Sunday, May 27, 2018

Flooding, misery linger after Hurricane Sandy

NEW YORK — Air travel resumed, but slowly. The New York Stock Exchange got back to business, but on generator power. And with the subways still down, great numbers of people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan in a reverse of the exodus of Sept. 11.

Two days after Hurricane Sandy rampaged across the Northeast, killing at least 72 people, New York struggled Wednesday to find its way. Swaths of the city were still without power, and all of it was torn from its daily rhythms.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that parts of the subway would begin running again today and that three of seven tunnels under the East River had been pumped out.

"We are going to need some patience and some tolerance," he said.

President Barack Obama toured the hard-hit New Jersey shoreline with Gov. Chris Christie.

Pledging to respond swiftly, the president said that he had instituted a rule that government officials must return calls from the state and local authorities within 15 minutes. "We are not going to tolerate red tape," he said. "We are not going to tolerate bureaucracy."

One of the most pressing crises unfolded in Hoboken, N.J., a city of 50,000 directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

At least 25 percent of the community was flooded, and 90 percent was without power. National Guard troops Wednesday were trying to rescue thousands of residents trapped by sewage-tainted floodwaters.

"This is flooding like we've never seen," Mayor Dawn Zimmer said. "It filled the city like a bathtub."

When the storm surge hit Monday night, the Hudson overcame the sea wall at the north and south ends of the city in a devastating westward torrent that made an island of the slightly higher, eastern half of the city.

After Zimmer appealed for aid Tuesday, saying that as many as 20,000 people could be stuck in their homes, the first National Guard trucks arrived just before midnight. Overnight, they responded to emergency messages to find people and transport them to dry ground.

By midday Wednesday, 12 National Guard trucks and two Humvee vehicles were in Hoboken for the rescue effort. City officials have not reported any fatalities in Hoboken so far.

Among the first to be rescued during the night were two babies, one 5 days old and another 3 weeks old. By midday Wednesday, the trucks at the unloading point by City Hall were bringing older people, including several in wheelchairs, and many families with babies and small children.

Robyn Pecarsky, who was eight months' pregnant, was helped down from the back of a truck with her two children, who are 5 and 8.

"We saw the National Guard, and I sent my husband to tell them he had to get his pregnant wife out," Pecarsky said.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 500 patients were being evacuated from Belle­vue Hospital because of storm damage. The hospital has run on generators since the storm. About 300 patients were evacuated from another Manhattan hospital Monday after it lost generator power.

Masses of people walked shoulder-to-shoulder across the Brooklyn Bridge to get into Manhattan for work, reminiscent of the escape scenes from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

They entered an island sharply divided between those who had power and those who did not.

In Manhattan at night, it was possible to walk downtown along an avenue and move in an instant from a mostly normal New York scene — delis open, people milling outside bars — into a pitch-black cityscape, with police flares marking intersections.

People who did have power took to social media to offer help to neighbors. "I have power and hot water. If anyone needs a shower or to charge some gadgets or just wants to bask in the beauty of artificial light, hit me up," Rob Hart of Staten Island posted on Facebook.

Simon Massey and his 9-year-old son, Henry, took one last walk near their powerless apartment in downtown Manhattan before decamping to a friend's place in Brooklyn where the electricity worked.

"We're jumping ship," he said. "We don't want to spend another three or four days here."

They live on the 10th floor of a 32-floor building, where they were flushing the toilet with water from their filled tub and cooking on their gas stove. They found their way down the stairs with glowsticks and flashlights, and rationed iPad and phone use.

"I'm feeling scared," said Henry. "It just feels really, really weird. New York's not supposed to be this quiet."

Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

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