with some areas seeing up to 100 centimeters of snow by Wednesday night.

The storm is expected to steadily weaken over the next 48 hours, moving into western New York state on Tuesday and on into Canada on Wednesday.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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