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A Story of Complete Devastation, Courage and Recovery
By Joe Funk
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2013 New York Post
All rights reserved.
Sandy Slams New York Area
Mass Floods, Outages Wreak Havoc
By David Seifman, Sally Goldenberg and Dan Mangan
Hurricane Sandy blasted the New York area on Monday, October 29, 2012.
The storm, its winds flirting with 100 mph, unleashed a wave of devastation from which it could take weeks to recover.
In flooded lower Manhattan, water gushed into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and cars were floating in the streets.
There was no dry land anywhere in the Rockaways, where cops in the 100th Precinct station house were trapped on the building's second floor.
As Sandy reached land near Atlantic City, it was downgraded to a tropical storm after its winds weakened slightly.
The punishing storm:
Killed a 29-year-old man in his Flushing, Queens, home when a tree fell into the building. The victim, Tony Laino, was found in his bedroom by three neighbors who went to rescue him. The branch that fell on him was at least three feet wide. Witnesses said the victim's devastated dad was crying out for his son. The family has lived there for more than 20 years.
Claimed the lives of three children, at least two whom were killed when a tree fell in North Salem.
Caused the death of woman, who was electrocuted after stepping into a puddle on 105th Avenue in South Richmond Hill.
Left NYU Langone Medical Center dark after backup generators failed. Patients had to be moved to other facilities.
Generated a storm surge worsened by a higher full-moon tide, with the peak of the flooding engulfing lower Manhattan and other low-lying areas at 8 p.m.
Forced the MTA to continue its crippling closure of all trains, buses and subways until at least tomorrow. All flights have been canceled from area airports, and the flood-prone Brooklyn Battery and Holland tunnels were shut down indefinitely.
Knocked out power to at least 448,000 city customers by last night — 250,000 in Manhattan. Most were below 39th Street.
Left more than half of Long Islanders without power as 650,000 people had outages as of 8 p.m. last night.
Led to forced evacuations for up to 375,000 people from low-lying areas in New York's Zone A — although some refused to leave their homes. More than 3,000 people were in city emergency shelters by midday.
Gov. Cuomo deployed about 2,000 National Guard troops to deal with Hurricane Sandy's fury.
He warned there may be prolonged power outages because Sandy was affecting "potentially the entire Eastern Seaboard" — meaning fewer crews will be able to leave their home states to help New York.
Sandy's storm surge could break the record of 10 ½ feet set by Hurricane Donna in 1960, said state Operations Director Howard Glaser. Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 had a 4-foot storm surge that rose to a maximum of 9 ½ feet.
On Coney Island, Chmi Gaiger stood marveling at the roiling, white-capped Atlantic before Sandy's full force was felt.
Gaiger, 42, said he was there "to see something you have never seen before and that you'll never see in your lifetime again. To see the big power."
Harried cops used sirens and horns to warn about a dozen storm watchers off the end of a Coney Island pier near Stillwell Avenue.
"Get out of here!" the cops yelled.
Philip Ellis, 53, of Flatbush, did more than just watch — he went for his daily swim, and lived to tell the tale.
"It was just way too turbulent, too much of a riptide. I couldn't stay in more than 10 minutes," said the former airline employee, who emerged purple-lipped and shivering from the surf.
"You don't get much of a chance to experience what it's like to swim right before a hurricane. It was exciting, exhilarating."
More fearful of Sandy was Steve Geykhman, 25, a marking manager who lives on Surf Avenue in nearby Sea Gate.
"I got the whole house boarded up," Geykhman said. "I'm expecting the worst.
"My whole family left, and I'm protecting the fort. I have my whole survival kit ready: water, dry cereal, some cigarettes, flashlights, candles."
On Staten Island, South Side Hardware Co. owner James Rachmiel said, "We are sold out of mostly everything.
"People have been buying tarps, hoses, batteries. People are panic buying," Rachmiel said. "I think people are taking it more seriously than last year."
Great Kills resident Alex Rubin, 44, an environmental engineer, was among those stocking up, saying, "I'm leaving now. The water is coming up the block.
"I'm used to flooding, but it's going to be bad ... My wife is worried — that's why we're leaving."
Additional reporting by Julia Marsh, Antonio Antenucci, Larry Celona, Lorena Mongelli, Kate Kowsh, Philip Messing Kenneth Garger and Kieran Crowley
This Used to Be 111 Homes
Fire Devastates Beachfront Community in Breezy Point, Queens
By Reuven Fenton and Dan MacLeod
The idyllic beachfront community of Breezy Point, Queens, was laid bare by a devastating fire — fueled by Hurricane Sandy's 70-mph winds — that destroyed 111 houses and damaged another 20 as surging floodwaters initially kept firefighters at bay.
Emergency crews had to contend with the flooding, wind and low fire-hydrant pressure for nearly 12 hours to douse the horrifying six-alarm blaze, which kicked up around 11 p.m. on Monday, October 29.
It may have initially started as an electrical fire that quickly jumped from house to house, officials said.
Thomas and Missy Rom and their four kids, among the handful of residents who defied evacuation orders, narrowly escaped.
"We saw the water rising and said, 'We can fight water.' But when the fire came, we knew we couldn't fight," said Thomas. "We saw houses on fire, and the fire was jumping from one house to the next. That's when we left."
Thomas pushed his son on a surfboard to flee to a neighbor's house. Then they had to escape as the flames spread to that home.
Tuesday, the Roms dug through the rubble that used to be their home.
"We just wanted to see if there's anything left," Thomas said. "There isn't — it's just memories now. I built this house 20 years ago and now I saw the end of it."
Tom Hammill, 60, lived on Fulton Walk with his wife and two daughters. Now all that remains of his house is the back porch.
"I came here to say goodbye. I could see from afar that nothing was left standing. This is total devastation," he said Tuesday.
The storm surge made it impossible for firefighters to immediately get to the isolated neighborhood at the tip of the Rockaway Peninsula. The flames broke out around high tide, when streets were filled with five feet of water.
"Our trucks were initially unable to move due to the flooding. When the water stared to recede, we started working in the area," said Marty Ingram, chief of Breezy Point's Volunteer Fire Department, which works with the FDNY.
"With the wind, it was like a blowtorch last night. It happened at the peak of the tide. We couldn't move in. It destroyed five blocks."
At one point, more than 30 cops who normally would have responded, were stranded inside the 100th Precinct station house by floodwaters, and could not escape using the city-provided rowboats due to a strong current.
"It was no different from when you saw the pictures on TV of [Hurricane] Katrina — the streets just became rivers," said one law-enforcement source.
And Mayor Bloomberg said that motorboats could not be used.
"We had plenty of motor boats; they just can't go where the water isn't very deep," said Bloomberg.
Nearly 200 firefighters battled the blaze, and some residents had to be rescued by boat.
Miraculously, FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano reported, there were no serious injuries or reports of missing people.
"The worst thing I saw like this was the Trade Center. I never saw anything like this in 34 years on the job. This looks like Berlin in WWII," said FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Jack Mooney.
"The city was just strapped. It was an impossible night."
Additional reporting by Larry Celona, Jessica Simeone and Sally Goldenberg
Drowntown New Jersey
Utter Havoc Throughout State
By Jeane MacIntosh
Superstorm Sandy ripped through New Jersey on Monday, October 29, and Tuesday, October 30, leaving entire towns underwater, boardwalks demolished, 2.5 million households without power and at least five dead in an unprecedented trail of destruction.
Gov. Chris Christie said the winds and sea surges left "absolute devastation" as train stations flooded, fallen trees blocked streets, railroad cars washed onto the Turnpike, boardwalk rides crashed into the ocean, and homes came off their foundations and floated down roadways.
"There are no words to describe what's been New Jersey's experience over the last 24 hours, and what we'll have to contend with over the coming days, weeks and months," he said.
"The level of devastation is beyond anything I ever thought I'd see," Christie said. "It's unthinkable."
After speaking with Christie, President Obama expedited the state's designation as major disaster area, with eight counties getting immediate emergency aid.
Two-thirds of the state, or 2.5 million customers, remained without power, double the number during Hurricane Irene. About 460,000 of those outages were caused by the surge that flooded substations along the Passaic, Hackensack and Raritan rivers.
The National Guard was deployed, and search-and-rescue crews combed for stranded residents in Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore towns of Seaside Park, Lavallette and Ortley Beach, which Christie said were "nearly completely underwater."
Part of Atlantic City's iconic boardwalk washed into the streets, while the roller coaster from Seaside Heights' amusement park wound up in the Atlantic.
Farther north in Bergen County, crews and good Samaritans used canoes, power boats and even Jet Skis to evacuate residents in Little Falls and Moonachie after the Hackensack River flowed over a natural berm.
"Around 10 p.m. [Monday], water just started rushing down the street ... There was no stopping it," Little Ferry resident Stefania Davi told NBC News.
More than 400 people were evacuated to shelters.
"Monday night, this block was like a big lake," longtime Hoboken resident Joseph Marra, 80, said as he waited for a pump to help clear his home of waist-deep water.
"This happened in 20 minutes. All of a sudden, it was shooting in from the yard like there was a pump out there," he said.
Entire sections of NJ Transit's North Jersey Coast Line and the Kearny Junction were washed out in what transit officials called "unprecedented" damage.
Additional reporting by Kate Kowsh and Post Wire Services
Jersey Shore's Ride to Ruin
A wrecked roller coaster that once sat on the Funtown Pier — and came to rest in the Atlantic Ocean — was a grim symbol of Hurricane Sandy's wrath as stunned Jersey Shore residents got their first chance to see the horrific damage in the days following the storm.
The roller coaster was a star attraction of Seaside Heights until Sandy came ashore, when a section of the pier collapsed and was washed up on the beach.
Homeowners returned to Point Pleasant Beach for the first time since Sandy and found a wet wasteland.
"A lot of tears are being shed," said Dennis Cucci, whose home sustained heavy damage. "It's absolutely mindboggling."
"It looks like a bomb went off here," said Barbara Montemarano after she and husband Robert drove to see what was left of their condo near the ocean.
"There's almost nobody here; it looks like tumbleweeds are rolling down the street."
About half of Point Pleasant Beach's famous mile-long boardwalk was either destroyed or seriously damaged by the storm — yet a large central section of the boardwalk survived unscathed.
— Kate Kowsh
Sandy's Price Tag Estimated at $42 Billion
By Carl Campanile, Jennifer Fermino and David Seifman
On November 26, Gov. Cuomo put the first official price tag on the economic damage inflicted on the state by Hurricane Sandy — a staggering $42 billion, with $19 billion in the city alone.
He argued that the devastation wreaked by the storm statewide was worse than what Hurricane Katrina did to Louisiana in 2005.
"Hurricane Katrina, in many ways, was not as impactful as Hurricane Sandy, believe it or not," Cuomo said. "Because of the density of New York, the number of people affected, the number of properties affected was much larger in Hurricane Sandy than Hurricane Katrina. This puts the entire conversation, I believe, into focus ... Now Katrina had a human toll that thankfully we have not paid in this region."
Katrina and its subsequent floods claimed 1,866 lives, compared with the more than 100 taken by Sandy.
Figures released by Cuomo's office showed 305,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by Sandy, compared with 214,700 for Katrina in Louisiana. The number of businesses hit here was put at 265,300, against 18,700 in Louisiana. There were 2.19 million power outages here, 800,000 during Katrina.
Cuomo put a $41.9 billion price tag on Sandy's hit to the state, which included both the city's costs and $9.1 billion in what was described as "mitigation and prevention" of future storms.
Repairs to the subways and commuter rail lines alone were expected to cost about $5 billion.
Katrina's hit on Louisiana was $80 billion.
Both Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg are counting on the federal government to cover the tab, a heavy lift at a time of budget battles in Washington.
"Forty-billion dollars to try to finance through taxes would incapacitate the state," warned Cuomo, who met with the city's congressional delegation to discuss the figures.
And New York isn't alone in seeking federal help. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie estimated the damage caused by Sandy in the Garden State at $29.4 billion.
Bloomberg headed to Washington to try to convince congressional leaders the city needs about $15 billion to be made whole, including $9.8 billion more than what's usually provided by FEMA.
Officials said the NYPD anticipated spending $100 million on overtime; the Transportation Department planned $800 million in street repairs and $54 million to fix bridges; and the Parks Department was looking at $150 million to repair Rockaway Beach and another $30 million to restore Coney Island's beach.
Unexpected spending by all city agencies was estimated at $4.5 billion. Uninsured private losses were put at $4.8 billion, and $5.7 billion was claimed in lost business.
"The city will struggle to recover in the long term unless expedited federal funding is supplied," the mayor said in a press release, noting that Congress had allocated $120 billion after Katrina struck.
The mayor also told landlords of apartment buildings still without heat or electricity that the city is prepared to step in and make repairs they'll have to pay for if they don't sign up for no-cost fixes financed by FEMA.
He estimated that about 20,000 to 25,000 residents are still are without power.
Meanwhile, two executives with Long Island Power Authority — which has been heavily criticized for its storm response — have resigned. X. Cristofer Damianos, a member of the Board of Trustees, and Bruce Germano, vice president of customer service, both claimed their decisions had nothing to do with the outrage directed at LIPA.
Waiting in Gas Lines Now a 'Fuel'-Time Job
Demand for Gasoline Far Exceeds Supply
By Matt McNulty, Amy Stretten and Chuck Bennett
Desperate drivers waited in hours-long lines for gasoline in the days following Hurricane Sandy — as officials warned that it would still be several days before supplies get back to normal.
About half of the city's 242 gas stations had lines that extended for blocks, with motorists trying to fuel their cars and people trying to fill jugs.
At the Hess station on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, there were cars in a 10-block line from 30th to 39th streets, and a second block-long line for emergency vehicles.
And in a third line, 80 people lined up about 100-feet long to pump fuel into canisters.
"We're not 100 percent sure when the system will be up and running where you won't feel any effect whatsoever," Gov. Cuomo said.
He urged New Yorkers not to drive if they didn't need to.
There "are continuing issues with the fuel delivery and distribution system," Cuomo said, adding it's a "short-term" problem because fuel deliveries are resuming.
Still, two New Jersey refineries and 10 regional petroleum terminals remain offline, according to the Department of Energy.
The demand was so desperate that some opportunists on Craigslist offered a gallon of fuel for $20 — and some gas stations imposed limits on how much customers could buy.
"We waited for two hours, and we were almost at the front of the line when they cut it off," said Miguel Mejia, at the Hess station in Sunset Park.
Some motorists were luckier.
"They ran out before we could fill up the tank, so we only got $21 worth, but that will last awhile," said Jeremy Ranieri. "The guy before me only got 45 cents before it shut off on him."
He and fiancée Amber Fox bought cookies for the cops and National Guardsmen maintaining order and fueling up emergency vehicles.
In New Jersey — where gas is being rationed by license-plate numbers — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told residents that as electricity comes online, more fuel will be available.
"A lot of power has been restored. A lot remains to be restored," Napolitano said.
Excerpted from Sandy by Joe Funk. Copyright © 2013 New York Post. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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