7:46AM EDT October 30. 2012 - Millions of people across the eastern seaboard waited for sunrise Tuesday morning to see the full extent of the damage wrought by megastorm Sandy. An estimated 6.2 million people in seven states were without power across the East and at least 16 deaths had been confirmed. President Obama has declared New York and Long Island federal disaster areas.
The disaster declaration makes federal funding available to residents and businesses in the affected areas, which bore the brunt of the sea surge from the superstorm. Jeff Masters, meteorology director for Weather Underground, a private forecasting service, called the storm surges some of the highest ever recorded.
Officials blamed at least 16 deaths on the storm - five in New York, three each in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, two in Connecticut, and one each in Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia. Three of the victims were children, one just 8 years old. Sandy also killed 69 people in the Caribbean.
In New York City, the city was shut down, cut off and in many places dark. A 13-foot storm surge, three feet above the previous record, caused flooding and widespread power outages. The city's subway system was shut down due to flooding. The Holland Tunnel, which connects New York to New Jersey, and a tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan, were both closed. High winds forced the closure of the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and several other spans.
In the borough of Queens, a fire destroyed at least 50 homes early Tuesday morning in a flooded zone. Firefighters reported chest high water on the street and used a boat to rescue residents. A massive explosion at a power substation in lower Manhattan Monday evening contributed to the power outages. No one was injured, and the power company did not know whether the explosion was caused by flooding or by flying debris.
New York University's Tisch Hospital was forced to evacuate 200 patients after its backup generator failed. NYU Medical Dean Robert Grossman said patients - among them 20 babies from neonatal intensive care that were on battery-powered respirators - had to be carried down staircases and to dozens of waiting ambulances.
Stock trading was closed in the U.S. for a second day Tuesday - the first time the New York Stock Exchange will be closed for two consecutive days due to weather since 1888, when a blizzard struck the city.
As of 5 a.m. ET, the storm was 90 miles west of Philadelphia, with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour, the National Weather Service reported. Now called 'post tropical cyclone Sandy,' the storm was moving at 15 miles per hour toward the northwest. It is expected to steadily weaken over the next 48 hours. However, its fury is by no means spent. Gale force winds are expected to continue Tuesday morning from Virginia northward through New England.
Even though water levels along the coast have been subsiding since Monday evening, the combination of the storm surge and high tide could still cause areas to flood, especially during the next high tide. Flood and flash flood warnings are still in effect over coastal waters in the mid-Atlantic states, New York and New England. The Weather Service is predicting that water could reach between two and four feet above ground level in Delaware Bay and the Upper and Middle Chesapeake Bay. The Jersey shore northward to Massachusetts is expected to reach between one and three feet.
Rainfall of between three and eight inches is expected across the mid Atlantic states, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches possible. Snowfalls of between two to three feet are expected in the mountains of West Virginia.
Sandy will continue into western Pennsylvania Tuesday, with a turn into western New York Tuesday night, the Weather Service predicted. The storm is expected to move into Canada on Wednesday.
The storm first made landfall in New Jersey Monday evening and by Tuesday morning had affected people from the Carolinas to Ohio with power outages. It reached as far as Chicago, where officials warned residents to stay away from the Lake Michigan shore as the city prepares for winds of up to 60 mph and waves exceeding 24 feet into Wednesday.
Other storm-related events:
- Airlines canceled around 12,500 flights nationally because of the storm.
- The Indian Point nuclear power plant about 45 miles north of New York City was shut down Monday night because of external electrical grid issues. Entergy Corp., which operates the plant, said there was no risk to employees or the public.
- An "unusual event" was declared at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township, N.J., when waters searched to 6 feet above sea level during the evening. The reactor was offline for regular maintenance and the event was quickly upgraded to an alert, the second-lowest in a four-tiered warning system.
- In Baltimore, four unoccupied rowhouses collapsed in the storm, sending debris into the street but causing no injuries.
- A blizzard in western Maryland caused a pileup of tractor-trailers that blocked the westbound lanes of Interstate 68.
- Winds as high as 60 mph caused officials to close the port of Portland, Maine, keeping several cruise ships from docking.