The Two-Way
2:54 am
Wed October 31, 2012

Latest On Sandy: Death Toll Rises, Wait For 'Normal' Life Continues

Originally published on Wed October 31, 2012 4:30 pm

Across New York City, much of New Jersey and other places hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, power remains out today and the long, hard process of digging through debris and starting to rebuild continues.

As NPR's Robert Smith said on Morning Edition, in lower Manhattan (and many other places, unfortunately) all people can do is wait — for power, for mass transit, for life to get back to something near normal.

We'll be updating this post with the latest news about the storm and its aftereffects. If you just want to see our latest recap of the top developments, click here.

Update at 9:30 p.m. ET. Diesel Spill Across From Staten Island:

Crews are working to contain some 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaking into the waterway between New Jersey and Staten Island, NPR's Joel Rose tells our Newscast desk. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection tells Rose the fuel leaked out of a Motiva oil storage tank in the Arthur Kill waterway. Rose reports:

"A DEP spokesman says the rupture occurred when the tank was lifted up by storm surge from Sandy. Workers have deployed more than 10,000 feet of boom in an effort to contain the spill.

"This isn't the first time oil has spilled into the Arthur Kill. It's nicknamed the chemical coast because it's lined with refineries and other heavy industry. The DEP says this is 'the only major spill' to result from Sandy. And that given the unprecedented storm surge, it could have been worse."

Update at 5:52 p.m. ET. Where Things Stand:

Here's your evening recap of where the story is:

— Deaths: According to The Associated Press, at least 66 deaths can be attributed to the storm since it hit the East Coast over the weekend — blasting much of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and southern New England before moving on to the Great Lakes and western New York State. Last evening, the death toll stood at 48.

Before Sandy hit the U.S, the storm was been blamed for at least 69 deaths when it rumbled through the Caribbean. That total, according the AP, has ticked up to 71.

— Power Outages: The power situation is still bad, but it's getting better. Our library has been adding up the numbers utility by utility and currently there are 4.99 million customers without power. The latest update from the Department of Energy had that number at 6.1 million at 2 p.m. ET.

New York and New Jersey are the hardest hit with 2.2 million and 2.7 million customers without power respectively.

— Presidential Visit: President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took an aerial tour of the disaster area on Marine One.

Obama pledged the federal government's full service to get New Jersey back on its feet.

— New York Slammed: Not only was the city drenched and shut down by rising waters — authorities also had to deal with a massive fire in Queens, "widespread flooding, power and transportation outages." The city's subway system has experienced some of the worst damage in its 108-year history and may not reopen for several days.

We've added a separate post about the devastation in Breezy Point, Queens.

— Transportation: Things are slowly getting better, but are no where near normal. New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark's Liberty International Airport and New York LaGuardia will have "limited service" today. (More information here.)

The good news: Amtrak says it will have some service from Newark, N.J., to points south and from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pa. It hopes to restore service into into New York City by Nov. 2.

Also in New York, some subway lines will open tomorrow and some commuter trains will start running today.

— Schools And Stocks: Schools are reopening across much of the region from Virginia north (but not in New York City, where they will remain closed through the week). The financial markets in New York will also be open today.

— The Blizzard: Sandy also brought a massive amount of snow to higher elevations in West Virginia and surrounding states. About two feet of snow fell in some places and at one point about 200,000 customers were without power in West Virgina, where the temperatures are well below freezing. Many still don't have electricity. Shelters are open across the state.

— And The Forecast? The National Weather Service says that Sandy has weakened and there are now several centers of circulation. However:

"FRESHWATER FLOOD WATERS ORIGINATING IN THE UPPER POTOMAC FROM THE RAINS OF SANDY WILL CONTINUE TO IMPACT THE TIDAL POTOMAC...RESULTING IN SIGNIFICANT FLOODING THROUGH FRIDAY AFTERNOON.

"DUE TO PERSISTENT NORTHERLY WINDS AND LARGE FETCH...COASTAL FLOODING ALONG PORTIONS OF THE GREAT LAKES IS STILL POSSIBLE."

Update at 4:58 p.m. ET. Obama: 'We Are Here For You':

"We are here for you," President Obama said during a news conference with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Obama said that the federal government would work hand-in-hand with state and local authorities to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.

The number one priority, both Obama and Christie said, is to restore power.

Christie thanked the president in no uncertain terms. It kept up the relationship that many have called the "political odd couple."

"I cannot thanks the president enough for his great concern," Christie said.

The governor also offered his state a kind of pep talk. He said while sorrow is appropriate, the state needs to rebuild.

"We cannot permit that sorrow to replace that resilience," Christie said.

Obama said that those affected could start applying for federal aid immediately.

Update at 3:35 p.m. ET. Vehicle Restrictions:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg just finished a press conference. Here are a few highlights:

-- The bridges into the city will now be restricted to cars carrying three or more people. Bloomberg said the streets can "only handle so much."

-- Schools will be closed for the rest of the week.

-- The first game of the season for the New York Knicks has been cancelled at the mayor's request. The New York City Marathon will go on as scheduled Sunday.

-- A unnamed benefactor has donated $2.5 million to help the city through its recovery. Bloomberg said the business leader's identity would be revealed later.

Update at 3:34 p.m. ET. Obama: Ready To Help For The 'Long Haul':

President Obama and Gov. Chris Christie are back on land after touring the damage from the air.

Obama said that the federal government was ready to help New Jersey "for the long haul."

NPR's Scott Horsely, who's traveling with the president sent along some notes on the visit:

"Obama spoke to dozens of New Jersey residents in a community center, introducing [FEMA Chief Craig] Fugate as 'the best there is' and promising help. Everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit, he said.

"Obama repeated remarks about cutting red tape, etc. ...

"Christie spoke briefly, praising the president for his help and saying it's important to have the president visit New Jersey."

Obama now working the room. He posed for a pic with a man and woman who he said have been cooking for 18 hrs to feed the evacuees.

Update at 2:33 p.m. ET. Bellevue Hospital Evacuated:

The New York Times and Reuters are reporting that Bellevue Hospital is now evacuating 500 patients. According to its website, Bellevue had already transferred "ventilator-dependent patients" because it was operating on back-up power.

The Times reports that the situation at the hospital was already bad on Tuesday:

"On Tuesday, signs of stress were evident as people could be seen carrying babies down the staircase. One doctor questioned why the hospital was not fully evacuating, and thought it might be that because the nearby NYU Langone Medical Center had been forced to evacuate 300 patients, after discharging 100, and there was not enough room at other hospitals.

"The hospital smelled bad, perhaps from fuel. Emergency lights were on. Ambulances were being diverted from the emergency room, which is one of the city's major trauma centers."

1:48 p.m. ET. Where Things Stand.

Here's your afternoon recap of where the story is:

— Deaths: The toll has gone up since our earlier roundup. According to The Associated Press, at least 65 deaths can be attributed to the storm since it hit the East Coast over the weekend — blasting much of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and southern New England before moving on to the Great Lakes and western New York State. Last evening, the death toll stood at 48.

Before Sandy hit the U.S, the storm was been blamed for at least 69 deaths when it rumbled through the Caribbean.

— Power Outages: As of noon, the Associated Press estimates about 6.2 million homes and businesses are without power. That number peaked at 8.4 million.

New York and New Jersey are the hardest hit with 2.2 million and 2.7 million customers without power respectively.

— Presidential Visit: President Obama has landed in New Jersey and boarded Marine One with Gov. Chris Christie for an aerial tour of the damage.

— New York Slammed: Not only was the city drenched and shut down by rising waters — authorities also had to deal with a massive fire in Queens, "widespread flooding, power and transportation outages." The city's subway system has experienced some of the worst damage in its 108-year history and may not reopen for several days.

We've added a separate post about the devastation in Breezy Point, Queens.

— Transportation: Things are slowly getting better, but are no where near normal. New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark's Liberty International Airport will have "limited service" today. New York's LaGuardia Airport remains closed. (More information here.)

Amtrak says it will have some service from Newark, N.J., to points south and from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pa. But it will not have service into New York City, no Acela Express service in the Northeast corridor and is canceling service along several other routes in the Northeast and New England.

The good news: In New York, some subway lines will open tomorrow and some commuter trains will start running today.

— Schools And Stocks: Schools are reopening across much of the region from Virginia north (but not in New York City). The financial markets in New York will also be open today.

— The Blizzard: Sandy also brought a massive amount of snow to higher elevations in West Virginia and surrounding states. About two feet of snow fell in some places and at one point about 200,000 customers were without power in West Virgina, where the temperatures are well below freezing. Many still don't have electricity. Shelters are open across the state.

— And The Forecast? The National Weather Service says that Sandy has weakened and there are now several centers of circulation. However:

"FRESHWATER FLOOD WATERS ORIGINATING IN THE UPPER POTOMAC FROM THE RAINS OF SANDY WILL CONTINUE TO IMPACT THE TIDAL POTOMAC...RESULTING IN SIGNIFICANT FLOODING THROUGH FRIDAY AFTERNOON.

"DUE TO PERSISTENT NORTHERLY WINDS AND LARGE FETCH...COASTAL FLOODING ALONG PORTIONS OF THE GREAT LAKES IS STILL POSSIBLE."

Update at 1:26 p.m. ET. President Obama Arrives In N.J.:

Moments ago, President Obama landed in New Jersey. He shook hands with Gov. Christie and they quickly boarded Marine One, from where they will tour the damage in the state.

Update at 12:49 p.m. ET. Postponing Halloween:

In a separate post, we've written about how Gov. Christie has postponed Halloween citing safety.

Meanwhile, Twitter is lighting up with reports of children trick-or-treating Brooklyn because school's been cancelled.

Update at 12:33 p.m. ET. Some Subway Service To Resume:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had some good news for New Yorkers: Limited commuter rail service resumes today and some subway lines will operate tomorrow.

During a press conference, Cuomo said 14 of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's 23 lines will be running tomorrow.

Update at 11:35 a.m. ET. Navy Sending Helicopter Carrier Ships:

"With New York City and coastal New Jersey still paralyzed after Superstorm Sandy, the Navy on Wednesday was sending three helicopter carrier ships to help rescue and recovery operations, officials told NBC News."

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET. From The Streets Of Manhattan; 2 1/2 Miles In Two Hours:

NPR's Zoe Chace has been been on the streets of Manhattan. She spoke to one driver who's moved 2 1/2 miles in two hours. "Honestly, it is really, really hard to get into the city" and around Manhattan, she tells our Newscast Desk. Some people trying to get to work, she says, probably won't there their until the work day's over.

Update at 10:45 a.m. ET. Walk, Don't Try To Ride In Manhattan:

"Do not try to take cabs within Manhattan today," tweets John Podhoretz of Commentary magazine. "Faster to walk. Everywhere. Midtown devastated by blocks closed off due to crane."

Update at 9:50 a.m. ET. Stocks Are Higher At The Open:

The New York Stock Exchange restarted trading from its floor at 9:30 a.m. ET (Mayor Michael Bloomberg rang the opening bell). And after about 20 minutes of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average is up about 0.5 percentage points. The Wall Street Journal says "gains in overseas markets helped lift sentiment."

Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. With Subway Out Of Service, Expecting A "Slow, Hot And Really Packed" Bus Ride:

Christopher Peifer, who runs a recording studio in Brooklyn, decided not to brave the commute from his home in Manhattan's Washington Heights. He tells NPR's Scott Neuman that he can see traffic has "sprung back to life."

His girlfriend, Rachel Zuckerman, however is making her way to her job in Yonkers. Usually, she takes the subway, but she is trying the bus today.

"Normally, I would take the subway up to the last station in the Bronx and then there's a van that picks us up," Zuckerman, 35, said in a call to Scott from the bus.

But since the subways aren't running today, neither is the shuttle, so "a few of us agreed to take the bus and try to flag down a taxi once we got there."

It usually takes Zuckerman about 10 minutes to get to the shuttle stop. But this morning she's planning to be on the "incredibly slow, hot and really packed" bus for at least an hour.

Update at 9:10 a.m. ET. Thousands Cut Off In Hoboken; National Guard Arrives:

"The New Jersey National Guard arrived Tuesday evening in Hoboken to help residents of the heavily flooded city on the Hudson River across from New York City," The Associated Press writes.

An estimated 20,00 of the city's 50,000 residents were cut off by high waters, Mayor Dawn Zimmer told NBC News Tuesday evening. This morning, reporter Katie Colaneri from WBGO told our Newscast desk that some people may have gotten out of the affected areas since then, but many still remain trapped. In some places, the water is "still about four feet high" and folks can't get out their front doors, she added.

According to the AP, "Guard members will use high-wheeled vehicles to help evacuate residents and deliver supplies to flooded areas in the mile-square city."

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Heartbreak And Heroics On Staten Island:

"N.Y. Drama: Officer Dies After Saving Family; Videos Show Rooftop Rescues."

Update at 8 a.m. ET. Rounding Up The Problems In New York City And New Jersey:

Among the online resources for tracking how things are going in New York City and New Jersey are:

-- WNYC's "live dispatches from the field" and its "transit tracker," which is being updated with information about the transportation outages in the region.

-- This story from NBCNewYork, which begins with: "Millions throughout the storm-ravaged tri-state awoke Wednesday to another day without power, mass transit and other basic services as the death toll from Sandy continued to rise throughout the region."

-- The New York Times' transit service updates and its "tracking the storm" live blog.

7:15 a.m. ET. Where Things Stand.

Here's a recap as the day begins:

— Deaths: The toll has gone up since our last update. According to The Associated Press, at least 55 deaths can be attributed to the storm since it hit the East Coast over the weekend — blasting much of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and southern New England before moving on to the Great Lakes and western New York State. Last evening, the death toll stood at 48.

Before Sandy hit the U.S, the storm was been blamed for at least 69 deaths when it rumbled through the Caribbean.

— Power Outages: As of last evening, about 8.2 million customers remained without power, the Edison Electric Institute estimates. This morning, NPR's Elizabeth Shogren estimates, the number may be down to about 6 million.

— New York Slammed: Not only was the city drenched and shut down by rising waters — authorities also had to deal with a massive fire in Queens, "widespread flooding, power and transportation outages." The city's subway system has experienced some of the worst damage in its 108-year history and may not reopen for several days.

We've added a separate post about the devastation in Breezy Point, Queens.

— Transportation: Things are slowly getting better, but are no where near normal. New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark's Liberty International Airport will have "limited service" today. New York's LaGuardia Airport remains closed. (More information here.)

Amtrak says it will have some service from Newark, N.J., to points south and from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pa. But it will not have service into New York City, no Acela Express service in the Northeast corridor and is canceling service along several other routes in the Northeast and New England.

Some mass transit service has been restored in Philadelphia. And Metro is up and running in Washington, D.C.

But mass transit into, out of and around New York City remains paralyzed. It will be several more days, at least, before the city's subway system is running again.

— Schools And Stocks: Schools are reopening across much of the region from Virginia north (but not in New York City). The financial markets in New York will also be open today.

— The Blizzard: Sandy also brought a massive amount of snow to higher elevations in West Virginia and surrounding states. About two feet of snow fell in some places and at one point about 200,000 customers were without power in West Virgina, where the temperatures are well below freezing. Many still don't have electricity. Shelters are open across the state.

— Presidential Visit: President Obama will visit New Jersey this afternoon to tour the damage alongside Gov. Chris Christie.

— And The Forecast? The National Weather Service says that:

"REMNANTS OF SANDY CONTINUE TO WEAKEN OVER PENNSYLVANIA ... FLOOD AND COASTAL FLOOD WATCHES ... WARNINGS...AND ADVISORIES ARE IN EFFECT OVER PORTIONS OF THE MID-ATLANTIC AND NORTHEAST STATES. WINTER STORM WARNINGS AND WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES REMAIN IN EFFECT FOR THE MOUNTAINS OF SOUTHWEST PENNSYLVANIA...WESTERN MARYLAND. .. WEST VIRGINIA ... EASTERN TENNESSEE ... EASTERN KENTUCKY ... AND EXTREME WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA."

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