With Death Toll Mounting, Sandy Heads West

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 30 2012 4:42 PM

With Death Toll Mounting, Sandy Heads West

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Residents of Ocean City, N.J., survey the damage after Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the state's coastline Monday

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

***Read Slate’s complete coverage of Hurricane Sandy.***

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

UPDATE: The storm formerly known as Hurricane Sandy may no longer be hammering New York City and the rest of the major East Coast media markets, but that doesn't mean it's done yet.

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The New York Times with where its heading next:

The storm, though vastly weaker than it was when it made landfall in New Jersey on Monday night, is moving west through southern Pennsylvania, bringing rain and high winds all the way to the Great Lakes, the National Weather Service reported. The system continued to pack winds of 65 miles per hour. ... 
Forecasters said on Tuesday that they no longer expected the storm to turn to the northeast and travel across New England. Instead, the track has shifted well to the west, and prediction models suggest it will move through central Pennsylvania and western New York State before entering southern Ontario by Wednesday, said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll now stands at 39 and counting. When you add in those who were killed in the Caribbean before the storm moved northward to the United States, that figure now tops 100 and is likewise expected to continue to inch up in the coming days.

The true scope of the storm's damage is only now beginning to come into shape. The Associated Press with the latest tallies: more than 8.2 million people between North Carolina and Maine are currently without power; roughly 15,000 flights have been canceled worldwide; New York City's subways have been shuttered for the foreseeable future; and Atlantic City and other parts of New Jersey's coastline appear to have been largely devastated.

The storm is expected to cause about $20 billion worth of property damage before all is said and done, along with another $10 billion to $30 billion in lost business.

***Read Slate’s complete coverage of Hurricane Sandy.***

UPDATE 12:16 p.m.: CNN with the latest death toll updates: 26 in the United States—15 in New York (10 of which were in New York City), three in New Jersey, a pair each in Maryland, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, one in West Virginia and one deckhand on a replica of the HMS Bounty who was found unresponsive and later declared dead at a hospital.

The storm also claimed the lives one person in Canada and, earlier, 51 in Haiti and along with another 16 in the Caribbean.

The total number of U.S. homes and businesses without power, meanwhile, now tops 8 million, according to the latest Energy Department estimates.

UPDATE 8:16 a.m.: This morning begins much the same way last night ended: With a very wet New York City, an even wetter New Jersey, millions of people without power, and more reports of confirmed deaths that resulted from the storm formerly known as Hurricane Sandy.

We'll begin with the saddest news first. At least 16 people died as a result of the storm: five in New York, three each in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, two in Connecticut, and at least one each in Maryland, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Three of those killed were children, according to reports, the youngest of which was only 8 years old.

Estimates for the number people who are without power this morning range from about 6 million to 7.4 million, many of which should prepare for the possibility that it could be days before their lights are turned back on.

Here's the New York Times on how things stand in New York City and New Jersey, which took the direct force of the superstorm as it came ashore:

Early risers [in Manhattan] stepped out into debris-littered streets that remained mostly deserted as residents awaited dawn to shed light on the extent of the damage. Bridges remained closed, and seven subway tunnels under the East River remained flooded. The storm was the most destructive in the 108-year history of New York City’s subway system, said Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in an early morning statement. ...
The wind-driven rain lashed sea walls and protective barriers in places like Atlantic City, where the Boardwalk was damaged as water forced its way inland. Foam was spitting, and the sand gave in to the waves along the beach at Sandy Hook, N.J., at the entrance to New York Harbor. Water was thigh-high on the streets in Sea Bright, N.J., a three-mile sand-sliver of a town where the ocean joined the Shrewsbury River. “It’s the worst I’ve seen,” said David Arnold, watching the storm from his home in Long Branch, N.J. “The ocean is in the road, there are trees down everywhere. I’ve never seen it this bad.”

The Associated Press on what's next for Sandy, which continues to push inland this morning:

Remnants of the former Category 1 hurricane were forecast to head across Pennsylvania before taking another sharp turn into western New York by Wednesday morning. Although weakening as it goes, the massive storm - which caused wind warnings from Florida to Canada - will continue to bring heavy rain and local flooding, said Daniel Brown, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

UPDATE Tuesday, 12:26 a.m.: We're going to bring this evening's live updates to an end for now, but will be back at it bright and early in the morning to assess the damage. But one last sad bit of news before we go: CNN reports that the confirmed U.S. death toll from the storm currently stands at 11. Fingers crossed it doesn't climb any higher overnight.

Here's some of the day's coverage of the historic hurricane-turned-superstorm, both from The Slatest and the rest of the magazine:

For those of you in Sandy's path: stay dry, stay warm and, most importantly, stay safe.

UPDATE Monday, 11:55 p.m.: As we explained elsewhere on The Slatest tonight, it's been particularly difficult to get a firm grasp on exactly how much damage Superstorm Sandy caused in New York City on Monday night. One thing was evident from a quick glance at the city's skyline, however: Much of lower Manhattan is without power.

"This will be the largest storm related outage in our history," a Con Ed spokesman told reporters on a conference call late Monday night. In all, roughly 670,000 New York City residents were without power by the end of the day.

The Associated Press with more details:

Much of New York was plunged into darkness Monday by a superstorm that overflowed the city's historic waterfront, flooded the financial district and subway tunnels and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people. ...
"It's really a complete ghost town now," said Stephen Weisbrot, from a powerless 10th-floor apartment in lower Manhattan.
Water lapped over the seawall in Battery Park City, flooding rail yards, subway tracks, tunnels and roads. Rescue workers floated bright orange rafts down flooded downtown streets, while police officers rolled slowly down the street with loudspeakers telling people to go home.

The storm surges appear to have peaked in New York City (until the next high tide, at least), but it could be days before we have a full picture of the damage done. Meanwhile, the storm pushes on toward Philadelphia, where residents can expect their own flooding and power outages.

UPDATE 9:35 p.m.: The superstorm rages on, and has now reportedly left nearly 3 million people and counting without power as Sandy continues to pound much of the Northeast with high winds, heavy rain and storm surges that are wreaking havoc on streets and buildings.

By CNN's count, there have been more than 2.8 million reported outages spanning from North Carolina to Maine. That number is likely to keep climbing throughout the night, as large swaths of Manhattan are now reportedly without power. The darkened skyline and flooded streets are making for surreal images from the nation's largest city.

There were reports Monday night that the city's subways will be shuttered for the remainder of the week. While those rumors have since been refuted by MTA officials who say it is too early to set a timetable on such things, it's pretty clear from the pictures and video coming over Twitter that it will be awhile before the city returns to normal.

UPDATE 8:27 p.m.: And we have landfall.

The National Weather Service reports that Superstorm Sandy moved over New Jersey near Atlantic City at around 8 p.m. Sustained winds have been recorded at roughly 80 miles per hour. Storm surges in New York, meanwhile, have reached 11. 9 feet at Kings Point, New York.

UPDATE 7:15 p.m.: Not-technically-still-a-hurricane Sandy is expected to move over New Jersey within the next hour. According to the latest update from the National Weather Service, the post-tropical cyclone was about 20 miles from Atlantic City as of 7 p.m.*

While the superstorm officially lost its designation as a hurricane this evening, it is nonetheless expected to continue to pummel the coastline with high winds, heavy rain and a life-threatening storm surge that has already flooded many seaside towns and cities. As you can see from the screenshot of Google's crisis map embedded below, after making landfall in New Jersey the storm is expected to push further inland toward Philadelphia and into central Pennsylvania, before turning northward and heading into New York state.

The power outages that began this afternoon have grown in number in the past several hours. At last count, there were more than 1.6 million outages and counting reported along the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina all the way to Maine. New York and New Jersey have so far been the hardest hit in that regard, with nearly 1 million combined outages reported between them, according to The Weather Channel. Before all is said and done, some forecasters fear the total number without power could top 10 million.

Here's the Associated Press with more on the early damage: 

Airlines canceled more than 12,000 flights, disrupting the plans of travelers all over the world, and storm damage was projected at $10 billion to $20 billion, meaning it could prove to be one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history. ...
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said people were stranded in Atlantic City, which sits on a barrier island and was mostly under water late Monday. He accused the mayor of allowing them to stay there. With the hurricane fast approaching, Christie warned it was no longer safe for rescuers, and advised people who didn't evacuate the barrier islands to "hunker down" until morning.

Perhaps scarier still is the fact that the storm has not yet actually become the Frankenstorm that experts have been warning about for the past several days. That will happen only once it converges with two separate cold-weather systems already over the United States.

More Sandy coverage from The Slatest:

(*Correction: A previous version of this update wrongly reported that the storm was already over land. We jumped the gun after looking at satellite images. Landfall, while looming, had not yet happened as of 7:15 p.m. ET.)

UPDATE 5:02 p.m.: Hurricane Sandy is expected to complete its slow march toward New Jersey sometime in the next hour or so as it crashes into the Garden State's coastline and brings its 90 mph winds with it.

Atlantic City has so far taken the brunt of the storm, with much of the city's streets already underwater from the rain and storm surge. As the New York Times explains, the city's troubles began early and aren't likely to let up anytime soon:

By high tide around 8 a.m. on Monday, officials said 70 to 80 percent of the city was underwater. Water as much as eight feet deep coursed through many streets, leaving them impassable. Heavy rains and sustained winds of more than 40 miles an hour battered the city.
All arteries leading into Atlantic City were closed, and officials speculated that they might remain so for days. No one could enter Atlantic City. Casinos were shut down. "The city is under siege," said Thomas Foley, the chief of emergency services. "Sandy is pretty furious at Atlantic City. She must have lost a bet or something. As we say in our slogan, ‘Do A.C.’ She’s doing A.C., all right."

Meanwhile, things in New York City are looking increasingly dicey as well. More than a 100,000 residents were without power by mid-afternoon, a number that is expected to climb still higher before the evening is over. City officials are also closing a half dozen or so bridges in and around the city as a precautionary measure.

While NYC will continue to remain the focus for many, Sandy has other metro areas in her more immediate sights. After making landfall in New Jersey, the storm is expected to continue to push west through Philadelphia and into the middle of Pennsylvania before turning north and heading up into New York state.

UPDATE 4:03 p.m.: Judging by some of the photos we're seeing it may be hard to believe, but the worst is likely still to come from Hurricane Sandy, which continues to pick up steam as it heads toward southern New Jersey. Estimated landfall is now predicted there early Monday evening.

The most recent update from the National Weather Service pegged the storm at about 110 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J., and 175 miles south-southeast of New York City, as of early this afternoon. After it makes landfall in the Garden State, it's currently projected to continue on into Pennsylvania before making a rather sharp right-hand turn and pushing up through the middle of New York State.

Before it's all said and done, forecasters predict as many as 10 million Americans could be left without power. With a few hours to go before landfall, that figure didn't seem like a stretch. CBS News:

Hours before Hurricane Sandy makes landfall, utilities have already reported power outages for customers in several states. More than a half-million customers were without power in Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, and several other states.

According to reports, New Jersey and Massachusetts have the most residents without power. But there are also thousands without power all along the East Coast, from North Carolina on up to New Hampshire. At last count, about 135,000 people in the greater New York City area were without power, but that figure is expected to balloon in the near future as much of lower Manhattan is expected to lose electricity shortly.

UPDATE 12:35 p.m.: Hurricane Sandy is so far largely living up to its billing as a one-of-a-kind weather event. The center of the soon-to-be superstorm won't actually reach the United States for at least several more hours, but it's already causing serious flooding up and down the Eastern Seaboard and has public officials and meteorologists of all stripes warning residents in the storm's path to prepare for the worst.

According to the most recent update from the National Weather Service, as of 11 a.m. ET, the storm was currently about 205 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J., and 260 miles south-southeast of New York City and moving at a speed of about 18 miles per hour. Sustained wind speeds are currently topping out at about 90 miles per hour.

Original Post 8 a.m.: Hurricane Sandy grew stronger still before dawn this morning as it continued to churn northward toward the most heavily populated areas along the East Coast, remaining on track to make landfall tonight in New Jersey and bringing the worst of the surge to the northern part of that state and the greater New York City area.

The soon-to-be superstorm will likely be felt in some capacity from the Eastern Seaboard to the Great Lakes, impacting upward of 60 million people, roughly 10 million of whom can expect to lose electricity as winds topple trees and light poles and bring down power lines in their paths.

With sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, the hurricane would likely do widespread damage on its own. But Sandy's power is expected to multiply thanks to a trio of factors that are poised to combine to earn the "Frankenstorm" name: a jet stream barricade to the west, a strong nor’easter, and a full moon that could add 2 to 3 inches to the storm surge in New York, according to experts.

According to the most recent update from the National Weather Service, as of 8 a.m. ET, the storm was roughly 265 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J., and 310 miles south-southeast of New York City and moving at about 20 miles per hour. Among the major metropolitan areas in its projected path: Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York.

As a precautionary measure, government officials have ordered the closure of pretty much everything in the storm's sight, from mass transit and schools to federal offices in the nation's capital and the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney, likewise, have been forced to alter their schedules in the final days of their campaigns.

We'll continue to update The Slatest with the latest developments throughout the day as Sandy continues its march northward.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and entire @slatest team on Twitter.***

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