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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Hurricane Sandy Aftermath
Aired October 30, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast, a bit more than 26 hours since Sandy first came ashore.
Some breaking news, late word that New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport is now open, but only for incoming flights and additional limited service resumes tomorrow. That's a major development for anybody trying to come into this city, and also ultimately trying to leave.
New York's smaller airports, La Guardia Airport, which mains serves domestic destinations, that remains closed due to flooding. Newark Liberty International Airport reopens for limited service at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow, both good signs of life, a sign of life returning to normal, but only beginning, small signs; 18 New Yorkers we know have now lost their lives in this storm, 15 elsewhere. Nearly seven million are without power tonight, including about 750,000 here in New York City.
Amazingly, no one died in the building that you see behind me here. The entire facade of this building collapsed. We're in a neighborhood called Chelsea, really on the border between Chelsea and Greenwich Village. But the picture says a lot. Take a look at that, the entire facade of the building, which was being used frankly as an illegal hotel, mostly for overseas visitors, the entire facade is gone.
The four rooms tell the story of this storm in miniature. Thankfully we understand nobody was killed in there, it could have been much worse. Uptown, about two miles north of where I'm standing right now, in Chelsea, a dangling crane. That is another story entirely. A dagger pointed 90 stories down. Thousands in a nearby hotel and apartments all have been evacuated. The building is lit up tonight, but you see the crane there, the boom hanging down.
The tension there is palpable, and about a seven-block area all around there has been cordoned off. Relief elsewhere, well, it redeems almost anything. I want you take a look at perhaps the most beautiful thing to come out of this storm.
Her name is Alice Rosenbaum, she's the tiny one in her father's arms, and the fact she's in fact safely home tonight, especially after what she went through it would make anyone smile. Born in a hospital where they lost power, and the backup generators failed. Even here, even now, it's almost enough to redeem everything else are you going to see tonight, almost, starting with Jason Carroll. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A disaster still ongoing, the images overwhelming.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: This was a devastating storm.
CARROLL: A tanker onshore.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: It is beyond anything I thought I would ever see.
CARROLL: Miles of shoreline washed away, home after oceanfront home, surrounded by water, yet consumed by fire. In West Virginia, and across the Appalachians, ice and snow. All of it, all of this, the legacy of Sandy, a superstorm that's living up to the name, as bad as the billing, as terrible as the forecast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just these massive -- look at these waves coming through behind me.
CARROLL: New Jersey caught some of the first of it, and much of the worst.
CHRISTIE: We're at a moment now where evacuation is no longer possible, and we will no longer be able to come and rescue people.
CARROLL: Those who stayed woke up to this. In Toms River, New Jersey, and elsewhere, EMS phones rang nonstop, and rescues continued today until nightfall, crews pulling several hundred people to safety.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not sure if it was a levee, a compromise. Something was compromised there.
CARROLL: Inland and farther north, the police chief of Bergen County, New Jersey, describes a breach that left several towns and one trailer park as much as five feet deep in dangerous water.
ELAINE ACQUAIRE, NEW JERSEY: I may have lost my home, I may have lost my car, but I'm alive.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: As everyone knows in New York, Sandy packed a punch for the metropolitan area yesterday. I don't think words like catastrophic or historic are too strong to explain the impact.
I saw people put themselves in the way of danger that was really inspirational. And if it wasn't for the National Guard and state police and the NYPD and what the agencies at this table did, I think that the number of -- the loss of life would have been much greater.
CARROLL: Manhattan is an island. Lower Manhattan is at sea level in the best of times and nearly 14 feet below it last night. Water filled the riverfront, then the streets, then tunnels, cars, and subways, then at a Con Ed power plant serving Lower Manhattan a spark, a transformer explosion, and a massive fireball.
It's the last night this skyline would see and might see for the next several days, 750,000 without electricity and somewhere down there in the darkness, producer Rose Arce reported:
ROSE ARCE, CNN PRODUCER: It's completely dark. There's absolutely nobody outside. The police a little bit earlier were driving up and down the street where the water comes up to and had bullhorns on and they were telling people if you're on the first floor, you should get out, you should evacuate, you should move to higher ground.
CARROLL: New York University's massive riverfront hospital lost power, backups failed and evacuations began for 260 patients, including critically ill babies. But even this wasn't the worst of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The danger is of course that it will continue to spread with the embers blowing in the wind.
CARROLL: Out where New York meets the Atlantic Ocean, New York City's Breezy Point, home after home, 80, maybe more, went up in flames.
Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.
COOPER: The devastation in Breezy Point is really hard to kind of wrap your mind around; 80 homes went up in flames, homes that are very close to one another, and that high wind brought those flames leaping from one house to another.
Our Deborah Feyerick is live in Breezy Point, Queens, right now with the latest -- Deborah.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, somebody who lived here summed it up best. They said fighting a fire in a hurricane is a lesson in futility.
All the homes here are completely obliterated. You can see some foundations, but pretty much nothing else. You could see cars that were incinerated, and this we believe is a jeep. this we believe is a Honda. It is hard to make out anything in the massive debris. There were 200 firefighters were who trying to put out this six-alarm blaze.
It followed the exact path of the wind last night, southeast. Taking all the homes almost in a pie-shaped direction. One official earlier said there were probably as many as 100 homes which may have been devastated. This is such a tight community, and as I was walking through, folks would actually come to see whether anything was salvageable. One man checking out his sister's home, saying not only his sister's home was burned to the ground, but his father-in-law's home.
And then folks who live here year-round, three sisters, their homes side by side by side. It's that kind of community, Anderson. One home which miraculously was spared belongs to a 9/11 widow, we're told, and apparently only the siding melted, but the intensity of that heat so dramatic, but right now we can tell you the smell of smoke so heavy in the air, firefighters spent the better part of the day simply trying to put out blazes that kept erupting, one of them on the wires.
It's pitch dark, by the way, Anderson, because you can't really even see. All the electricity is off. They don't know whether the fire was caused by a transformer or whether it was caused by some downed power lines, but even one of those posts holding all of the power lines, that was on fire at one point today. This is still very much in progress, people just trying to figure out exactly what they will do next. Right now, they are simply trying to catch their breath, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, no loss of life, though, among those 80 homes, correct, Deborah?
FEYERICK: That's correct. They haven't gotten in to search all of the homes. But right now, they do believe all of them were evacuated. One firefighter who said the water got so high, he thought he was going to drift off, heard people screaming, came back, rescued 15 people.
COOPER: One blessing, no loss of life there. Deb Feyerick, appreciate the report.
Hoboken, New Jersey, now home to 50,000 people, it sits just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, just west of where I'm standing, and today it woke up to this. The city occupies just one square mile and much of its southern end is underwater. The mayor has been asking for help from the National Guard.
Tonight, there is late word they are on their way.
Gary Tuchman joins me with the latest.
Gary, we just learned that information about two hours ago, and that is certainly welcome news to the mayor and everybody there, because she is desperate to get some help there.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very desperate. It's a very unusual situation here, Anderson.
You have almost the entire city without power. You have 50 percent of the city underwater. But most alarmingly, the mayor says there are thousands of residents who are trapped inside their homes in the cold and the dark. There are search missions going on for priority situations, for emergency situations, they are taking a front-loader, not a boat, but a front-loader through the water.
I went with the mayor on the front-loader. We actually sat on the shovel as we went through the town and we saw people in the windows waving us, children, men, women, old people. Most of them were smiling, because unlike New Orleans, we saw the same scenes, they know the water is receding. The hope is most of these people can get out of their home tomorrow.
But it's not just the water that is making them stuck. It's also because there's live power lines in the water, it's dangerous to walk around and that's why people are still in their homes. But we saw some people trying to walk out and that was scary, because they were trying to drive their cars through four feet of water. Their cars got stuck and then they started to try push their cars.
At that point, a police officer got out of the vehicle we were in, grabbed three of the people, one at a time, put them on his shoulder, put one woman on his shoulder, put her on the front-loader.
The mayor and I helped get the woman on the front-loader, and two more people came on, so they were rescued. Right now, they are hoping that this water recedes enough tomorrow that all of the people can get out. But there are literally thousands of people inside these homes right now. It's cold, it's dark, most of them have some food. But it is very alarming.
When we talked two hours ago to the mayor, she was very concerned at that point she had no help at all from the state of New Jersey. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAWN ZIMMER, MAYOR OF HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY: We have 50,000 people in Hoboken. And probably half of Hoboken is flooded. So there's anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 people that are...
TUCHMAN: Still in those homes.
ZIMMER: That are still in their homes.
TUCHMAN: And they can't get out.
ZIMMER: And they can't get out. I'm asking for the National Guard to come in. We're desperate for the National Guard to come in.
We need their specialized equipment to be able to get through the city streets and to be able to safely get to people and to be able to evacuate those that absolutely need to be evacuated.
TUCHMAN: ... for the National Guard.
ZIMMER: I have been asking them. There is a chain of command with the state and we have been going through...
ZIMMER: They are coming, they are coming, they are coming, but they are not here. I just had a grandmother that I had to tell I'm so sorry, we but can't get in to get your grandchildren. They are 7- month-old twins running out of food. She last spoke to her grandchildren or her daughter this morning and she said I think I have enough food to get through the night. These are 7-month-old twins that I cannot get to. I cannot help them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Gary, I want to ask you about the situation with the National Guard, but before I do, just those images of that police officer carrying folks on his shoulders, putting them in the front- loader, we have seen so many first-responders who have suffered losses of their own and yet are out there.
He's in waist-deep water doing that, and it's just an amazing picture and just such a testament to the dedication of a lot of folks right now. There's a heavy police presence in New York. You see them out on the streets riding around. A lot of fire trucks -- a fire truck is about to pass me by right now. They have been working nonstop. These folks are really -- folks from the MTA trying to get the subways back online. There's a lot of folks working around the clock right now.
Let's talk about the National Guard, Gary, because we did get late word -- about two hours, you got word that they are going to get to Hoboken. Correct?
TUCHMAN: Yes. Literally, when I talked to the mayor two hours ago, we were about to go on the air and we got word from the town, they just heard from the state of New Jersey, the National Guard is coming and indeed the National Guard will be arriving in Hoboken tomorrow to help with rescues.
They expected the water will go down a little bit, but perhaps not enough for all people to walk out on their own. So, they will start going in behind me and getting people out of their homes. You have got to remember, this is very different from any other hurricane. You're dealing with very cold weather. These people have no heat while they are waiting right now.
COOPER: Yes, incredible.
Gary, appreciate the reporting. I know it's been a long 26 hours for you.
Again, more fire trucks passing. We have been hearing a lot of sirens all day long. There's just so many different places that first-responders are trying to get to. It will be a long several days, and as I said, south New York below 31st Street on the west side below 39th Street on the east side all without power, without cell phone service, e-mails, and folks are trying to get e-mails wherever they can.
They're actually gathered around our satellite truck and have been for several hours because there is Wi-Fi in the sat truck and there's groups of 30, 40 people sometimes just there with their mobile devices just trying to get in touch with their friends, their loved ones. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. Tweet us where you are and what you have been saying.
Just ahead, the mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the mayor of Seaside Heights, where the homes took a pounding. The pictures there are extraordinary and so difficult to see. But the people are made of tougher stuff and you will hear from them tonight. And also the remarkable rescue effort going on all across New Jersey, that, as Gary said, is not over yet, not by a long shot.
We will be right back.
COOPER: Welcome back. You are looking at video from yesterday in New York, video that captured the moment when the arm of a construction crane attached to a high-rise building toppled over and started dangling above Midtown Manhattan.
It's hard to look at and see in that vantage point. The crane is still dangling though as we speak. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this afternoon experts believe the crane is stable and that tomorrow workers will be able to pull the boom back toward the building, tie it down and from there they will work to dismantle it. We will have to wait and see how that goes.
President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will tour parts of the state of New Jersey tomorrow.
Atlantic City is obviously on the president's schedule.
Lorenzo Langford is the mayor of Atlantic City. He joins us now by phone.
Mayor Langford, your city was truly slammed by this superstorm, the boardwalk smashed, areas flooded. If you can, give us a status update.
LORENZO LANGFORD, MAYOR OF ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY: Israeli think we are coming out of this thing in pretty good shape, believe it or not.
Our biggest concern at this point is trying to restore power to one-third of our residents. Once we are able to do that, I am hopeful that the state police will open up the roads into Atlantic City to allow for the passage of our residents who have moved to higher ground into shelters outside of the city, to enable them to come back in and return to their humble abodes. That's our biggest concern right now.
COOPER: Were there any casualties?
LANGFORD: We had one casualty.
We haven't determined as of yet whether or not it was an Atlantic City resident. But one of the shelters where some of our residents had been moved to did realize a fatality, I should say. And that's the only reported fatality that we have heard of, and in addition to that, we are blessed from the standpoint that we have had no serious injuries, loss of limbs or anything like that.
So the human toll, damage has been minimal. And one death is certainly too many, but we have been blessed in that respect.
COOPER: Yes, that's amazing, considering what we saw earlier.
Are you getting the federal, the state help that you need? If not, what do you need from them?
LANGFORD: Well, we were on the phone twice today, as a matter of fact, with FEMA and also with the president directly and his staff.
And they have assured us that the full weight of the government in terms of their resources is at our beckoning and certainly once we have had an opportunity to do a full assessment with respect to our needs, we will be calling the federal government and asking for those resources.
COOPER: You had quite a dustup with the governor of your state, Chris Christie. He basically accused you of ignoring state-issued evacuation orders, criticizing you for telling people they could shelter in place as a last resort. What do you make of that?
Earlier, I know you said Governor Christie should call you, that he should -- quote -- "be man enough" to own up to what you said was his mischaracterization of what you had advised residents.
Have you heard anything from him?
LANGFORD: I have not.
I expect at some point tomorrow our paths will cross. Listen, what's important is to make sure that all of us, the governor, the mayor and every elected official makes sure that we keep what's really important first and foremost and that's the safety of the constituents that we serve. Anything personal between the governor and I, I look beyond that.
I'm more magnanimous than that. I'm not about personalities. I'm about principle. We have a job to do, and from this side that's exactly what we're going to do.
COOPER: Well, Mayor Langford, I know it's been an extraordinary 26-plus hours for you. I appreciate your time. We will continue to check in with you in the days ahead.
Farther north in Bergen County, New Jersey, major parts of it are underwater, several towns flooding when a natural levee broke. Hundreds of people there had to be rescued from rooftops, from porches.
CNN's Maggie Lake has been covering the story for us.
Maggie, what's the latest there? MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we have rescue operations suspended for the most part for the moment. They will resume again tomorrow.
But we have watched thousands of people stream into the site today with little more than the clothes on their back, their pets, their children and maybe a small bag. This is a community that is absolutely in shock. We knew where we were on the coast when the storm hit in Asbury Park, we were expecting flooding. No one here expected this. There was no evacuation order.
This is not a community that has seen anything of this magnitude before. We were in the towns of Little Falls and Moonachie today touring around, and the water even at low tide still waist deep, cars floating in the streets. People had water on the first floor of their homes.
I have to say, Anderson, I'm from New Jersey, the people here are tough and they look out for each other and that's exactly what we saw today. We hooked up with a family -- I had seen it on the news -- from a neighboring town. They have a refurbished military vehicle, and they decided to come down to see if they could lend a hand, and it was much-needed.
They were working in conjunction with the National Guard. We rode with them as we went around house to house. And there were many elderly people they picked up. People were saying don't take us now, go to the older people, they need your help. You can come back and get us, and we saw it over and over again. The older people got in the truck, one man just had a pacemaker put in. They were very, very disturbed, and they had never seen anything like this in their lives, very scared, but maintained a sense of humor.
Again, thousands came out, and they expect to go in tomorrow. So far, no known fatalities here, but obviously officials want to make sure they get everyone out who needs to get out. One of the problems is people did not have information, power out, no cell phones, didn't know what to do or where to go.
COOPER: Yes, and that's still a problem for so many, no power, no cell phones, very hard to get in touch with loved ones and the like.
Maggie, I appreciate the reporting. We will continue to check in with you in that community over the next several days.
So many places we're trying to bring you stories from, trying to give you as much up-to-date information as possible. And if you're in an area and you have power and you are hearing us, and you know people nearby who don't have power, try to pass along whatever information you can, however you get the information.
Governor Chris Christie today, he described the devastation at the Jersey Shore as unthinkable. That's the word he used. It's certainly true. It's really hard to wrap your brain around pictures like these from the National Guard. Look at that. That's the coastline of Seaside Heights, houses buried in the sand.
In fact, sand washed into homes at least 100 yards from the normal high tide line. I spoke with Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers.
COOPER: What are you contending with tonight? What is your number one priority right now?
BILL AKERS, MAYOR OF SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY: Right now, we're just trying to get through the evening. We're trying to secure some diesel fuel to keep the police station running and the Borough Hall, which is the only building that has the power through the generator right now.
We're trying to get over 100 gallons of fuel from the OEM right now. That's what we're doing at the time.
COOPER: Do you -- the pictures are just horrific to look at. Do you have any sense of the scope of the destruction?
AKERS: I'm glad you have a picture, because if you don't see it, you just can't fully understand it.
And as you're going through it, I'm not ashamed to say I'm overwhelmed. I feel so small against what we have to do to -- going forward here. I'm going to need a lot of help from the federal government, the state government, the local government, the individuals in our community, professionals that certainly know a lot more than myself, because we're going to be going basically from the ground up.
Seaside Heights as it was known before will never be known that way again.
COOPER: I understand there were rescue efforts under way as of earlier today. Can you give us the latest on that?
AKERS: Yes, most of the rescues, we have gotten out just about everybody that we can at this point in time. We feel like that we have gotten everybody that's wanted to go out.
Some people waited until a very, very late date, and we got some very special people over here that have a wonderful job, volunteers that want to do nothing more than just help put their own life on the line to just help these people. And we're very grateful to have individuals like that. So, our rescue is just about I would say about 98 percent complete.
COOPER: Well, Mayor Akers, my thoughts and prayer, as are the thoughts of prayers of so many, are with you and your community right now. And I wish you the best. And we will talk to you in the days ahead. Thank you. I hope you get the help you need quickly.
AKERS: Thank you, sir.
COOPER: Seeing the destruction there, really, just it's hard to imagine.
In New York and New Jersey, the problems have been wind, water, and fire. In West Virginia, it is snow, if you can believe it, in fact, blizzard conditions. We are going to have the latest on that piece of the puzzle of the superstorm next. We will be right back.
COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We keep getting new pictures that show this storm's strength. Different perspectives from people in their own homes.
Here's some incredible video of the winds uprooting a tree in the backyard on the north shore of Long Island. It takes a few seconds. But as you can see right there, you can already see the ground starting to move up. This is obviously a very old tree. Just take a look and listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uh-oh. Uh-oh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So sad to see. The root system in that tree very far spread out.
Sandy is still hitting parts of West Virginia hard tonight. With snow, though, not rain. Heavy, wet snow, weighing down trees, knocking down power lines. Utility companies say more than 340,000 customers are without power. Some areas of the state are still under a blizzard warning tonight. One death is being reported so far there. Martin Savidge joins us now from West Virginia.
Marty, the conditions you've been seeing for the last -- well, all day long, are just incredible. How is it right now?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is amazing. We're still talking about the same essential storm that walloped the eastern coastline, but now off in the mountains of West Virginia here. Totally different impact, but still dangerous and still potentially problematic for some time to come.
Snow still falls, snow totals now starting to be measured in feet, not inches anymore, and as you said, the blizzard warnings we thought were going to expire have actually been extended. They're going to go through the night tonight and apparently through most of the day tomorrow. It is still blowing, still drifting, the temperatures dropping. The plows are going to have a hard time keeping up.
You mentioned the number of hundreds of thousands without power. They're also, of course, without heat. That's going to be a danger. The National Guard has now been put into action. They are going door to door in some areas for people who may be isolated. Cut off by the snow, checking on their welfare. And they've also brought in heavy equipment.
This snow is so deep, so thick and so heavy, the typical plow is not going to cut it anymore. They need earth-moving equipment to handle this. Anderson, they really don't know what the final totals are going to be. They won't know until it stops snowing, and no one's really sure when that's going to happen -- Anderson.
COOPER: It looks like it's not snowing right now. Do they know how long the snow is expected to last for?
SAVIDGE: Well, it actually is. It's kind of deceptive here. It's not snowing as heavily as it was. But it is still falling at a fairly steady pace. And it really will depend on what elevation and what part of the state. The higher you go, the more snow you're going to get. You're farther to the south and southeast, you'll also probably see more snow. Totals have been put at about two feet, three feet. It could possibly go higher in some areas.
COOPER: Wow. Well, Marty, try to get -- get warm, stay warm, appreciate your reporting all day long.
Let's check in with Chad Myers now. We're talking about a big overview of what the storm is doing right now.
Chad, where is this storm? What's it look like?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is just north of Pittsburgh up in the Allegheny Mountains, south of Wycannon (ph), Cattaraugus County, Buffalo, western New York.
What -- what it did today, a couple of things. One, a severe thunderstorm rolled right through the Boston area, all the way from Barstinal (ph) right on up into New Hampshire, Vermont, put down some hail. Capsized some boats with winds about 60 to 70 miles per hour. Made some big waves on Lake Michigan here as the wind coming down the lake at about 40, and Cleveland yesterday had a wind gust to 67. Today, only 50. That's still pretty good.
Here's the snow. Here's Morgantown; here's Elkins. There's Charleston. That's where the heaviest, heaviest snow is. And the wind has died down just a little bit. There's a 17-mile-per-hour gust there. It was 17, 13 and in Richwood, somewhere in there.
So yes, the snow is still coming down and yes, it is still blowing, but tapering off.
Now, it's still real snow. You were asking how long is it going to snow? At least another 24 hours. Look at these numbers. Redhouse, Maryland -- that's Garrett County, Maryland -- 29 inches. Flat Top Davis, 28, in West Virginia, Terra Alta at 24 inches of snow, and it is still snowing at each one of those locations. Eastern Maryland, the winner when it comes to rain or maybe not, considering what it was. And Mt. Washington, 140 miles per hour was the highest wind gust from the Islip, Surf City, and all approaching that 90-mile-per-hour wind gust from the storm yesterday.
Tapering off, obviously. We are still seeing the flooding. A picture from JetBlue of what LaGuardia Airport looked like today. Today's surge wasn't nearly what it was last night. So LaGuardia is going to remain closed, and right now that number is still indefinitely.
COOPER: Wow. And temperatures dropping here in New York tonight. I can tell you that there's going to be a lot of very cold people in their homes tonight without electricity. Chad, thank you very much for all you've done over the last 20, 24, 26 hours.
Tonight, one New York family is telling their unforgettable story. They were part of this evacuation, really an extraordinary evacuation of NYU Medical Center. NYU Medical Center is across town about 20 blocks or so north of where I'm standing. Their newborn baby was less than 48 hours old when the power went out entirely. The backup generators failed, as well. They never dreamed they'd have to flee to safety from the hospital.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES ROSENBAUM, FATHER OF NEWBORN GIRL EVACUATED FROM NYU MEDICAL CENTER: You assume that power is going to be going in the hospital. You figured at NYU, in New York City, it was -- things were -- probably one of the safest places to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, this is what it sounded like last night when Sandy hit. One of our CNN i-Reporters captured this video from outside his apartment in Jersey City, which is just across the Hudson River from where I am right now in Manhattan.
It has been a harrowing 26 hours for hundreds of sick patients who had to be evacuated from the NYU Langone Medical Center during Superstorm Sandy. Can you imagine that? Being in the hospital, having to be evacuated, brought down several blocks -- several flights of stairs in complete darkness.
The hospital was just a block from the East River, which was on the opposite side of the island of Manhattan from where I am right now. Lost power; its backup generators failed. Patients had to be carried down, as I said, as many as 15 flights of stairs. Flashlights giving the only illumination.
For some of the tiniest patients -- we're talking infants on ventilators, nurses had to manually pump air into their chests while going down the stairs. Patients were taken to five different hospitals, including Mt. Sinai. This is one of the extraordinary stories that occurred here last night.
The most critically ill, obviously, were moved first. A dramatic and terrifying night for patients and their caregivers. Charles Rosenbaum and Kim Landman (ph) will never forget it. Their newborn daughter, Alice, was less than 48 hours old when the hospital lost power. She was born on Sunday. Look at her. What a shayna punim. Four weeks early, but very healthy. Their first child.
I spoke with Charles Rosenbaum earlier, and Alice joined us, as well.
COOPER: Charles, first of all, congratulations on the birth of your beautiful first child. Alice is adorable. And I want to welcome Alice, as well. I know she came in the world four weeks early, should have been at the hospital until today for monitoring. How is she doing now? How is your wife doing? How is everybody doing?
ROSENBAUM: Thank you, Anderson. She's doing great. We feel very fortunate that we were able to, you know, get through this, and she's -- she's pretty happy, healthy. You can see, I actually think she's opening her eyes now for you. She's been pretty sleepy. She's 36 weeks old. So, you know, we were definitely concerned that her health was going to be OK through this, and the people at NYU were great. And so we -- we're very happy the way this turned out.
COOPER: Well, I mean, I've seen the pictures of you and Alice with glow sticks. Walk us through what it was like when the power went out, when you knew, you know, it was gone for good.
ROSENBAUM: It was definitely an interesting time there. We got there on Saturday night at 3 in the morning. The -- we didn't deliver her -- my wife delivered her Sunday at 9 a.m., and then, you know, we thought everything was kind of business as usual.
We assumed that power was going to be going in the hospital. We figured that NYU and New York City was, you know, things were probably one of the safest places to be. But, you know, as time went on, you know, turns out that we're up in our room, and on the 13th floor, when the power went out, the generators went on, and I think that was about 7 p.m. And then shortly after that, I think one of the generators failed, and the power on our side of the floor went out.
We had the glow sticks. They got passed around by nurses, who seemed pretty calm and confident, so we weren't too worried at that time. There was still -- the electrical still going on on the other side of the floor, 13th floor. And so I actually went over there to plug my phone in to get it charged, and I heard the nurses talking about how, in 15 minutes, that all of the electricity was going to be going down.
And so as a good father, I scooted right back to my room and told my wife, Kim, and you know, we started talking about what was going to be the next step? COOPER: The -- you know, it's not often that anything good comes out of a storm, but I got to say your daughter is the most beautiful thing I've seen that has come out of -- out of the storm. And I'm just so happy that everybody is well and safe and healthy. And, Charles, I wish you and baby Alice and your entire family the best.
ROSENBAUM: Thank you very much. Thank you.
COOPER: And our best to Kim. I'm glad she is doing well.
As great as that story obviously is, as wonderfully as it ended for them, there are questions tonight, of course, about why the backup systems at NYU Langone failed. The irony is NYU, New York University, the law school, they actually -- they do have generators, and that's one of the few places in Lower Manhattan that actually has power tonight. I walked by there to come to this location. There were kids studying in the library, lights on, their computers on and working, connected to the Internet.
The sickest patients at NYU, they weren't evacuated before the storm hit. That's also raising questions tonight. Baby Alice, as you just saw, is healthy. Other babies who were evacuated from the hospital were much more fragile, one of them, a newborn girl half the size of Alice. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us live now with her story -- Sanjay.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the story of Emma, Anderson, also beautiful, but fragile as you say. It's also a story of the doctors and the nurses who saved her in the middle of Hurricane Sandy, while her parents were stranded so far away.
GUPTA (voice-over): Monday night, this baby, 13-day-old baby Martinez, a preemie, weighing just two pounds, suddenly needed to be urgently transported from NYU Langone Hospital to Mt. Sinai. Challenging under any conditions, and these were extraordinary ones.
At about 10:30 p.m., CEO of Mt. Sinai, Dr. Kenneth Davis, got the call. Within an hour, the babies from Langone started arriving.
DR. KENNETH DAVIS, CEO/PRESIDENT, MT. SINAI: It's frightening. It's about as challenging as you can get. And when you're dealing with tiny little babies like this who are so fragile, it really can be an extraordinary circumstance.
GUPTA (on camera): We're in front of NYU Medical Center. Mt. Sinai is several blocks to the north over there and about four blocks to the west. And that's sort of the important point, because just over there is the East River.
What we now know is at 7 p.m., there was no water inside that hospital. At 7:45, there was ten feet. The power started to go out, and then the generators failed, and all of a sudden, the patients and the doctors found themselves in a worst-case scenario.
(voice-over) As for the parents of little baby Martinez, they found out the hospital and their daughter would be evacuated when they watched Mayor Michael Bloomberg on TV. Shortly after, they lost power, and they had no idea where their baby would be taken.
LUZ MARTINEZ, MOTHER: It was confirmed by my family member that they were calling on me on the phone, because suddenly I lost -- outage in my apartment. We had no access to the TV, no access to the Internet. No phone services at home. It was just our cell.
GUPTA: Just imagine the desperation, the nightmare. Their 13- day-old baby rushed through the streets of New York City in the middle of Hurricane Sandy, while they were stuck at home in New Jersey. All they could do was hope, pray, and wait for word of where they could find their newborn.
MARTINEZ: All the bridges were closed, and we had no choice but to go back home and just sit and wait for today to get here. And it was a very long night, a very, very, very long night. I haven't had even one hour of sleep.
GUPTA: Dr. Kenneth Davis, who we met earlier, is also the man who OKed the transfer, and now for the first time, he will meet the baby he helped save.
DAVIS: Oh, my goodness.
MARTINEZ: Thank you so very much.
DAVIS: It's so hard. And you're the dad?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: yes.
DAVIS: Wow. It's going to be OK.
GUPTA: You have any names picked out?
MARTINEZ: Her name is Emma Sofia.
GUPTA: I'll tell you, it's an amazing story, Anderson, as you can see there. There were ten babies that came to Sinai, they are all doing well. It was an incredible transport. It's a difficult thing to do.
And I'll tell you, just look at those images in the NICU. There were so many families around, as well. You don't typically see that in intensive care units, but they wanting to be with their loved one, as you might imagine.
COOPER: I mean, I just keep thinking about those nurses, those orderlies, the doctors, bringing those -- those little babies down the multiple flights of stairs.
Do we know, Sanjay, at this point why the backup generators failed?
GUPTA: I've asked the question. I talked to several of my contacts in Langone, as well. There was a primary power source. There was a backup generator and then essentially a secondary backup generator, as well.
According to the people that I talked to, they do test these things. There's been a protocol in place since the blackout of 2003. They tell me that protocol's been followed. But there's not an answer to that right now, Anderson. There was a lot of flooding. You've been reporting on that. But it was within 45 minutes. They've got about ten feet of water into Langone Hospital. That certainly precipitated things. But why two failed is still a bit unclear.
All right. Well, hopefully in the next day or two, we'll get answers on that. Sanjay, we appreciate your reporting.
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney called off campaign events in the wake of the storm's devastation, of course. The official campaigning may have stopped, but the photo-ops have not. With the elections just a week away, every word matters. "Raw Politics" when we continue.
COOPER: Welcome back. You're looking at surveillance video from a flooded Long Island railroad tunnel under the East River. You can see the water on the left-hand side of the screen in your foreground, almost looking like a waterfall, pouring into that tunnel.
New York City's subway and commuter rail system shut down by Sandy. It is still shut down and no word yet on how long it's going to take to get those trains back online.
For the last 48 hours, Superstorm Sandy has taken the focus away, obviously, from the presidential race. The election now just one week away. Both candidates canceled official campaign events in recent days. But even as they turn their attention to the storm, you've got to be honest, politics is never far away. Here's Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama cancelled official campaign events, but this close to election day, everything is political, even this unannounced trip to the Red Cross.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is with you. We are standing behind you, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get back on your feet.
BASH: invaluable imagery and opportunity to be seen in command.
OBAMA: I want you to cut through red tape. I want you to cut through bureaucracy. There's no excuse for inaction at this point.
BASH: Speaking of imagery for a second day, the White House released a photo of the president on the case in the situation room.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And thank you so very much. I love and appreciate you. Thank you very much.
BASH: Mitt Romney called off his campaign events, too, but stayed firmly planted in Ohio, the mother of all swing states, inviting reporters to watch him box and bag food for hurricane victims back east.
ROMNEY: We have heavy hearts, as you know, with -- with all the suffering going on in a major part of our country.
BASH: And though this certainly looks like a Romney campaign rally, with all its trappings, he restricted his remarks to Sandy.
ROMNEY: A lot of people hurting this morning. They were hurting last night. And the storm goes on. I've had the chance to speak with some of the governors and the affected areas, and they have talked about a lot of people having hard times.
BASH: Romney's running mate appeared at a hurricane relief center in his home state of Wisconsin, another battleground.
The vice president talked to reporters in Ohio, to applaud his boss's leadership.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never seen a guy so focused.
BASH: There is nothing like the power of incumbency in a disaster, if used right.
But the politics of crisis are often complicated. For example: one of the governors Obama is talking to is one of Romney's most influential supporters. He's now heaping praise on the president.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I was on the phone again last night with the president personally. He has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area. The president has been outstanding in this.
BASH: A cringe-worthy moment for Team Romney.
Later, the outspoken New Jersey governor, who was hosting the president when they toured the damage, said this when asked about Sandy's effect on the election.
CHRISTIE: I don't give a damn about election day. It doesn't matter a lick to me at the moment. I've got much bigger fish to fry than that. So do the people of the state of New Jersey.
BASH: Christie wasn't the only GOP governor in Sandy's path to hear from Obama. Swing state governors of Virginia and Pennsylvania were also on a presidential call on Tuesday.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: and Dana joins me now. And as you said, Dana, in your piece, the president will be with Governor Christie tomorrow in New Jersey. Obviously, we'll be covering that closely. There is some politicking going on kind of underneath the radar, isn't there?
BASH: There is, of course. No surprise. In this case, it's Democrats who are really pushing the story that Romney would slash federal disaster relief, even get rid much FEMA, and they're basing that primarily on a CNN debate last year during the Republican primaries. And Romney said that the federal role should be limited during disaster. He said that states, even the private sector, should have more power.
Romney was asked multiple times today in Ohio to clarify the position on FEMA, but he didn't answer. Afterwards, Romney's campaign insisted that he would eliminate FEMA. That may be true, Anderson, but Romney's plan overall to reduce the deficit would include cutting spending. Likely, that would include FEMA. And of course, his running mate Paul Ryan, he released his budget last year, and it called for about a 35 percent cut in FEMA. That was what his budget proposal showed.
COOPER: We'll see if he talks about that tomorrow on the campaign trail.
Dana Bash, appreciate it. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Earlier this -- this afternoon, President Obama said that, in the darkness of the storm, we saw the brightness of the American people. Those are good words to ends our coverage on tonight.
We'll, of course, be on the streets tomorrow, for all day long, covering the aftermath of this storm, as we will for the next several days. That does it for this edition of 360 tonight. Thank you very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.