Around 6.5 million people are without power
At least 16 people have been reported killed and 6.5 million people are without power as Hurricane Sandy crashes into the northwestern United States. The deaths were mostly caused by falling trees. Flood waters keep rising in coastal areas, and there are blizzard warnings on higher ground. New York City is without power after a substation exploded and power may not return for a week. Road tunnels and seven tunnels of the city subway system under the East River are flooded. A record surge of seawater resulted in flooding of 1.5 metres in some places, including lower Manhatten.
“The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night,” New York City’s transport director Joseph Lhota said.
Wind speeds reached more than 80mph (130km/h). Before the storm hit, more than a million people were ordered to evacuate across 12 states. The gambling resort of Atlantic City was hit by some of the strongest winds and floodwaters as the eye of the storm passed overhead.
Exelon Corp declared an “alert” at its New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power plant due to a record storm surge, warning that a further rise in water levels could force operators to use emergency water supplies to cool used uranium fuel rods.
Already fighting tough operational challenges, airline companies are also taking a beating from Sandy. At least 14,000 flights have been cancelled across the US for Monday and Tuesday. International flights are also cancelled, leaving travellers stranded overseas until conditions clear. The stormy conditions could last until Thursday. The airports JFK, LaGuardia and Newark sustained flooding to runways and it is not clear when they will reopen. Other airports in the region, for example at Washington, Boston and Philadelphia, may reopen for some flights later on Tuesday. Airlines are extending to Thursday the period where passengers can re-book tickets.
The full extent of the damage to New York and the rest of the northwest continues to be assessed.
Wire services / TTG Nordic
[photo courtesy NASA]