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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Superstorm Sandy Causes Devastating Damage Across Much of East Coast; Over 6.5 Million People Without Power; Floods From Storm Set Records in New York and New Jersey

Aired October 30, 2012 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. You're watching a special edition of EARLY START. I'm Soledad O'Brien. And we are, of course, covering the remains of Superstorm Sandy.

I'm in New York City, Lower Manhattan this morning.

Also lots to bring up to speed with across this city. There's a major fire that is burning. Dozens of homes have been destroyed by this raging fire. And there are two dozen more that are still burning. Update you on what's happening there.

Also, in Lower Manhattan, where I am today, flooded by a historic storm surge. A power transformer not very far from here has exploded. It plunged this neighborhood into darkness, forced the evacuation as well -- the partial evacuation of one of New York's largest hospitals.

Transportation here in the city has been paralyzed. The subway system could be shut down for days. From the Carolinas to New England and beyond, CNN is covering the aftermath of the storm here in New York and where the storm -- this Superstorm is headed -- like no other network can.

It is Tuesday, October 30th. And special coverage of Superstorm Sandy begins right now.

Morning. Welcome, everybody. You're watching our special coverage. We want to welcome our international viewers. They've been calling this a storm for the ages, that has affected people from North Carolina to New England. And as we speak, it is pounding Pennsylvania. This storm is not over yet.

Here's how it looks in New York City. where I am. New York City very hard hit. A transformer just up this direction on 14th Street blew out. And in fact, it was -- it took -- where I am -- and you can see it's very dark around us. We're struggling to hold on to our lights here, because the wind has picked up a little bit.

But it's plunged all this neighborhood into darkness. Been a big problem here obviously. The winds as well -- they're significantly less than what they were late last night. But obviously it was a big problem. We saw a crane -- a crane in fact that we had within standing in front of yesterday afternoon. That crane, in fact, did topple. It crashed down. Also flooded failed generators, forcing NYU Medical Center to evacuate some of its patients. More than 200 had to be taken out of there, including babies, newly born in intensive care. They had to be evacuated as well.

Further along the south Jersey Shore, unimaginable devastation there. Towns like Ocean City are under water there. So far, we know that there are 13 deaths being blamed on Sandy. Across the Northeast, more than six million people are without power.

You'll remember they were predicting it might be as high as 10 million people by the time the storm is over. And the worst is not over by any means. Some 50 homes are now destroyed by a fire in Queens, in Rockaway Queens. We know that two dozen more of hose homes are now actively burning.

CNN is covering the aftermath of this epic Superstorm like no other network. Mike Galanos is live for us in Atlantic City this morning, in New Jersey. Deb Feyerick is on the south shore of Long Island, in Lindenhurst, Long Island. You'll remember, the flooding there waist high yesterday afternoon.

We've got John Berman. He's in Lower Manhattan for us again this morning. Brian Todd is covering Rehoboth Beach, which is in Delaware. And Sandra Endo is still in Ocean City, Maryland. We saw some of that terrible weather yesterday afternoon.

We're going to bring you up to the minute updates from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, from Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. All of them will check in with us as well this morning.

Let's tell you where we are, Lower Manhattan. This is Houston street. And if you get a sense, if you were to go down this way a pretty long block, you'd actually hit the FDR. If you might remember, if you were watching our coverage last night, the FDR Drive, that flooded. Very, very unusual.

What we can see behind me, behind this downed branch, a little further back, is more flooding as we head down toward the FDR. Much of the flooding, of course, in those evacuation zones.

So these buildings -- these apartment buildings behind me had been evacuated. Evacuation zone. But of course, flooding a big problem. The good news here is that it's actually receded a fair amount. The flooding -- right where I was standing, the water was coming up to here. Now it's back maybe 50 yards.

So that's some good news. It's happening very slowly. And we're expecting as the day progresses that, in fact, the water will go out and recede. Up this way is that transformer explosion. People reported seeing green sparks and blue sparks yesterday evening, trying to figure out what it was.

In fact, many messages on Twitter about that. It turned out that that transformer was exploding. So they shut down the power. That's why this area has plunged into darkness. If you were to go up another 30 blocks or so, you'd actually see that the power is on for much of the city.

As we drove around this morning, we noticed that there's not too much debris for the bulk of the city. Certainly the parts in the middle, Lower Manhattan. But there are some downed trees. There are some signs that have flown down. Some awnings have been knocked down as well. Flooding is a big problem here.

I want to get you to Atlantic City. Mike Galanos is there for us. Obviously, Mike, Atlantic City we were watching very closely yesterday afternoon into the evening, where it was just devastating. Tell me how it is this morning.

MIKE GALANOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a lot different. I'll say this, as the driving rain hits -- and I'm sure As I was listening to you, the wind has picked up. And it's a bitter cold wind as well.

But behind me, Soledad -- and I was standing in it just a few short hours ago, maybe six hours ago. Behind me was basically a raging river. Again, this is a city street in Atlantic City and the water was above my knee. And if I would have continued to walk -- basically, the ocean is behind me. I'm not sure if you can see the red valley sign.

But if you continue, you're heading toward the ocean. And the water just got deeper and deeper and deeper.

The mayor here of Atlantic City was telling people -- and this was before it hit in full, we have got standing water in many places two and three feet deep, fearing that the water was going to be five and six feet deep. So he basically told people at some point, and has taken some criticism for that, hey, if you haven't made it to a shelter yet, hunker down now. There were reports there were 500 or 600 people at one county shelter.

So some interesting back and forth on that front. Bottom line, yes, you wanted to get out of here, because it was brutal yesterday, as it was in New York City. It was surreal to be standing, again, probably about a half a block back. And it was just a raging river. The winds were swirling. The water was swirling and kicking up. And every emergency vehicle that drove by would kick up a wave that would rush that water up to my waist.

So it was quite a scene in Atlantic City and still is when you consider this wind and rain that is still pounding.

O'BRIEN: It looks like massive damage there, Mike. Walk me through overall the assessment, financially. Just looking at the pictures you've been showing us, it's going to be massive damage. But how about loss of life and other things?

GALANOS: We have not heard, again, of loss of life right here in Atlantic City proper. But again, they did a pretty good job of trying to get everybody out of here. I had a chance to talk to some people. A couple elderly couples that I ran into -- I was coming in, they were coming out. The wife had to convince the husband, let's get out of here. They're happy they did. I know they ended up in a hotel.

That's what most people did. Families -- I ran into another family of about ten that all met in a hotel just outside of Atlantic City. So that was the way to go. Because if you didn't, there was no place to go. The power was out.

In front of me, by the way, just to give you kind of the lay of the land, that is the Atlantic City Convention Center. To the left is a large hotel. And of course, down the street you can see Balley's and the rest of the downtown district here in Atlantic City.

But think of that, I'm somewhat sheltered and the wind is still blasting me. It was 10 times worse yesterday as this storm hit in full, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: These pictures look amazing. Mike Galanos for us this morning. Thank you, Mike. Appreciate it. Let's get right to Long Island, Lindenhurst. We were showing you some pictures yesterday. That's where Deb Feyerick is this morning.

Deb, those pictures, that flooding was ridiculous yesterday. Why don't you walk us through what you're seeing now.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, same street, a little different layer of flooding. You can see just behind me here, some of the water. And you can't make it out, a little bit too dark. But this entire street is still flooded.

We're waiting for high tide to come in. That water expected to push up as it does. But the big problem here on Long Island is you have a lot of communities that have been cut off.

Soledad, just you mentioned those homes in the Rockaways, by the way. I want to bring you up to date on something. Got off the phone a couple moments ago with an official who is telling us that one of the reasons that those homes are burning as they are is because there's no water pressure. Fire fighters are simply unable to try to contain those fires.

Right here we can smell several fires that took place here overnight as well. You have got a lot of power lines that are down, incredibly dangerous, streets that are flooding, areas that are completely cut off. Massive beach erosion. We were talking to somebody last night who basically said some of the beaches -- they have simply disappeared because the ocean met the bay and everything sort of washed away.

So the official that I spoke to said that what they're really waiting for is first light. Nobody is going to know just how bad the devastation is. Nobody is going to know exactly where the damage is and what needs to be fixed until they can get eyes on the ground and see exactly what is happening.

We have got police cars that are stationed all around here. They're making sure people don't drive down the streets. Again, just walking a little bit around this area -- one of the things is, we are being told to be extremely cautious, because you don't know just how deep it is. You don't know if there are any sort of potholes. You don't know if there are any electrical wires.

That's one of the greatest problems. We have been told that senior centers were evacuated. Evacuation centers full now, as people keep an eye on this storm. A lot of folks, Soledad, as you know, they do not know -- they have no idea exactly what it is they'll be going back to. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Oh, gosh, it looks just terrible. Deb Feyerick for us this morning. Thank you, Deb, for the update. Certainly appreciate it.

I want to go inside to Zoraida Sambolin. She's been monitoring what's been happening with two big stories, both kind of, Zoraida, that I was following. One is that crane collapse. Remember yesterday we were talking about that crane and how worrisome it was to see this massive crane on a 90-story building. What's happened with that?

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you in particular, because you were standing out there. You were watching it. You were worried about the heavy winds. And that's precisely what happened, a problem with it. The powerful winds from Superstorm Sandy causing the partial collapse of a construction crane that is now dangling high above in Midtown Manhattan.

On the left is what the crane looked like before the collapse. On the right what it looks like right now. It dangles dangerously from a high-rise building. So the fear, of course, is it could plunge to the ground at any time. Last night, Piers Morgan talked to a crane expert about the potential danger there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are several different scenarios. If you see that boom hanging down -- let's say the house swings around and the boom gets into the arms that are holding the crane up, that come out of the building -- if it hits that, there's a possibility they could be -- they can break, then the crane's coming down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So these are live pictures that you're looking at right now. And there's still a lot of concern about this. They're looking at the situation, trying to assess it, to figure out what they can do about it.

So this is what I can tell you about that crane. It's 158 feet. It includes a 108-foot boom and a 50-foot jib at the tip. What they were concerned about is that boom. That either broke during those high winds -- it had been inspected, though, on Friday and deemed safe.

But, of course, as you can see, it's not. Police and fire crews evacuated people from the area, including guests at the Parker Meridian Hotel. I was out there yesterday taking a look at the situation. And unfortunately there were a lot of gawkers.

Police say stay away from the area, because they have no idea what could potentially happen there. They are looking into it very carefully today to see if there is a way to secure that.

Here's another big story. A sudden rumble, then a cloud of debris. The facade of a Manhattan apartment building is ripped off. This all happening as Sandy's intense winds rip right through that area. And unfortunately one firefighter did have some minor injuries there.

We're going to continue to follow these developing stories. We're going to head out to John Berman. He is in Battery Park.

Good morning, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Zoraida. You know, this place where I'm standing -- can you hear me, Zoraida?

This place where I'm standing right now in Battery Park -- the part where I'm standing right now, overnight at about 9:00 last night, this was part of New York Harbor. An unprecedented storm surge, nearly 14 feet, four feet higher than they've ever seen before. The record was 1960 at 10 feet. So four feet higher than that.

Believe it or not, out in New York Harbor, which is out that way, they measured waves 32 feet high, which is six feet higher than they ever recorded there. I just want to show you what the water did. It swept all the way in through here.

This doesn't look like much here, but you can see the plants that were here. They were standing high here yesterday. They have just been flattened. They were just flattened by water, which swept them -- the water swept back out that way overnight.

As I was coming down here, I should also tell you, I've never seen Manhattan like this before. The power out -- completely out from about the 20s down to here on the west side. Very, very eerie. I heard Soledad say she didn't see much debris.

On the West Side Highway, we did see a bunch of very big construction- like pieces of wood down, also some signs, some trash cans. We had to weave our way through on the West Side Highway to get down here. A lot of damage. I've never seen it like this before in Manhattan. A very, very eerie site. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right, John Berman down in Lower Manhattan. I'm sort of on the opposite side of the city from where you are this morning. Thanks, John, for that update.

I want to get right to Jennifer Delgado. She's in the Atlantic Stream Weather Center for us, updating us on the path of this storm.

There certainly is a sense for people here in New York, Jennifer, that it's done, but really the storm is not done.

JENNIFER DELGADO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, it's not done. We're still talking about a blizzard setting up through parts of the Appalachian Mountains. And we're still looking at rain out there, Soledad, and of course some very gusty winds. This is going to continue today. We're talking wind gusts still up to about 50 miles per hour. Now you can see the rain still spreading into New York, New Jersey. We're also looking at the rain all the way up towards areas including New England. But right now the heaviest rainfall coming through for areas like Baltimore, Washington, D.C.

Here is the center of the circulation, of what's left of Sandy. And this is where we're going to see it moving over towards the west. But the problem is on the backside of that, we're talking about some very heavy snowfall.

Now, the big story, of course, has been the storm surge. I want to talk about some of the records that have been broken. For Battery Park, we had a high of 13.88 feet. And then for Sandy Hook, we're talking 13.31. All types of records were broken.

That's why we are seeing the flooding coming out of these areas, because it was just way too much with this wall of water coming through. Right now, the winds are still very gusty out there. For New York, we're looking at winds roughly right around 25, 26.

Of course we point this out to you because of that hanging skyscraper. I'm sure a lot of people are still very concerned about that, in addition to all the flooding and the rain. And, of course, Soledad, it is going to be very cold when you add in that wind. It's going to be miserable for people who are without power.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. You're absolutely right about that. It's cold.

DELGADO: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I don't worry about us. We're in pretty good layers. But if you're in your house for days without the power coming back on, that is very brutal. And that crane as well. You're absolutely right. Our hotel was evacuated yesterday because there were concerns about that crane. So we were moved out of our hotel.

Jennifer Delgado in Atlanta for us this morning. Thank you very much.

Still ahead this morning, we're going to update you on what's happening here in terms of transportation. You'll remember, Sunday night, they shut the subways down. Well, there's been major flooding here in the city, which means the subways could remain shut down, the buses, the trains as well, for days. We'll update you on that straight ahead.

You're watching a special edition of EARLY START as we update you on Superstorm Sandy. We're back right after this short break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our special live coverage of Superstorm Sandy, which brought New York City to a virtual standstill, crippling transportation. Sandy forcing parts of the FDR to close in both directions.

And you can see why. Intense flooding making it impassable and dangerous.

Long Island Railroad crews are fighting floodwater with water. Look at this time lapsed video showing how Penn Station prepared for Sandy. Workers pulled 300 train cars off the tracks Sunday, then fill a balloon-like dam with water to trap the storm surge and pump it back out.

Check out this picture of train station flooding tweeted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority saying it shows floodwater gushing into a commuter train underground station through an elevator shaft in Hoboken, New Jersey.

It's unclear when the trains will resume service. Wow.

Speaking of rushing floodwaters, this is what it was like inside a vent building at the Holland Tunnel yesterday. Officials closed the Holland Tunnel yesterday afternoon as the threat from Sandy loomed.

Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right, Christine, thanks very much. Flooding obviously a big problems, as you've been pointing out, here where we are in Lower Manhattan. It's been a massive problem. I'm actually not very far, Christine, from that flooded FDR Drive. The water has been receding a little bit, although the rain has certainly picked up. So that's some good news, because they are seeing -- the water was really where I am standing right now.

It's gone back about probably 50, 75 feet. So that's been -- that's been pretty good news.

Other big problem is the wind. And we know that in Rockaway, Queens, there's now a massive fire burning. Some two dozen homes are actively on fire. Big problem for the fire department, no water pressure. They can't put out that fire.

Also the wind causing downed power lines, which is what caused that fire in the first place. We're going to update you on what's happening there, some of the dramatic pictures there. That's straight ahead on the other side of this break. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special edition of EARLY START, as we continue to cover the devastating impact of Superstorm Sandy. We want to take you now to Delaware, Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. It's where Brian Todd is reporting for us this morning.

Brian, how does it look where you are?

BRIAN TODD, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, fingers are crossed here, Soledad, because I'm standing on the board walk. I'm going to tell you what they were concerned about at the height of the storm yesterday and last night. This kind of wash from the beach, the sand with the dunes possibly getting breached. They did get breached for a short period.

The dunes getting breached, the sand washing onto the boardwalk, compromising the boardwalk here in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Not too bad, though, the damage, because the brunt of the storm hit about 45 miles north of here. They thought it could come here. And it looked for a while yesterday like it was going to come right here.

The storm surge on the shore over here was very severe. The waves were very high. The dunes were getting breached. The water was coming up very close to the boardwalk here. And some of the sand did wash on. But for the most part, the boardwalk has held. The beaches, which they actually built out about 300 feet toward the ocean earlier this year -- they replenished those beaches.

Because of that, the sand, the dunes pretty much held here. And they have dodged that bullet, which was very good news for the people here in Delaware because this board walk in Rehoboth Beach very heavily dependent on this for their tourism industry; 30,000 to 40,000 people come here every summer. So this board walk has held.

Throughout the state, about 45,000 plus customers without power. Thirty or so roads are impassable right now. We're going to get a read on inland flooding a little bit later, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Brian Todd for us with an update there and some good news. Thank you for that update. Appreciate it.

We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue to update you on some of the impact, the devastating impact in some circumstances, from this Superstorm Sandy. We're coming to you from Lower Manhattan. We'll tell you what's happening where we are as well, as the rain picks up a little bit for us. We're back right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Morning. Welcome, everybody. You're watching a special edition of EARLY START. I'm Soledad O'Brien. We are bringing you special rolling coverage of the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy as it continues its way out of New York into Pennsylvania today, and then back into the western part of New York, and then up to Canada. We're monitoring it all very closely for you.

Lots to talk about. They use the word epic when they talk about Superstorm Sandy. I think that's a fair description, as it has disrupted millions of lives all along the east coast, from fires to floods. Burning now a fire in Rockaway queens. Fifty homes we know have burned to the ground.

There are another two dozen homes that are in the process of burning right now. Big problem for the firefighters, there's no water pressure. They cannot fight this fire effectively. And of course, the fire they believe started when the high winds knocked down power lines and those power lines then caught fire and set fire to all these homes.

You can see some of those pictures there. We have a crew on the way. We'll be able to update you live as soon as they're able to get there and give us more information.

Transformer explosion is what happened not far from where I am at a Con Edison plant. It has left hundreds of thousands of people in Lower Manhattan in the dark. A backup generator failed at NYU Langone Medical Center. That's forced the evacuation of more than 200 patients. Some of them were in intensive care. They had to be moved to other hospitals.

The city's transportation, which was shut down on Sunday, well, that continues to be shut down because of massive flooding. We're told it could be days -- four days maybe, maybe even more, before they're able to re-open the city's subway.

So let's take a look at the satellite loop. They're calling this a post-tropical cyclone. The National Weather Service is warning that the damaging wind gusts of 70 to 90 miles an hour still possible for the New York City metro area, Long Island, for southern Connecticut as well, all through 10:00 this evening.

Some terrible news to report on the front of death; Sandy's killed 13 people here in the United States. Five of those fatalities are in New York. Another was reported in Connecticut. Three more in New Jersey, including a couple in Morris County who were crushed in their car when a tree fell on them.

There's been one fatality reported in West Virginia, two in Pennsylvania and a crew member on board the HMS Bounty -- remember, we told you that story yesterday morning, the HMS Bounty which took on water, and then the 17 people on board had to be put on to life boats? Well, we know now that one crew member is known to be dead at this time.

So let me tell you where I am. We talked about that transformer exploding. Many people described it as a series of blue and green lights flashing. Scared some people. It's not very far from where I am, probably about -- what -- 15 or so block.

We know now that that transformer is not going to come up anytime soon. You can see around me, except for the lights that we've brought in, this area has been plunged into darkness. We're told it could be a week, maybe even more before they are able to restore power here. They shut down power to this part of Manhattan and much of Lower Manhattan in order to keep the waters that were flooding and damaging these transformers from doing massive damage.

It's easier to fix, as we reported yesterday, when they shut it down ahead of time. So transformers started to explode. They've shut the whole thing down. Could be a week before they're able to bring power back to this area. That's affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

The water is receding, though, and I guess that's some good news. Not very from where I am, where that kind of flashing light is back there, that's the FDR Drive. And you -- and you've seen pictures of the flooding along that drive, massive flooding. Well, that's receding. And in fact, if you look down -- probably about halfway down there, the water is now back there.

It was where I'm standing. So they've made a little progress on that front. You'll remember that this is the evacuation zone A, which means that this is the area that they knew would flood. It's the low- lying area, lots of landfill in this part of Lower Manhattan. So they are hoping that once that water goes out, they'll be able to do more repairs and hopefully bring people back into those homes as soon as possible.

I want to get to Deb Feyerick. She's been reporting for us from Long Island, which was hit in a major way by this storm. Deb, tell me a little bit about where you are and what you're seeing this morning.

FEYERICK: Laura, I can't see you. Soledad, let me tell you what exactly we're seeing here. This is the street where our colleague last night was standing. And it was really almost waist high. Now the water has receded. But the area where we're standing, you have inlets basically. We expect that at high tide, this is all going to come in.

What we can tell you is that the smell of gasoline and fire is very strong right now in this particular area. A number of house fires happened overnight. And firefighters working to put those out. But it's an incredible almost dichotomy. You have got fires. You have floods, all of it happening at the same time, with resources stretched to the very max.

The evacuation centers were up and running. We were at a hotel last night. There were folks from the national grid, from the power center who were there with us, but also a number of families who left as soon as the power went out in their homes.

It was fascinating. It almost reminded me of being in a Disney hotel, because you had so many disparate kind of families and older folks who were there. A number of senior centers were evacuated as well. But parts of this area are completely blocked off. The roads flooded.

You know, you make a turn down and you just don't know exactly how deep the water is going to be. You don't whether there are going to be electrical cords in the water. That's really what officials are looking at right now, and that is just how bad this is going to be, when then they can actually get up in the air in helicopters, when they can get a look down on land.

Two police officers that we spoke to earlier, usually they're up flying. But the weather was so bad, they said that they were stationed to basically guard a couple of roads. Lindenhurst, Long Island, where we're standing right now, a number of troops from the National Guard, they were called out last night by Governor Cuomo.

Also in Bayville, Long Island, they too -- they had to be evacuated. They were simply cut off from all access. So parts of Long Island really just devastated, hit hard. And again, everybody just waiting to see just how bad it is when the light comes up, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I know. Can't wait for the sun to come up here as well, Deb, so that we can get a sense of just how bad this is from all that damage overnight. Deb Feyerick for us in Lindenhurst, Long Island.

I want to update you a little bit on that Breezy Point, Queens, story we told you about. Massive fire raging there, 50 homes have burned to the ground. Two dozen others are fully engulfed in flames at this time. We're told fire fighters really struggling to try to put out those fires because the water pressure -- the lack of water pressure to fight those fires.

We are now told that there are 200 fire fighters on the scene. We have our crews on the way to bring you some of those live pictures when we get a chance.

We've got to get now to the other side of Manhattan from where I am, on the other side. The west side of Lower Manhattan is where John Berman is this morning with a look at some of the flooding that's happening there.

John, it was major, major flooding. The predictions actually were off from -- the terrible amount that they predicted was lower than what they actually got.

BERMAN: It was simply unprecedented. Unprecedented storm surge here. The place where I'm standing, last night at about 9:00, this was effectively part of New York Harbor. The storm surge was nearly 14 feet high. That is four feet higher than the record back in 1960. Fourteen feet.

Way out in New York Harbor, by the way, they measured waves that were 32 feet high, which is six feet higher than the record. The water swept in right here, went up to about -- about past my waist right now last night when it was at its worst.

You can see down here what it did to these plants. It just swept in and effectively just swamped this entire area. We've walked all the way through there. There's something of a little bit of a lake by a field down that way. It really created something of a huge, huge mess.

Of course, this is part of the evacuation zone, the other side of the evacuation zone from where you are, Soledad. Some 370,000 people were told they should get out of these areas. I don't know how many did. You get the sense there are a lot of people who did try to ride out this storm.

When I headed down here just a few hours ago, the city was pitch black. The whole lower part of Manhattan lost power or had their power shut down. Some 250,000 people in Manhattan alone are without power right now. As you said, the subway is not running. Seven of the subway tunnel tubes have been flooded.

They don't know how long it will take to pump those out, anywhere between 14 hours and four days. The subway system here says the damage there has been unprecedented. So we're using that word a lot right now, Soledad. But, again, the storm surge here was just simply incredible.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it's crazy to watch these pictures this morning. And as soon as the light comes up, I think we'll get a better sense of really how bad and how widespread all that damage is. John Berman for us on the other side of Lower Manhattan from where I'm standing this morning. Thank you, John.

We want to get to Mike Galanos. He's in Atlantic City this morning, with a look at some of the devastating effects of the Superstorm there. What are you seeing this morning, Mike?

GALANOS: It surprises me. You know, again, I go to bed last night and I was standing in waist deep water practically at some points in this road behind me, Soledad. Again, in front of me is the Atlantic City Convention Center. Behind me in the distance is Bally's. I was maybe a half block in the middle of a street that really played out more like a raging river at one point.

Now, as everyone is saying, the water has receded. But I have got rain and these gusting wind are pretty bad. And an unexpected source of water, the sprinklers are on behind me as well.

But like you guys in New York, can't wait for day break so we can see and assess the damage even more so. But even yesterday, many parts of Atlantic City under water, two, three feet of water. The mayor at one point went to check on how a shelter was doing and had a difficult time getting back, saw downed power lines.

At that point, the mayor told anybody, if you not evacuated, have not gotten to a shelter, just hunker down where you are. And that's the situation.

You know, to the left of me is the Sheraton Hotel. That's where I stayed last night. No power on. And I was wondering as I saw a lot of dogs and a lot of families, these were families that tried to ride out the storm but couldn't. And for them, luckily they were able to make it to the Sheraton and they were able to stay.

I saw some of them just hanging out in lobbies, talking and commiserating, as we were all trying to ride out the storm, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Mike Galanos for us this morning in Atlantic City. Mike, thank you. I keep mangling your name this morning, Mike. But I've got it now. Appreciate the update.

Let's get right to Zoraida Sambolin. She's updating us on some other effects of this devastating storm. Hey, Z. What you got?

SAMBOLIN: Well, we told you a little bit about this earlier. It looks and it sounds like fireworks. But those sparks are flying from a pole carrying power lines. This is a story in Queens as a result of Superstorm Sandy.

Con Ed reports that the storm has left more than 600,000 customers without power. And that is the most in their entire history.

And Soledad was telling you about this earlier. Over 200 patients at the NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan had to be evacuated. Fierce flooding and a failed backup generator, if you can believe it, forcing ambulances to transport everyone to nearby facilities.

And I was reading that they had absolutely no communication. So it was the hospitals that were receiving the patients that actually notified the families that their loved ones were being moved.

Sandy is wreaking havoc on air travel as well. All three New York airports remain closed. That's having a ripple effect on both domestic and international travel. Some 13,000 flights have already been canceled.

The closures costing airlines a combined 10 million dollars a day. Meantime, Amtrak is extending cancellations on its northeast corridor service and that is through today, we understand, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Zoraida Sambolin with an update. Thank you, Zoraida. Appreciate that.

Still ahead this morning, we're going to talk about the financial impact. For the first time in more than 100 years, the Stock Exchange is closed for the second day in a row. Christine Romans will join us to talk about some of that financial impact from this storm straight ahead. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to special coverage of Superstorm Sandy and its massive impact on the east coast. A transformer explosion at a Con Edison power plant in Lower Manhattan leaving large sections of Lower Manhattan without power this morning. This happened just before 8:30 last night in the Styvestown section of the city.

Con Edison says it was caused by a substation equipment failure.

As the storm surge approached peak levels, the city that never sleeps started to go dark. New York's power company, Con Ed, reporting no electricity below 29th street in Manhattan. Floodwaters in power stations forcing Con Ed officials to turn off the lights.

Right now, about 6.5 million people in 13 states and Washington, D.C. are without power thanks to Sandy. Hurricane force winds reaching nearly 200 miles out from the eye of the storm. People have been left in the dark from North Carolina all the way up to Maine. About 4.5 million of those outages are in the tri-state area, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut.

Nearly 87,000 people as far north as Maine are also without electricity.

For the first time in over a century, the New York Stock Exchange will be closed for a second day due to weather today. The last time that happened because of weather was the blizzard of 1888. It is so rare to have stocks closed.

The NASDAQ and also bond markets are closed today. Stock futures, though, are being traded electronically through until 9:15 a.m. Eastern. Futures for the Dow, the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 are all down. But again, the stock markets will not open today.

Sandy could also delay the release of the critical October jobs report. It's scheduled to come out on Friday. It could get pushed back because some government offices were closed during the storm. The only other time in history the jobs report was delayed was in 1996 because of the federal government shutdown.

A reminder, this is the last jobs report before election day. And the government tells us they're working real hard to make sure that jobs report is ready as scheduled. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right, Christine, thank you for that update.

Still ahead this morning, I want to show you a picture of a crane we were watching very closely yesterday. Well, this morning, that crane has toppled quite a bit.

Take a look. The top of the crane has tipped from being tilted toward the building to now tilted away from the building. It has started to collapse. They are very concerned. They can't secure it any better because of the high winds. We're going to update you on what's happening here.

This is at a luxury high-rise called 157. We'll tell you the status of that crane and the buildings around it when we come back from commercial break. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Morning. Welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special edition of EARLY STAR," as we update you on Superstorm Sandy.

Want to get right to Sandra Endo. She's been standing by for us in Ocean City, Maryland, since Sunday. Let's take a look at how things are there this morning. Sandra, good morning.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. This is the first time in two days we haven't been pelted with rain. There is no rain actually this morning. And we are still feeling some wind but not as severe as in the days past.

Now take a look at the surf. While the waves may look big, it's nothing like the fierce waves we've seen that have breached the sand dunes in the last day or so. But clearly now the focus is on damage and assessing what Hurricane Sandy did to Ocean City. We know that there's a lot of beach erosion.

Take a look here, Soledad. You can see also how strong the winds were. That's part of a roof that was blown off during the storm. And you can see some debris scattered around the street area. Of course when the sun comes up, we'll be able to better assess the flooding in certain parts of the area. We know that 5,600 people are without power. Utility companies have been going around trying to restore power.

We know that two major arteries were blocked off, getting into Ocean City. One of those arteries has been re-opened. But in terms of Maryland, we know that right now, 350,000 people are still without power. And, of course, it's going to be a few days and take a lot of work for everyone to get power restored.

But clearly now the focus is on assessing the damage and trying to recover from this storm. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Sandra Endo for us this morning, watching what's happening in Ocean City, Maryland. Thank you for that update. Let's get right to Zoraida Sambolin with an update on other stories around this storm. Zoraida, good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you, Soledad. The body of a missing crew member from the doomed replica tall ship HMS Bounty has been recovered. This is off the North Carolina coast. One other crew member remains missing at this hour. The Coast Guard says 14 others were rescued from their life rafts by two Jayhawk Helicopters after that ship took on water and eventually sank, as you're seeing there.

And the impact of Superstorm Sandy being felt on the campaign trail as well. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney canceling campaign events yesterday and today. At a rally in Florida yesterday, Paul Ryan urged supporters to lend a hand to all the storm victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's send our prayers and our thoughts to the people in the northeast. Look, Floridians, you are no stranger to big storms. You know better than anyone on the need for communities to come together and for neighbors to help one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: First Lady Michelle Obama, at a campaign event in Iowa City, says the President is putting his political schedule on hold because Sandy is his priority.

And West Virginians are expected to get hammered by heavy and wet snow. Sandy's not sparing anyone. As much as three feet of it is expected in higher elevations. And a blizzard warning is in effect for 10 counties there. The snow threatens to bring down power lines and people are being advised, as they are here, to stay indoors, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: What a mess. What a mess. Zoraida, thank you for the update. We take a short break. When we come back on the other side, we tell you what's happening with that massive house fire -- I should say fire of two dozen homes in Breezy Point, in Queens. We know it's related to Hurricane Sandy. Downed power lines started this fire. Huge problem for firefighters, no water pressure. They can't fight this fire effectively. We have an update and new pictures to show you when we come back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Morning. Welcome, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien and you are watching a special edition of EARLY START. We're following the trail of Superstorm Sandy. And the storm itself has reeked havoc here in New York City.

Lots to tell you about this morning. Dozens of homes have been destroyed by a massive fire in Queens. We're watching those pictures. Lower Manhattan has been flooded by historic storm surge. A power transformer exploded, plunging neighborhoods into darkness in Lower Manhattan, and forced the evacuation as well of one of the city's largest hospitals. More than 200 people evacuated, including some babies taken out of the NICU.

Transportation across the city has been paralyzed. The subway system could be shut down for days. From the Carolinas to New England and beyond, CNN is covering the aftermath of this storm and taking a look at where it's going next like no other network can. It is Tuesday, October 30th. Special coverage of Superstorm Sandy begins right now.