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Super storm wreaks havoc throughout the Northeast

McClatchy Newspapers

October 30. 2012 11:50PM

WASHINGTON - Sandy, the massive, multi-state storm that flooded tunnels in New York City, brought snow to the mountains of West Virginia, snarled early voting for the upcoming election and caused more than 8 million power outages, moved into Pennsylvania and western New York on Tuesday and put the entire Northeast on heightened flooding alert.

The storm has had significant impact in at least 10 states and the District of Columbia, and its effects were felt as far west as Chicago, where local emergency officials warned people to stay away from the Lake Michigan lakefront, which was expecting waves of 20 feet or higher.

The storm brought 26 inches of snow to Redhouse, Md., and storm surges 12.5 feet above normal in Kings Point, N.Y., according to Early estimates of its economic impact show Sandy could cause between $5 billion and $10 billion in insured damage. The storm was responsible for at least 40 deaths.

President Barack Obama issued major disaster declarations in some New York, New Jersey and Connecticut counties. Such declarations, used just once in this administration, when American Samoa was hit with a tsunami in 2009, open the door to additional federal aid.

"Generally we do more thorough assessments and oftentimes these take longer," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in a Tuesday conference call. "But because of the extent of the damages, it was evident to the President after the conversations with the governors that he would do this as a verbal declaration."

The storm made landfall as a post-tropical cyclone with gusts to hurricane-force winds, according to Jennifer Collins, an associate professor in the department of geography, environment and planning at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Its path was dictated by other weather systems to the west and the east, and Sandy continued to bring heavy rain, high winds and surge to the mid-Atlantic region.

"Having a hurricane travel toward the Northeast states and interact with another storm system is pretty unusual," Collins said.

Among the most shocking images of the storm were from New York City, where the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day and water rushed into subway stations and tunnels. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned in a news conference that recovery - particularly restoring power and mass transit - would require "a lot of patience."

"Make no mistake about it: This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced," he said.

At least 10 New Yorkers were killed in the storm, Bloomberg said. Fires destroyed more than 80 houses in the city's Breezy Point neighborhood of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. All under-river subway tunnels flooded, he said.

"Clearly, the challenges our city faces in the coming days are enormous," he said.

Just south in New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie and emergency workers assessed the impact of winds and storm surge along the state's coast, which took the brunt of the storm.

The state reopened the New Jersey Turnpike Tuesday morning after flooding closed portions at the southern end on Monday. But many other roads were washed out or blocked. Christie told private employers that unless they could identify a safe way for employees to get to and from work that they should not reopen.

"No county in the state has been spared," Christie said in a news conference.


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