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CNN BREAKING NEWS
The Worst is Over for New York, New Jersey; Millions Without Power; NYU Medical Center Evacuated; Con Edison Power Plant Explosion
Aired October 30, 2012 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Sandy is big and powerful, a killer. Thirteen people reported dead, five in New York. A 5.5 million people right now are without power. Twenty three states, 23 states under high wind warnings and advisories. CNN estimates that not from the water, not from the surge, just the wind. The wind damage will top $3 billion. And remember, it's already killed 67 people in the Caribbean.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And then take a look at this. It's become a fairly typical scene in placed that have hit hard. Roads, flooded. The water rising almost above the cars, approximately five hours ago this historic superstorm made landfall over the most populated areas of the United States. Wind damage, power outages, storm surges, inland flooding, even snowstorms are threatening the lives and homes of 60 million people from Virginia to Massachusetts.
BLACKWELL: And we to want go back to New York and show you this crane that is just swinging above west 57th street. It's connected to a skyscraper. It's not complete. It's the 70th floor so far, going up to 90. It's 157. It snapped earlier today and now the boom is just swinging over that community. Some areas have been evacuated, fearing it could fall. Nobody knows if that's going to happen and when.
Let's go to meteorologist Ivan Cabrera. He is with us now on this superstorm.
The worst is over for New Jersey and New York, is that safe to say? And who's getting the brunt of this right now?
IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, I don't think it is safe to say at this point here. I think for the remainder of the night we are still going to have some dangerous winds out there. In fact, the winds so high that if you have to go out and rescue folks, it's simply not able to be done because the winds are gusting over 40 miles an hour. Of course, the power lines are down and the crews will not be able to get out there until they go below 40 miles an hour, which is not going to happen throughout today. We'll have very gusty wind.
I want to bring you up to date on the latest here on Sandy. We are now calling this a superstorm. It's no longer a hurricane. It lost that characteristic yesterday. The National Hurricane Center wrote last advisory, this is the 11:00 p.m. advisory last night. They are no longer going to write advisories on Sandy. It is now inland. They have relegated that to local National Weather Service offices.
But take a look at the radar. It is very impressive. Some heavy rain bands are going to be coming in, Victor and Fredricka, and this is why we're still dealing up with the dangerous part of the storm here that is going to be bringing gusty winds, heavy rainfall and then of course the tide cycles that are still going to be coming in. We have high tide that is coming up at 9:00. That could cause additional coastal flooding as we get closer to that.
So heavy rain continues and on the back side of this, we have blizzard warnings that are flying for the mountains of West Virginia into Tennessee. Virginia is well getting in on that, parts of Kentucky. Take a look at the wind gusts, and just last three hours, still gusting anywhere from 45 to 50 mile an hour. That's dangerous stuff. You do not want to be out when winds are gusting that high because there are going to be flying projectiles out there that are going to coming at you with wind speeds that high.
Now, we are not talking this. This, absolutely, this part is done. We are not going to be seeing 94-mile-per-hour winds at this point. That was clocked at Eaton's neck in New York yesterday. There you see some of the other wind gust.
But for the remainder of tonight, this is breath-taking stuff here. This impressive stuff. Look at this. Southern Georgia, there are high wind warnings in effect from southern Georgia through the Ohio valley, into the northeast corridor, extending into Canada. The breadth of this storm is just unbelievable here.
And then of course, we had water in the Atlantic but we also had water inland, in the great lakes here. And so, we are going to be dealing with storm conditions here and the potential for flooding right along the lake's shorelines over the next couple of days as a result of those gusty winds. These are some tallies as far as what we already have fallen here, as far as the rainfall anywhere from six to 12 inches. That water has gotten into the ground. It has saturated the ground. It has loosened up those roots and the trees have been coming down. So you've got the loose ground and then you got the wind on top of that pushing the trees over. So the combination has been -- well, you've seen it, five million without power.
Look at snowshoe, the other side of the story here, upwards of 16 inches of snowfall. We will be getting in on that a little later as well and show you what we are going to be expecting over the next couple of days. An incredible event here. High wind warnings, hurricane watches, hurricane warnings, blizzard warnings all from the same storm. Impressive stuff.
WHITFIELD: Impressive. And very dangerous, too, potentially.
WHITFIELD: All right, Ivan. Appreciate that. Thanks so much.
So at this point, there are an awful lot of people who are in the dark. 6.5 million customers are now without power. And those numbers are climbing by the hour, including tens of thousands of people in lower Manhattan and Staten Island after a transformer exploded at a Con Edison plant on 14th Street. Pretty extraordinary images right there.
The Con Edison vice president says workers don't know what caused the massive blowout, but you know, it's pretty significant, causing a lot of power outages. And it's not just in New York City. This is a glimpse of the situation, communities and utility companies are dealing with right now, up and down the eastern seaboard, the northeast particularly, from Virginia to D.C. to Maine. Nearly three million people in New York, New Jersey alone have lost power.
BLACKWELL: Wow. The superstorm slammed into the Jersey coast just as it made landfall a few hours ago. And Sandy has been adding to the death toll. The extreme winds and dangerous surge of floodwaters continues right now. Police say at least three people have died from fallen trees, two deaths - two of those deaths rather in a Mennen township. That is 30 miles west of New York City. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, over and over reported -- repeatedly tried to tell people to get out of that area.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I'm very disappointed in the fact that some decided to disregard my instruction, in fact, my order. And I'm concerned that it might lead to the loss of life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Also tonight, the reports of homes flooded under several feet of water and we have seen floodwaters, as at Atlantic City where Ali Velshi was all night. Several rescues under way including people stranded in their cars, trying to get away from all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm scared to death. So many people are going to die today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Authorities are working to get people from West Atlantic City, hundreds of them out of the area where waters are dangerously high.
WHITFIELD: Let's bring in senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. She has information for us on the evacuation of that NYU medical center.
So Elizabeth, I understand that many have been evacuated because they lost power, generator failed, is that the story?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes. That is basically the story, Fredricka. They are in the middle right now as we speak of evacuating 260 patients approximately. At around 7:00 they went from having no water in their buildings to 45 minutes later having more than 10 feet of water.
So they are now carrying patients down 15 flights of stairs, sometimes only with flashlights to illuminate the way. This evacuation includes an intensive care unit, neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric intensive care unit. Those are the sickest patients, Fredricka. And we are told that those patients are all out.
Now, four of those newborn babies were on respirators that were not working because there was no power. So the whole time that they were taken down about nine flights of stairs, a nurse had to do what's called bagging. A nurse would manually pump oxygen so the child could breathe. The baby could breathe. They anticipate this evacuation will take another five hours -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: That's incredible. So the majority of these patients, are they going into one particular hospital or they fanned out to several?
COHEN: It sounds like that they are being sent out to several different hospitals. And you know, one of the big problems at NYU was that their phones are not working well, so they can't even - NYU can't even call families to say, hey, we're sending your grandfather, baby, whoever, to such and such a hospital. The families have to wait to hear from the receiving hospital where their loved one went.
WHITFIELD: Incredible. Of course, a lot of loved ones thinking that being at the hospital is the safest place to be, the place where the generators would most likely work in a storm like this, and now for this to happen.
Elizabeth Cohen. Thanks for keeping us posted on that.
BLACKWELL: Let's stay in New York where flooding has been confirmed in parts of the subway system there. CNN is learning that seven New York subway tunnels are flooded, which is why we have the metro transit authority spokesperson Kevin Ortiz on the phone with us now from New York City. We're looking at these photographs. And for people on this system every day, rely on it to get around the city, startling to see. Can you tell us which stations are flooded and how severe all this is.
KEVIN ORTIZ, SPOKESPERSON, METRO TRANSIT AUTHORITY (via phone): Sure. Hurricane Sandy has wrecked havoc on our entire transportation system and pretty much impacting every borough and every county in the region, you know, as a result of downed trees and loss of power. And obviously, as you can see there, you know severe flooding in tunnels, rail yards and bus depots as well.
The seven subway tunnels you refer to that we've seen serious water infiltration are under the river tubes in the east river that essentially carry a large number of riders to and from Manhattan in Brooklyn. So we're in the process of trying to assess the extent of the damage down there just where to begin the recovery process.
BLACKWELL: I'd imagine there are pumps trying to get water out. I'm sure it may be too early to say when things will be up and running but no sooner than date that you know of? ORTIZ: No. It really is difficult to predict the amount of time that it's going to take to pump water from these flooded tunnels, bring its equipment as well as adjoining stations back into service. It really does depend on what with see down there with regard to the height of the storm surge and how rapidly, you know, we can pump water out of there. You know, we have got pump rooms. We have got portable pumps. We have pump trains. But you know, that being said it's going to take some time to, to get the water out of there. Depending on what we see, they can range anywhere from 14 hours to four days just to get water from these tunnels.
BLACKWELL: Four days. And you have millions of people who rely on this every day.
Kevin Ortiz with New York City Transit Authority, thank you very much.
WHITFIELD: All right, our team coverage continues on Superstorm Sandy, straight through the evening.
BLACKWELL: Live reports, new details, new tracking of the storm, we will have it all.
Stay with us. We will be back.
WHITFIELD: New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is calling it once in a long time storm. Thousands remain without power as floodwaters continue to pour into lower Manhattan. And that's where we also find Chris Welch.
Chris, last we spoke you were at East Houston and avenue D. Is that about the area where you are right now?
CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you got it, Fred. I'm still where I was last time. Actually, if anything, I've moved a little closer toward the east river, which is directly behind me. Because I think the last time we spoke last hour, you didn't really see a whole lot of water by my feet. Now kind comes up to about my ankles. And that's not because it's moving in further, this water. It's because I've moved closer to the river. So I want to make sure that's clear from the get go.
But let me give you a little scene-setter where we are here. We're at East Houston and Avenue D here on the Lower East Side and we're about a quarter of a mile, maybe a little less than that away from the east river. And this is an area that has seen -- Con Edison, the power company here in Manhattan, has preemptively shut down a lot of the power for the extremely hit areas in like Evacuation Zone A here in the city.
But another thing that I wanted to mention is, there was also a power plant transformer rather that had an explosion. Folks in the area described a lot of several loud booms. They saw flashes in the air. And for those who did have power before the flashes and the booms, the explosion happened. They did not are power after that. I spoke to a man who was walking home from dinner. As soon as he saw that in the air, everything pitched black. So we have folks who had lost their power preemptively, that was on purpose. Con Edison shut it down. And we have got folks who lost it as a result of this explosion. So really, about everything south from about 34th Street and south, so that's pretty good chunk of the Lower East Side is all without power. We were driving down here very carefully and very slowly because things were ominous. People were kind of -- onlookers were taking pictures, just kind of -- this is not something that people in New York see very often, a blackout in this part of the city, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. And as far as you know, there are no emergency situations in that general vicinity, no one who feels like they need assistance?
WELCH: Well, you know, have seen various flashing lights and police sirens come and go from here. But at this location where we are, we don't see signs that people are in trouble and that emergency crews are trying to get through to us here.
Now, on that note, you know we talked earlier about the hospitals that have had situations here. NYU hospital, just about 20 blocks north of here is moving -- or had to move about 200 patients, as you're well aware, to various other hospitals in the area. So that was as a result of the storm, obviously. And then, Bellevue hospital next door had an issue with flooding in the basement. So they needed some generator help and pumping out water. So we have got hospitals dealing with situations. Those seem to be the most pressing at the moment.
COHEN: All right, Chris Welch, thank you so much in Lower Manhattan. Appreciate that - Victor.
BLACKWELL: And in New York alone, more than 1.7 million customers are without power right now. We just showed the video but I think we want to show it again of the transformer that blew. Look at this flash. Huge flash, green flash means a transformer has blown. And that's what happened at Con Edison plant on 14th street.
We've got Con Ed spokeswoman, D-Joy Faber, on the phone with us.
We appreciate you speaking with us at this late hour. First, you say this is the biggest outage in the company's history as it relates to a storm. What do we know about this explosion?
D. JOY FABER, CON EDISON SPOKESWOMAN (via telephone): Oh, Victor, first of all, I would like to let your viewers know we've been in an (INAUDIBLE) mode for a large portion of this storm. We have noted that this video has kind of taken off on its own. There has been a transformer situation at the plant there. But luckily, there were no workers trapped in or on top of the building. So that's the first primary concern that no one was injured as a result of this.
We are still in the midst of a storm. This is actually the storm of the century for us. It's one of the largest storm related outages in the history of this company. We don't know the exact cause of the incident. We are monitoring that. We are trying to find out whether there was debris airborne from the storm surge we received here.
And as your reporter was stating earlier about water up to his ankles, that's the lower portion of Manhattan. That's one of the hardest areas that hit and flooded out a large portion of our equipment, which he has mentioned earlier we had to preemptively shut down some equipment in advance of the higher floods we received here. We were anticipating about 10 to 12 feet of water, but we have over 14 feet. So it completely inundated our systems and we are trying to make every effort to restore to customers as quickly as possible.
BLACKWELL: So you are able to start now. The storm is not preventing your workers from getting out there to try to restore power. How long will it take to get power back on for your customers?
FABER: Well, the first thing, we have 3.2 million customers in our service territory in New York City. That's the five boroughs in Westchester County. And 650,000 of those customers are out of service. So the last few days, we've been warning your viewers that to be prepared and to also be patient. This is a storm that's still in the process of happening. It's pretty dynamic and those numbers could easily go up.
But what we are warning them is that, as we say, we have to go through an assessment process first, to figure out what is actually wrong with the equipment, set out about making the repairs, but we have to do it in a safe way. We cannot allow our employees to be out if the winds are still surging, you know, and the line -- bucket trucks we can't have them up in the air if wind surges are still strong. So we have to have safety first.
Once we do that, the crews will be augmented by crews that we have contacted from around the country to assist us as they are assisting other utilities along the eastern seaboard because of this storm.
BLACKWELL: All right, D. Joy Faber with Con Edison, thank you so much. Long night, long morning, probably a long week for your customers and your workers. So many people sitting in the dark right now in New York and might be for a while.
WHITFIELD: That's incredible, 600,000 just Con Edison --
WHITFIELD: -- you know, customers in that area, let alone the 5.5 million overall. That is pretty uncomfortable for so many people. So New Jersey, also an area that got seriously pounded, we have got new reports, new details coming straight your way.
BLACKWELL: We just had an update from Lower East Side of Manhattan. But elsewhere in New York, Sandy is being blamed from the deaths of at least five people. WHITFIELD: A spokesman from Governor Cuomo's office says one victim died when a tree fell on his home in Queens. And then also in Queens, another situation where a woman was electrocuted when she stepped into a puddle.
BLACKWELL: Jason Carroll has a look now at how things are going in Long Island.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is now well after midnight, the wind is still picked up but the water at least has receded. Just about an hour ago, I could not have stood in this section of the Montauk Highway not being at least up to knee-level. But now you can see it has receded. But if you stare into the blackness to my right, this is one of many streets that still feed into the Montauk Highway and those streets are still flooded.
But, again, the water has started to recede. Some of the issues they've been dealing with here in Lindenhurst is, not just flooding but also fires. We've reported at least several house fires in the area. Electrical fires sparked by the floodwaters. So they are having to deal with that, putting out those fires throughout the -- worked throughout the day, and into the evening. They will be working into tomorrow morning as well, assessing the damage here.
We're expecting, when we see the light of day tomorrow, that there are going to be dozens of homes here in the south shore that are dealing with flood damage as residents who were under a mandatory evacuation and heed the warning, finally start to return to their homes tomorrow.
As you can see, some emergency crews now still coming through here, assessing the area, trying to keep people out. And picking up those last minute folks who decided they were not going to evacuate, trying to help them as well.
So it's been a long night for the residents here in Lindenhurst. It's going to be a long morning tomorrow as well. Back to you.
BLACKWELL: All right, Jason Carroll in Lindenhurst, Long Island. Thank you for that.
WHITFIELD: Yes. It's going to be a long few days.
BLACKWELL: Yes, for a lot of people.
WHITFIELD: Because none of this is going to be wiped away instantaneously. It's going to be the long haul.
WHITFIELD: And all because of torrential downpours, whipping winds and those flooded roads.
BLACKWELL: And the snow. And Sandy is dumping a lot of snow. These pictures, every time I see them, they're just unbelievable.
In Virginia, blizzard-like conditions live coverage of Superstorm Sandy continues straight through the night right here on CNN.
WHITFIELD: That's Ocean City, New Jersey, there. If you're not sure what it means with the storm surge, this is great evidence of it. I mean clearly, this was an area that was under that mandatory evacuation but every now and then, you still hear of cases where people decide to ride out the storm. And this is exactly why you don't want to do that. Why you want to heed the warnings when there's an emergency declaration and when you're asked to evacuate.
BLACKWELL: And that will be the only warning you get in some situations. Because when that water comes from the ocean and goes behind the houses and rushes behind yours, there is no warning. It's just coming and you have to get out of the way.
There are been lots of warnings before that happened. The experts have said Sandy is going to be a big, powerful storm and they were right because the damage is estimated to be in the building, in the billions rather. It's also been a killer.
Thirteen people reported dead, five in New York alone. The number of people without power, now up to 6.5 million customers. Twenty three states still under high wind warnings or advisories.
And here at CNN, we estimate the damage from the wind alone could be above $3 billion. And it's also killed 67 people in the Caribbean.
WHITFIELD: And then take a look at this right here. Images we're seeing over and over again. Flooded roads and the water keep rising in some parts. Approximately five hours ago, really give or take six or seven hours ago, the historic superstorm made landfall over the most populated areas of the United States. Wind damage, power outages, storm surges, inland flooding, you name it, even snowstorms in some parts., now threatening the lives and homes of 60 million people from Virginia all the way to Massachusetts.
BLACKWELL: And another live look at that crane on west 57th street, at 157, a luxury high rise that is being built. That crane snapped this afternoon and the boom is swaying. We'll continue to watch this until it is secured.
But it's just swinging in the wind. How long it can hold up f it falls if it will be able to be secured, no one knows right now.
Let's get to meteorologist Ivan Cabrera. He joins us with the latest on this storm. And you told us last hour that the wind at that height, 70 stories up at west 57th where that crane is, the gusts are getting above 60 miles an hour?
CABRERA: Absolutely. We could see anywhere from 20 to 30 percent higher wind speeds so then, hat we're looking at -- at the ground level here. So we are going to watch that very closely. And of course, they're not going to be able to get that secured until those winds subside. They'll get better today, but we are still going to be looking at some very gusty winds. Take a look at this radar perspective. This is fascinating stuff.
Fredricka, Victor, if I had been taking a nap, let's say, for the entire week and I didn't know what was going on, you showed me this radar and you asked me, what is this? I would tell you obviously the north east, the mid-Atlantic states are getting hit by a nor'easter.
No, that's a hurricane. What do you mean it's a hurricane? That is a hurricane meeting a snowstorm and the combination of which has developed into what we're calling a superstorm. We've got everything here. We've got blizzard warnings from the Virginias. We got the heavy rain of that, of course, that extends up into New York. The coastal flooding that has been ongoing as a result of nasty winds coming off the shore, that's getting better as the tide goes out.
Take a look at what's happening in the last several hours up in Maine. You see that lightning volts there, we now had under storm activity with this dynamic system heading into the northeast and tomorrow we could be seeing the threat for even tornadoes up north.
So again, we will be covering this from all the way down in Atlanta into the northeast, just an incredible sized storm with all the dynamics here. You name a warning, you name a watch, it has been posted pretty much across the eastern seaboard and mid-Atlantic of the United States.
Take a look at this. Wind speed still anywhere from 25 to 35 miles an hour. This is no longer 70 to 80, which is what we had been seeing earlier in the day. We're no longer going to see that for the remainder of the duration of this event.
So the worst as far as the wind is done. But the wind speeds are still going to be dangerous enough where we'll have to be paying close enough attention throughout the remainder of today. The winds again, anywhere from 40 to 60 miles an hour where you see it shaded in yellow and orange here extending from Maine down into Atlanta and into the Ohio valley.
A lot of folks asking, where is this going next? It is moving west. And so, if you're watching us from the Ohio valley, you are going to be getting in on the heavy rain and gusty winds throughout today. Take a look at high tide cycle coming in. This is for the morning. My concern is because winds are coming out of the same direction, they're going to be gusty. We could be looking at flooding as well as you see the times there. There's Battery where we had the record at 13.3. We are not going to see that, but we could get enough where we could see additional flooding as a result of seawater coming in at 9:07. We will be watching that act closely. And then, I think we are going to be done as far as that's concerned.
We will be talking much more about the snow, the other aspect as well, anywhere from six to 16 inches. Take a look at that. I mean, again, a January event here with what is supposed to be a hurricane that is not supposed to be producing snow but we have it and we'll continue to get a lot more. By the way, that is snow. Still looking a potential for two to three feet. We are very confident that that is going to happen here across the span of the Appalachians. And so others will be snowing and they will be slipping and sliding. And then, you could see here that extends all the way down south, almost into Georgia. Look at this. That's how cold it will be.
WHITFIELD: So Ivan. What period of time are we talking about because when we talk about his the convergence of the three systems, you know the hurricane, this nor'easter, this cold front and jet stream, it all kind of comes together and becomes one big system and then dissipates or does one overtake the other, et cetera?
CABRERA: It became one big system. The hurricane part is over now. Now, what we are talking about is essentially what you would get in the middle of the winter, which is a middle attitude cycle, right? A nor'easter here.
So the effects of which can be very devastating. We've had nor'easter that has caused billions in damage across this part of the country here. And this, obviously, is going to be one of the ones that's going to be remembered for quite some time. We're estimating 12 to $16 billion in damage here. And you can see why. We are going to have snow damage, we are going have wind damage, we are going to have flood damage. You name it. It's going to be on the books here.
WHITFIELD: Yes. This is devastating. All right, thanks so much, Ivan. Appreciate that. And no Halloween for an awful lot of kids who are very disappointed at this.
BLACKWELL: I know there are kids who have their costumes and trick- or-treat bags ready.
WHITFIELD: It is not going to happen this year.
All right, well, that is because in large part many are in the dark, at least 6.5 million people without power. And those numbers are climbing by the hour. That includes tens of thousands in lower Manhattan and Staten Island after that happened right there, a transformer exploding at a con Edison plant on 14th street. It's pretty remarkable video caught, catching that moment. Con Edison vice president says workers don't know what caused the massive blowout. But we're not just talking about New York City. This is a glimpse of the situation in community and utility companies all over. Power outages, all up and down the East Coast from Virginia to D.C. to Maine. Nearly three million people in New York and New Jersey alone have lost power.
BLACKWELL: And New York city firefighters are dealing with more than Sandy, also, a massive fire in Queens.
Jeff Pegues, from our affiliate WABC was on the scene when almost an entire city block caught fire.
I spoke with Jeff earlier.
BLACKWELL: Jeff, thanks for being with us. Tell us exactly where you are and what you saw as this all started.
JEFF PEGUES, REPORTER, WABC (via telephone): Victor, I'm in a place called Rockaway Park, and this is part of Queens, an island that wedge between Jamaica bay and the Atlantic ocean and it's south of Brooklyn, south of Manhattan. And with the storm at high tide tonight, both Jamaica bay and the Atlantic Ocean converged. And there was water -- it seemed like the water was everywhere. Another problem popped up. That was a major fire.
There was a fire in this area of Rockaway Park that was consuming not only businesses but apartment buildings as well. This is a flood- prone area and yet there were still residents here. They hadn't heeded the calls to evacuate. They were here. They were going to ride out the storm -- and then this fire happened.
And then members of this specialized New York Fire Department unit had to go in and rescue them. I saw these guys. They are about five to ten of them. They were wading through high water. They had zodiac boat with them and they had to scale some of these buildings to get to some of the people who were trapped in their apartment building.
So this fire was spreading. And because of the high water, the fire department couldn't get their hoses and any water on these fires, just because it was at the height of the storm. So these members of the specialized unit had to go in without all that, wade through the high water, still some of these buildings, break windows, get into the other apartment and then usher some of these residents down into the water and walk them through the water to higher ground. And there wasn't a lot of high ground to find. But they were able to find some and they got these people out.
We're talking as many as 30 to 40 people rescued over the course of about three or four hours. Right now, as the water has receded, the fire department has been able to get water on this fire. So they are hoping that it doesn't spread further. But one firefighter was telling me they think as many as four, five buildings have already been consumed by this fire.
BLACKWELL: Jeff, you say they're trying to get water on the fire. That leads me to believe it's still burning right now. Is that true?
PEGUES: It is still burning. And the danger is, of course, is that it will continue to spread with embers blowing in the wind. There are some other fires popping up in the area. And the concern is that if they don't get this thing under control, and soon, it could spread causing even more damage.
BLACKWELL: And it might be too soon to know this because all this is still going on, but about the 30 to 40 people pulled out, are there any other people still missing and the condition -- the conditions of those people who were pulled out, have you gotten any information about that?
PEGUES: Well, as far as the rescuers that I've spoken with, they think they've been able to get everyone out who was in the path of the fire. I've seen folks come out. There don't appear to be any serious injuries, maybe minor injuries, nothing too serious, so firefighters believe they were able to get to these people before it was too late.
BLACKWELL: Any idea yet how this fire started?
PEGUES: Well, at the height of the storm it was high tide about 8:00 here. The water was coming up. The wind was howling, it was blowing, maybe sustained winds around 70 to 80 miles an hour, according to some of our meteorologists. And as a result of that, you know, there were power lines that were popping. And some of these firefighters that I spoke with suspect that maybe it was electrical, maybe it had something to do with the power lines in the area getting blown around as a result of the storm.
BLACKWELL: All right, Jeff Pegues with WABC, there in Rockaway Park where that block in Queens is on fire. Jeff, thank you.
WHITFIELD: Well, you see it there. It's been destructive and also been very deadly, this storm.
BLACKWELL: New reports continue to come in. CNN crews are stationed up and down the East Coast bringing you live updates on Superstorm Sandy.
BLACKWELL: We've been talking a lot about New York City. And we're taking a look at some pictures now from New York. In is the west side. First it's a little eerie to see that area with no one there, just one person there. And then and the water all over the roads, and you can see just how severe Sandy has been for New York City, also New Jersey and many other states dealing with the rain and snow and wind. And it continues.
That's, of course, the highest populated area, New York, affected by the storm. Give you a visual picture of what's happening right now, facing commuters in just a few hours. A lot of the subways are down due to flooding. The water here is gushing in. And the bridges and the tunnels that link Manhattan to other borough, the outer boroughs there, many are closed across the city. Few details are available right now about the morning commute or even how many businesses will be able to open.
WHITFIELD: So along with the flooding, of course, there have also been fires. And the New York subways, now we understand they could take at least 14 hours to dry out because so much of that water made its way underground, the worst disaster according to chairman of the subway's 108-year history. And of course, it's difficult to know just how long the subway system will be shut down. Commuting will be a real nightmare especially as they try to pump out a lot of that water in the areas that have seen the greatest deluge of water.
So the financial impact overall of Sandy is extending beyond property damage and beyond New York City, it is now affecting the international community as well. For the second straight day, the New York Stock Exchange will be closed for trading. In September average daily volume, a whopping 1.7 billion shares exchanged hands. And weather closures are a rare occurrence at New York Stock Exchange; the last major event to force a market closure, Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and a snowstorm back in 1969.
And now, adding to the significance here, earning season. Next week's presidential election and uncertainty over when trading will resume, all that being compounded here. As of now, officials expect to reopen for a normal trading day, possibly Wednesday, but say they will provide updates along the way to know for sure.
So Sandy is crippling not only New England but also wreaking havoc along the mid-Atlantic States, the superstorm is causing massive flooding especially along parts of Delaware's coast and that is where can Gary Tuchman is on the ground in Rehoboth Beach.
It was much worse earlier, but now, it looks well, looks almost placid at nightfall for you.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, I wouldn't have a picnic out here right now because it's really cold. And it's - it really is amazing with all the years we've covered hurricanes, I've never been frozen before. And it's really -- it feels like a winter storm. Indeed, that's what it's turned out to be in West Virginia, Virginia. Feels like it snow here, that's how cold it is. That's the sad part. That's something we must stress.
And the aftermath of all this, usually we have power failures and usually in the heat of the summer and people are very hot in their apartments, so their homes, they have to find a mall that's air conditioned or draw a cold bath and take a cold bath but this is a serious situation because you have thousands of people here in Delaware, and nearby Maryland and Virginia, who don't have power. It's a very cold evening and they'll be very cold. That's a concern.
We can tell you here in Rehoboth Beach, right now it's a ghost town and that is because people really listened and decided to evacuate. And as we see, as what happened in New Jersey and New York, which appear to be the hardest hit, there was reason to evacuate, a very dangerous storm.
Here they are luckier than they thought they would be. Earlier in the day, for about a 24-hour period we are incredible waves in the Atlantic Ocean here. I would say there some of the biggest waves I've seen in the Atlantic from a hurricane.
Also, torrential rain, hurricane-force winds, there is damage in the town, there is flooded streets, flooded homes, flooded apartments, cars under water. But for the most part, the destruction has been minimal. And most importantly, after what you guys have talked about all day, the casualties, it appears here the Delmarva Peninsula, where all the beaches, Delmarva would be in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. It appears as of now, is absolutely no casualties, no injuries, no deaths. That's very good news.
WHITFIELD: That is good news. We're glad to hear that. So the biggest headache is the thousands of people who are in the dark. Last count it was something like 84,000 people in the dark in Delaware. Is that number still about right? TUCHMAN: Yes, that certainly is. That's the ballpark right now. It is a concern. I mean, obviously, I mean, it's not zero degrees but the wind chill is in the 30s, so it will be a very cold night from the people who don't have power right now.
WHITFIELD: And how about rescues? Is that something that pertained to that area once the storm kind of calmed?
TUCHMAN: Police have been going around Rehoboth Beach and nearby Bethany Beach, and Dewey Beach, four beach towns here in the second smaller state, the United States Delaware. They have been looking but there haven't been any reports of anybody missing or anybody needing to be rescued. That's the major thing about this storm, is that 40 -- about 50 miles as the crow flies to the north is where Atlantic City, New Jersey, is. That's where the center of the storm passed. It's not far from here but the weaker part of the storm is the left side of the storm and that's the part of the storm that hit here. It was still powerful, hurricane-force winds, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.
WHITFIELD: Excellent! All right, thanks so much, Gary Tuchman. Gary Tuchman in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The prediction from Sandy, it did come in pretty fast, just one other in terms of wind, waves, storm surges, all of that.
WHITFIELD: And unfortunately, as it continues to snow, that number of the damage estimates will increase. The rescuers, when they could get out. Look at this picture. That is amazing. When the rescuers could get out, they quickly responded. We have more live coverage next.
BLACKWELL: We're going to have to wait until sunrise, until daylight to really get a complete picture of what Hurricane Sandy has meant for so many people. But we're getting every hour new details of the damages and the power outages and, unfortunately, more deaths. So far we know 13 people are dead. Numbers from the Tri-State are on the screen now. Five in New York, three in New Jersey, one in Connecticut. The other three lives lost were in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and one off the coast of North Carolina on the HMS Bounty. And remember, this storm has already killed 67 people in the Caribbean.
Let's go to New York. Sandy is being blamed for the death of five people there. A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo says one victim died when a tree fell on his house in Queens. Right now, mandatory evacuations are still in place for parts of the city. Mayor Bloomberg warned that New York is well in the danger zone as expected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) NEW YORK CITY: We knew this was going to be a very dangerous storm and the storm has met our expectations. The worst of the weather has coming and the city certainly is feeling the impacts. At the battery we've seen record surge levels, extraordinary amount of water throughout lower Manhattan. There are trees down throughout the city. The bad news is Con Ed is experiencing power outages on an extremely wide basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Mayor Bloomberg added that some low lying areas in Manhattan could, as we've seen, actually did get extraordinary amounts of water. That includes the city's public transit system.
Look at pictures of the water flooding into at least seven subway tunnels. We've confirmed that under the east river. We spoke with the metro transit authority spokesperson earlier who said it will take anywhere from 14 hours to maybe four days to pump that water out. And imagine people rely on that system to get to and from work, everyday. The chairman says quote, "he New York city subway system is 108 years old but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night. So just clearly, how unprecedented this storm is.
And turning to the economy, where Sandy could delay the release of the monthly jobs report. It comes at a critical time. As it's the final snapshot of the nation's job market before the presidential election. We have live reports up and down the East Coast as Sandy continues to rip down power lines and flood streets and communities and cause those evacuations.
WHITFIELD: We continue to watch this dangerous storm all long. The next hour of the CNN special coverage of the Superstorm Sandy begins right now.