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NYPD Making Its Presence Known; Mayor Calls Sandy ‘Storm Of Historic Intensity’

Bloomberg: Restoring Power, Getting Mass Transit Back Are Biggest Priorities
Mayor Bloomberg tours some of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 (credit: Edward Reed)

Mayor Bloomberg tours some of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 (credit: Edward Reed)

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Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – In a city not used to being in the dark, police did what they could to light up lower Manhattan with a near constant parade of patrols, squad cars in the heart of a residential darkness and portable lights along main roadways.

The NYPD made its presence known, doing what it could to make residents safe.

“I was concerned about looting but I actually feel safe. There’s been lot of cops, lots of sirens,” Lower East Side resident Teresa Logan told CBS 2′s Sean Hennessey.

SUPERSTORM SANDY: Power Outages | Road & Tunnel Closures | Sandy Claims Lives | Submit Your Pictures | Sandy In Photos | Viewer Pics |  Videos | WATCH: CBS 2 | LISTEN: 1010 WINS | WCBS 880

It was a reassuring presence for those living in the dark and worried about possessions in peril.

“Can’t hurt. That’s for sure. Can’t hurt to have them here. Makes us feel safe,” said William Tang, who lives in the Financial District.

The effects of the superstorm that flooded parts of the city left at least 22 people dead, according to the NYPD.

The dead included two who drowned in a home and one who was in bed when a tree fell on an apartment, the mayor said. A 23-year-old woman died by stepping into a puddle near a live electrical wire. A man and a woman were crushed by a falling tree. An off-duty officer on Staten Island who ushered his relatives to the attic of his home apparently became trapped in the basement.

The storm, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg called a “storm of historic intensity,” also downed trees and knocked out power to thousands. Bloomberg said the path of destruction left in Sandy’s wake “will last for some time.”

Bloomberg said the “mammoth job” of restoring power and getting mass transit back on track were now the biggest priority for city officials.

Officials were working to “Ensure all New Yorkers get power back as soon as humanly possible,” according to the mayor.

Bloomberg once again reiterated his plea for New Yorkers to use 911 only for “life-threatening” issues and to use 311 for all other situations.

The megastorm Sandy caused 13-foot storm surges in the city.

“Make no mistake about it, this was a devastating storm, maybe the worst we have ever experienced,” he said.

1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports

“Clearly, the challenges our city faces in the next few days are enormous,” Bloomberg said. “The MTA and Con Ed both have very strong leaders and extraordinarily dedicated workers and they will continue to work around the clock to get their service fixed.”

That said, the MTA rolled out limited, fare-free bus service on a Sunday schedule as of Tuesday evening. The agency said they expected a full bus schedule to be in effect for Wednesday.

The MTA also released stunning video of the flooded out South Ferry-Whitehall subway station.

Meters and alternate side of the street parking have been suspended again for Wednesday, Bloomberg announced.

There have been nearly 23 serious fires to parts of Staten Island, Queens and City Island in the Bronx, Bloomberg said.

Nearly 200 firefighters tried to contain an enormous blaze that destroyed 80-100 flooded homes in Breezy Point and forced the rescue of about 25 people from an upstairs apartment.

Officials weren’t immediately able to pin down the cause of the blaze.

155000457 NYPD Making Its Presence Known; Mayor Calls Sandy Storm Of Historic Intensity

A firefighter works to contain a fire that destroyed over 80 homes during Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 in Breezy Point, Queens.(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Early Tuesday morning, President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in the State of New York, making federal funding available to affected individuals in the Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Richmond, Suffolk and Queens counties.

LISTEN: Gov. Andrew Cuomo On WCBS 880

“These extreme weather conditions are a new phenomenon; something that I think we’re going to have to live with,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told 1010 WINS on Tuesday. “I don’t think this is a once in a lifetime anymore.”

Cuomo said the hybrid storm system was one of the worst he’s ever experienced.

“I’ve been in hurricanes, I’ve been in floods, I’ve been in fires, I’ve been in earthquakes,” Cuomo said. “It was as frightening as anything I had ever seen.”

The governor said he was inspired by the actions of first responders and the National Guard who conducted 156 rescue missions throughout the night in New York City, Long Island and Westchester. Though Sandy was catastrophic in many ways, Cuomo said the experience will make the city stronger.

“It’s going to make us a tighter community and I believe we’re not just going to build back, we’ll build back better than ever before,” Cuomo said. “We’ll make this city a stronger, smarter city than ever before.”

Scenes of the damage were everywhere.

“It looks like something out of a movie,” one man told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “When I came out I saw scaffolding down, trees down, pay phone booths down.”

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.

1010 WINS’ Gene Michaels reports from Battery Park City

Just how bad is the flooding of the Hugh Carey Brooklyn Battery Tunnel?

Gov. Cuomo and MTA chairman Joe Lhota were able to drive 1,000 feet into the tunnel before being forced to turn back.

“And all of a sudden, you see a wall of water. The water goes straight up on and angle to the roof. That water stretches for 6,000 feet, a little over a mile. It’s in both tunnels, we estimate that it’s 43 million gallons of water,” Lhota told WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond.

WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond reports

The Army Corps of Engineers is helping pump the water out and then tunnel engineer Romolo DeSantis takes over.

“We have to evaluate all the controls, signals, ventilation, all the feeder, main cable. Everything has to be cleaned up properly. It’s a lengthy process.”

tunnelflooding NYPD Making Its Presence Known; Mayor Calls Sandy Storm Of Historic Intensity

Water pours into the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery tunnel due to Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012. (credit: CBS 2)

Experts have not even ventured a guess as to when the tunnel may reopen. Lhota said it could be days or weeks before the tunnel is open to traffic.

The rains and howling winds left a crane hanging off a luxury high-rise in midtown Manhattan, causing the evacuation of hundreds from a posh hotel and other buildings.

Inspectors were climbing 74 flights of stairs to examine the crane hanging from the $1.5 billion building. Experts said that strong wind gusts were likely to blame for the situation.

Bloomberg said Tuesday that the crane was stable and as soon as winds die down, crews will secure the massive structure and find a way to safely bring it down.

WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell: Flooded Cars On The East Side

On Staten Island, a tanker ship wound up beached on the shore.

Residents in Red Hook, Brooklyn who ignored the mandatory evacuation awoke to debris-strewn streets and a continuing blackout. Streets were covered with about 2 inches of muck and leaves. Power lines were down.

1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reports

“We’ll get back on our feet, we’ll get this done, we’ll go back to work, we’ll go back to school but it’s going to be a pain in the you-know-what,” Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said. “But we’ll get it done. We have no choice.”

The floodwaters that rose at least 12 blocks inland had receded by dawn Tuesday. It left cars strewn like leaves on the streets. Planters were deposited in intersections. Green metal Dumpsters were tossed on their sides.

OUTAGES

Con Edison was reporting about 836,000 customers without electricity as of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, mostly in New York City and Westchester County. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 326 buildings and 59 public housing developments are in the dark.

“This is the largest storm-related outage in our history,” said Con Edison Senior Vice President for Electric Operations John Miksad.

Sandy beat the previous record which was set last year when Hurricane Irene left more than 200,000 customers in the dark.

In Manhattan, power was knocked out around 8 :30 p.m. Monday following a transmitter explosion at a substation at East 14th Street, leaving a huge stretch from East 39th Street to the lower tip in the dark. The utility said it could take up to a week to restore power to customers affected by the explosion.

It could take up to four days to restore power to about 6,500 customers affected by a planned power cut. Con Ed cut power intentionally to some customers in lower Manhattan and southern Brooklyn in an effort to protect equipment from salt water and allow for quicker restoration.

MASS TRANSIT

The New York City subway system “has never faced a disaster as devastating” as the damage that was caused by superstorm Sandy, MTA chairman Lhota said Tuesday.

Seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded Monday night. One subway station in lower Manhattan still has water up to the ceiling. The MTA cut power to some subway stations Monday after water began pouring into stations and tracks.

Lhota said officials have a goal of trying to restart parts of the subway system as soon as possible, but it’s too early to tell when that might happen or how badly the submerged tunnels have been damaged.

Subway service remains suspended until further notice.

The mayor said New York City taxi drivers will be allowed to pick up multiple fares even while a passengers is in the cab.

The fare for the additional passenger will be negotiated between the driver and the passenger. The driver must quote the fare upfront. The Taxi and Limousine Commissioner recommends a fare of $10 per additional passenger for passengers who join a trip already in progress.

Liveries, black cars and luxury limousines are permitted to accept street-hail passengers anywhere in New York City.

All bridges with the exception of the Rockaway bridges were opened at noon Tuesday, Cuomo said. The Brooklyn-Battery, Queens Midtown and Holland tunnels are closed. The Lincoln Tunnel is open.

All LIRR service remains suspended Tuesday. Penn Station and Jamaica Station are closed. Metro-North service has also been halted.

All NJ TRANSIT rail, bus, light rail and Access Link service is suspended until further notice. All PATH service as well as public and private bus service is also suspended.

John F. Kennedy International will reopen Wednesday, the Port Authority said. LaGuardia, which has extensive damage, will remain closed until further notice.

Newark Liberty International will also reopen Wednesday, the Port Authority said. Stewart International Airport is open.

CLOSURES:

The New York Stock Exchange will reopen on Wednesday. This was the first time it’s been closed for two consecutive days due to weather since 1888, when a blizzard struck the city.

New York City public schools were closed Tuesday and will remain closed on Wednesday, Bloomberg said. Catholic schools will also be closed.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)