Hurricane Sandy sent floodwater surging into New York’s Financial District, submerging parked cars and plunging skyscrapers and neighborhoods across the city into darkness as Consolidated Edison Inc. cut power to protect its underground equipment.
As high tide approached near 8 p.m. local time, the East River topped its seawall and flowed up Wall Street in a torrent that turned avenues into canals and intersections into lakes. Newspaper racks and wooden police barricades floated along.
In addition to the Financial District, ConEd said it cut power on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and was considering added blackouts south of 36th Street and in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
A flood gauge at Battery Park, at the southernmost end of Manhattan, registered 13.46 feet as of 8:30 p.m. The National Weather Service said the modern record was 10.02 feet in September 1960 during Hurricane Donna.
“See that Beamer over there?” said Brandon Michon, 26, who works at the private banking unit of JPMorgan Chase & Co., as he pointed to the roof of a nearby white BMW nearly underwater. “Ten minutes ago, the water was up to its tires.”
The prospect of several feet of floodwater in the streets presented a “significant threat” to subway tunnels that cross under the East and Harlem rivers and to restoration of service after the storm, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said. Station entrances and sidewalk vent gratings in low-lying areas were covered with plywood and reinforced with sandbags, said Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the largest U.S. transit agency.
“However, those measures are designed to slow the entrance of water into the system, not to prevent flooding,” he said. “In addition, the pumps installed throughout the subway system to remove water run on electricity, and will not function if electric power to the system is interrupted.” The MTA’s power system is separate from ComEd’s.
Manhattan came the closest to becoming a true island since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks officials blocked off the majority of 11 major crossings into the most populous U.S. city.
The Lincoln Tunnel was the only major crossing in and out of New York’s most populous borough by about 8:30 p.m. Governor Andrew Cuomo closed the Triborough Robert F. Kennedy Bridge after wind gusts reached 100 miles per hour.
“It’s as bad a storm as we’ve seen modern-day,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at an evening news conference in Brooklyn. The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.
In Flushing, Queens, a tree fell on a house around 7 p.m., trapping a 29-year-old man underneath and killing him. In Brooklyn, flooding took over the streets of the Red Hook neighborhood, submerging at least one car up to the roof on Van Brunt Street, while the Gowanus Canal overflowed in places and tree limbs were felled. In Queens, a telephone pole knocked down by the storm sparked a fire in the beachfront neighborhood of the Rockaways and the sea rose to the tops of car tires near Coney Island’s boardwalk.
In an evening press briefing, Bloomberg said he expected the worst would be over by tomorrow and hoped city employees would begin returning to work, even as he expected the city’s mass-transit system to remain partially shut through Oct. 31. More than 3,600 people were in shelters, he said.
Amy Erkan, 31, was standing on the porch of 10 Hanover Place and compared the scene to a Hollywood disaster movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” which depicted New York City succumbing to climate change-related disaster.
“I’ve seen a lot of earthquakes but I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.
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