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Thursday, 26 October 2017

Five years after Hurricane Sandy battered New York City, signs of the storm remain

Five years after Hurricane Sandy battered New York City, signs of the storm remain Onlinelatesttrends

 The 18th named storm of the 2012 hurricane season began Oct. 11 as a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa, an ocean away from Times Square. By the time the festering storm reached the mid-Caribbean 11 days later, it had become a tropical cyclone.

One week later, on Oct. 29, the natural disaster known now and forever as Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York City with cataclysmic power, a meteorological monster unseen across the region since the lethal 1938 “Long Island Express.”

“Make no mistake about it: This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst we’ve ever experienced,” declared then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The rain was incessant, driven by deadly 80 mph winds that took down power lines and trees, flooded tunnels on Manhattan’s East and West Sides, and brought the perpetually hectic city to a terrifying standstill.

Mom of Queens student killed by tree during Sandy settles suit
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The city appears black on Nov. 1, 2012, with the absence of power after Hurricane Sandy knocked electricity out in Brooklyn.

The damage was immense: 44 New Yorkers dead, including eight drowned in their own homes — some whose neighbors heard their screams for help, but couldn’t reach them. Another 800,000 city residents were without power, and 700,000 tons of debris remained in the storm’s wake. Raging, oily waters flooded subway tunnels, paralyzing the nation’s busiest mass transit system.

A power boat somehow landed in the middle of the Metro-North commuter line in Ossining.

The streets were no better: 3,500 traffic lights were blown away. The Hugh Carey Tunnel flooded from top to bottom, with 45 million gallons of water pouring in from the inundated Battery. Even the New York Aquarium on Coney Island was flooded.

“Unprecedented,” said Tom Prendergast, then the head of NYC Transit. “I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude.”

He was right: Estimates of the total property damage run above $70 billion.

A record 14-foot storm surge — 4 feet higher than the previous record — turned Water St. in lower Manhattan into a brackish roiling river wreaking havoc on everything in its path. One wave in New York Harbor was measured at a staggering 32½ feet.

An NYPD rescue craft capsized at one point as officers hunted for survivors in the floodwaters of Staten Island. Another cop on a Jet Ski was sent flying by a water surge as he rushed to their rescue.

The massive flooding knocked out Con Edison’s electric substations on the Lower East Side, creating a blackout from approximately 34th St. to the southern tip of Manhattan.

The boardwalk in the Rockaways was torn to pieces. The FDNY scrambled to remove over 2,200 downed trees across the city. The World Trade Center was in the dark, global commerce slowed as the New York Stock Exchange was shuttered for two days, and Verizon’s major telephone infrastructure centers were inundated by the floodwaters of New York Harbor.

The Statue of Liberty was closed for 247 days after the flooding swamped electrical systems, sewage pumps and boilers while flooding buildings and tearing up walkways.

In the middle of the pounding rain, devastating winds and pounding surf, flames somehow tore across the beachfront in Breezy Point — fire on the water — destroying 130 homes. Hundreds of other houses in the tightly knit Queens community were damaged by the storm, and some remain uninhabited five years later.

The night that it appeared the rain caught fire, another two dozen blazes were reported in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and City Island in the Bronx.

And there was nowhere to run: The savage storm washed away the scheduled date of the New York Marathon after a controversy where critics blasted Bloomberg for initially backing a plan to run the race in the middle of a disaster area.

“Clueless,” said Staten Islander Joan Wacks, whose waterfront condo remained swamped with 4 feet of water.

The least populous borough absorbed a disproportionate dose of the disaster. Staten Island lost 24 citizens, including the hurricane’s tiniest victims: 4-year-old Connor Moore and his kid brother Brendan, age 2. Their mom was taking the pair to a relative’s house in Brooklyn on her way to work as a nurse when a flash flood knocked their engine out.

As the 5-foot-3, 130-pound mother tried to escape the raging water with her boys, another overpowering surge swept the children away to their deaths. An 8-year-old Staten Islander perished too, buried under debris in the Tottenville section after four homes were washed away.

A Staten Island door frame was later found with a water line 8 feet high, bearing mute testimony to the savaging power of Sandy. Whole blocks of houses were swept away by the surge in the communities of Midland, New Dorp and Oakland Beach.

Three people were killed on a single block of Oakwood Beach, including a father and son. Leonard Montalto, 53, drowned in the basement of a home that was then destroyed. His three daughters later returned to find their Christmas gifts, left behind by their dad, in a mud-filled drawer amid the ruins.

“It’s unexplainable,” daughter Angela said of their amazing discovery.

The grim death toll was kept from growing only by the efforts of first responders, as the NYPD reported 1,100 water rescues on Staten Island alone.

Among those killed were a heroic city police officer who rescued his girlfriend, their infant and his father — only to drown himself; a man thrown through a glass window by the whipping winds in lower Manhattan; a dog walker and her friend who were crushed by a falling tree in Brooklyn; and a Manhattan woman killed when the power went out, cutting off her oxygen supply.

It seemed no one in the city of 8.4 million escaped some portion of Sandy’s wrath. Tens of thousands were injured or driven from their homes. Commutes turned even more torturous: Seven subway tunnels beneath the East River were flooded, and 47 miles of subway track were left underwater as the system suffered the most grievous hit in its 108-year history.

The damage lingers as the Manhattan-to-Brooklyn L train will close for 15 months, starting in 2019, to repair damage on the tunnel connecting the boroughs.

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Submerged vehicles pile up in a parking garage Oct. 31, 2012, on Stone St. in lower Manhattan.

Even after Sandy blew out of the city on its northward path, the stress continued across the water-logged boroughs.

Gougers at gas stations charged up to $6 a gallon, the wait for drivers to fill up was as long as three hours, and tensions were rising. One angry driver pulled a gun on a motorist who cut the line.

“If you don’t pull back, you’re not getting gas tonight,” warned the angry patron, whipping out a .25-caliber handgun.

Livery cab drivers found their cars idled by the lack of gasoline, leading to irate — and often stranded — riders.

“People are mad, big time!” said Sunnyside Car Service dispatcher George Cazares. “They yell at the phone operators, at the drivers. But we can’t do anything about it.”

Tempers flared outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where commuters waited for buses into Manhattan. Line-jumpers quickly drew the ire of those waiting peacefully in long, long lines. The Nov. 1 line snaked entirely around the sprawling arena, and the 5-mile trip to Manhattan took close to an hour.

Even schoolkids were not spared a hit. When city schools reopened on Nov. 5, returning students found 80 buildings remained off-limits because hurricane damage rendered them unsafe and unusable.
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