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Many of storm's victims died in ordinary places

New York Times

They stepped in the wrong puddle. They walked the dog at the wrong moment. Or they did exactly what all the emergency experts instructed them to do — they huddled inside and waited.

The storm found them all.

Hurricane Sandy expressed its full assortment of lethal methods as it hit the East Coast on Monday night. In its howling sweep, the authorities said the storm claimed at least 50 lives in eight states.

They were infants and adolescents, people embarking on careers and those looking back on them — the ones who paid the price of this most destructive of storms. In Franklin Township, Pa., an 8-year-old boy was crushed by a tree when he ran outside to check on his family's calves. A woman died in Somerset County, Pa., when her car slid off a snowy road.

Eighteen deaths were reported in New York City.

Most of all, it was the trees. Uprooted or cracked by the furious winds, they became weapons that flattened cars, houses and pedestrians.

But also, a woman was killed by a severed power line. A man was swept by flooding waters out of his house and through the glass of a store. The power blinked off for a 75-year-old woman on a respirator, and a heart attack killed her. Three people, ages 50, 57 and 72, were found drowned in separate basements in the Rockaways.

And the storm left its share of mysteries.

A parking lot attendant was found dead in a subterranean parking garage in TriBeCa, the precise cause unclear. The body of an unidentified woman washed up on Long Island.

Some people died and no one knew, not for hours, not until the storm had moved on.

Around 8 on Monday night, according to witnesses and a friend, 23-year-old Lauren Abraham came out to her driveway in Queens clutching a camera.

Tamica Penn, 22, her best friend, said, "If you ever needed to talk, she would be there."

The two had spoken at 7 p.m. A frayed power line was still sparking as Abraham walked into the rain-drenched street. She came into contact with one end of the snapped wire.

She caught fire.

A half-dozen or so witnesses watched in utter horror.

North Salem in upper Westchester County is horse country, and it has estates owned by the well-off, but it is mainly a working-class town.

Jack Baumler, 11, was a sixth-grader known as a star shortstop in the local Little League. Michael Robson, 13, was his best friend and neighbor down Bonnieview Street.

Valerie Baumler, Jack's mother, had a cottage along Peach Lake, and the boys were spending the night with two other boys.

They were watching television, the winds pounding, when the hurricane uprooted an enormous tree. It ripped through the roof. Jack and Michael were killed.

"I lost my son," Valerie Baumler wailed to Danny Seymour, Jack's uncle, as she clasped him. "I lost my son."

Many of storm's victims died in ordinary places 10/30/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 11:17pm]
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