Power remained out for roughly six million people, including a large swathe of Manhattan in New York. Debris-littered streets remained mostly deserted, bridges stayed closed and seven subway tunnels under the East River remained flooded.
The storm was the most destructive in the 108-year history of New York City’s subway system, said Joseph J Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, while refusing to provide a timetable for restoring the transit service.
At least 16 deaths — including seven in the New York region — were tied to the storm, which also toppled trees and sparked fires.
President Obama, who returned to the White House from his campaign tour and met top advisers, said Monday that the storm would disrupt the rhythms of daily life. “Transportation is going to be tied up for a long time,” he said, adding that besides flooding, there would probably be widespread power failures. While utility companies had lined up crews to begin making repairs, it could be slow going, he cautioned.
“The fact is, a lot of these emergency crews are not going to get into position to start restoring power until some of these winds die down,” the President said. “That may take several days.”
It was around 8 pm Monday (US east coast time) that hurricane-force winds hit mainland, extending up to 175 miles from the centre of the storm; tropical-storm-force winds spread out 485 miles from the centre. Forecasters said tropical-storm-force winds could stretch all the way north to Canada and all the way west to the Great Lakes. Heavy snow was expected in some states.
Businesses and schools were closed; roads were closed; and more than 13,000 flights were cancelled. Subways were shut down from Boston to Washington, as were Amtrak and the commuter rail lines. In many places, the storm remade the landscape. In Montauk, at the end of Long Island, a 50-seat restaurant broke in half. Half of the building floated away and broke into pieces on the beach. Late Monday night, Mayor Michael R Bloomberg said cabs had been instructed to get off New York City roads.
“It’s the worst I’ve seen,” said David Arnold, watching the storm from his longtime home in Long Branch, New Jersey. “The ocean is in the road, there are trees down everywhere. I’ve never seen it this bad.”
In Breezy Point on the Rockaways, a blaze destroyed at least 50 tightly-packed homes. The surging water also caused extensive complications at NYU Langone Medical Center when a backup power system failed, forcing the evacuation of patients to other facilities. As the storm lashed New York, waves topped the sea wall in the financial district of Manhattan, sending cars floating down streets. A construction crane atop one of the tallest buildings in the city came loose and dangled 80 stories over West 57th Street, across the street from Carnegie Hall.
New York Governor Andrew M Cuomo’s office said late Monday night that at least five deaths were attributable to the storm in the state — including two boys aged 11 and 13.
A replica of the H M S Bounty, a tall ship built for the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty starring Marlon Brando and used in the recent Pirates of the Caribbean series, sank off the North Carolina coast. The Coast Guard said the 180-foot ship went down after being battered by 18-foot-high seas and thrashed by 40-mph winds. The body of one crew member was recovered while another remained missing.
“The most important thing right now is for people to use common sense,” Governor Jack Markell said. “We didn’t want people out on the road going to work and not being able to get home again.”
As of 1.30 am Tuesday, 6.34 lakh customers in New York City and Westchester County were without power, while more than two million customers were without power in New Jersey. In Connecticut, nearly 500,000 people remained powerless.
“The days ahead are going to be very difficult,” Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland said. “There will be people who die and are killed in this storm.”
Nine hours after making landfall, the storm — already downgraded from Hurricane Sandy to a post-tropical cyclone — finally weakened as it passed west across southern Pennsylvania. Expected to turn north and head for Canada, it still packed maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
JAMES BARRON & J DAVID GOODMAN