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Massive storm Sandy kills at least 8 as it roars ashore in East

October 29, 2012|By Joseph Tanfani, David Zucchino and Scott Gold
  • Bobby Huggins, of Millville, and his cousin, Brian Cuthbert, of Somers Point, see how deep the water is at Bay Avenue and New Jersey Avenue in Somers Point, N.J.
Bobby Huggins, of Millville, and his cousin, Brian Cuthbert, of Somers… (Danny Drake, The Press of…)

NEW YORK – At least eight people were killed by massive storm Sandy as it moved inland after roaring ashore in New Jersey with 80 mph winds Monday night.

Floodwater swamped New York City, pouring into subway tunnels and filling the enormous construction site where the World Trade Center was destroyed in 2001. Much of Lower Manhattan was plunged into darkness after exploding transformers cast a rosy glow against the gloomy sky.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the downed power lines had sparked numerous fires. New York University Hospital, near the East River in Lower Manhattan, lost  backup power and was being evacuated. Bloomberg pleaded with residents to stay off the streets and to avoid calling 911 except in extreme emergencies; 300 calls to 911 were being placed each minute.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Sandy approaches

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

More than 3 million people were without power, including more than a million in New York state.

Sandy's center appeared to pass over land just south of Atlantic City, N.J., shortly after 8 p.m., moving northwest at 23 mph. Although its winds reached hurricane strength, officials called Sandy a post-tropical cyclone. Cyclones, unlike hurricanes, are not defined by wind speed but how they find their energy, officials said.

MAP: Hurricane Sandy barrels in

But the precise location of landfall didn’t matter. Sandy is a freak event — a late-season hurricane hemmed in by weather bands, gobbling up the energy of the Gulf Stream as it raked the coast while growing into a ragged, 1,000-mile-wide storm. As it 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 City 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.

Because of its size, Sandy is more than a coastal event. Officials predicted a blizzard in the West Virginia mountains, 33-foot waves in Lake Michigan and high winds in Indiana. There were formal government warnings of one variety or another in 23 states, and 60 million people — nearly 1 in 5 Americans — could feel the storm before the end of the week.

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

Maryland was getting pounded on both ends of the state. There were blizzard warnings to the west, with some areas expected to receive as much as 2 feet of snow, and flood warnings for the area around Chesapeake Bay, with storm surges as high as 4 feet forecast for Tuesday.

“This is going to be a long night,'' Gov. Martin O'Malley said.

At least eight people have been killed.

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

According to official accounts and media reports, falling trees killed people in the New York City borough of Queens; in the community of Roslyn on Long Island; in Mendham Township, N.J.; and in Mansfield, Conn. In Toronto, a woman was killed by a falling sign, and another woman died in a storm-related car crash in Maryland.

Government officials implored the public to take precautions and heed evacuation orders.

“Don’t be stupid,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told his constituents.

“There will be people who will die,” O’Malley said.

The normally by-the-book National Weather Service delivered this message to those who were resisting calls to evacuate: “THINK ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONES. … THINK ABOUT THE RESCUE/RECOVERY TEAMS WHO WILL RESCUE YOU IF YOU ARE INJURED OR RECOVER YOUR REMAINS IF YOU DO NOT SURVIVE.”

The storm's landfall came with darkness on the coast. The last flickers of daylight had revealed one ominous image after another: firefighters on Long Island wading through 3 feet of water to get to a house engulfed in flames; chunks of the fabled Atlantic City boardwalk, the oldest in America, floating past avenues whose names are on the Monopoly board — Pacific, Ventnor, Atlantic.

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