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Sandy's U.S. death toll reaches 12; two N.Y. hospitals evacuated

October 29, 2012|By Tina Susman, David Zucchino and Scott Gold
  • A worker uses a chainsaw to cut up a tree that knocked over a street light on the 800 block of South George Street in York City, Pa.
A worker uses a chainsaw to cut up a tree that knocked over a street light on… (Jason Plotkin, York Daily…)

NEW YORK — More than 200 patients were being evacuated from two Manhattan hospitals late Monday after backup power systems failed in the wake of Sandy, a massive storm that roared ashore in New Jersey, swamping New York, killing at least 12 people and wreaking havoc across a huge swath of the Northeast.

The backup generator failed at NYU Langone Medical Center,  New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said. Nearly 50 of the patients were described as “critical” and were being taken to the Mt. Sinai Medical Center. A second New York facility, Bellevue Hospital Center, had a similar problem and had to evacuate, the New York Fire Department said.


FOR THE RECORD:
East Coast storm: An article in the Oct. 30 Section A about the storm battering the Eastern Seaboard said that New York's Bellevue Hospital was evacuated when backup power failed. The hospital is operating on backup generators and was not evacuated.

In the evacuated Breezy Point area of Queens, a fire devoured 15 homes, authorities said.

PHOTOS: Sandy hits the East coast


Chaos pervaded a wide area of the East. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission declared an alert at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey after floodwater rose 6 feet above sea level. The plant powers more than half a million homes but was already out of service for a previously scheduled refueling. The water was expected to recede, and the alert was the second-lowest of the NRC’s four “action levels.”

According to official accounts and media reports, falling trees killed an 8-year-old boy in Franklin Township, Penn., and a 62-year-old man in Boytertown, Penn. Authorities said a firefighter in Easton, Conn., was killed in the line of duty, but they did not release details.

MAP: Hurricane Sandy barrels in

Falling trees also killed people in the New York borough of Queens; in the community of Roslyn on Long Island; in Mendham Township and Hawthorne, N.J.; and in Mansfield, Conn. A woman died in a storm-related car crash in Maryland, and in Toronto, a woman was killed by a falling sign.

Earlier Monday in North Carolina, a replica of an iconic British transport vessel sank in churning seas, killing at least one crew member. The HMS Bounty, built for the 1962 Marlon Brando film “Mutiny on the Bounty,” was featured in several other films and welcomed by large crowds at numerous ports. It was en route to St. Petersburg, Fla., when it began to take on water southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C.

One crew member’s body was recovered and 15 others were rescued by Coast Guard helicopters. The 63-year-old captain was still missing.

PHOTOS: Massive U.S. storms -- Frankenstorm, Snowpocalypse and more

The storm's center crashed ashore a little after 8 p.m. EDT, delivering a powerful blow to the most populous region of the United States, paralyzing epicenters of power and commerce and plunging smaller coastal communities into crisis. More than 3 million homes and businesses, including the lower third of Manhattan, were without power.

Shortly before midnight, Sandy was near Philadelphia, moving northwest at 18 mph and carrying sustained winds of 75 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Turbulent days lay ahead: In New Jersey, the Hudson River had invaded Hoboken. In West Virginia and Maryland, a blizzard was underway. In New York, water poured into subway tunnels and the World Trade Center site; exploding transformers lit up the dreary sky and 300 calls to 911 flooded in each minute. Bloomberg said downed power lines had sparked numerous fires.

“These are not games,” Bloomberg said. “Things have gotten tough. But we’re going to get through this together.”

Sandy's center passed over land just south of Atlantic City, N.J., but the precise landfall site didn’t matter. Sandy was a freak event — a late-season hurricane hemmed in by weather bands, gobbling up the energy of the Gulf Stream while growing into a ragged, 1,000-mile-wide storm.

By the time it came ashore, authorities had changed Sandy’s formal description from a hurricane to a “post-tropical cyclone,” a non-tropical weather event. The scientific distinctions seemed lost on the storm. As Sandy grew, so did its power to push a wall of sea water onto shore — with such force that some rivers were expected to run backward.

The result was a plodding ogre of a storm, powerful more because of its scope than its sheer strength. The metropolitan areas of Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York were most immediately in the cross hairs, but Sandy cast tropical-storm-strength winds from the Carolinas to Maine. Hurricane-force winds stretched from Virginia to Massachussets.

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