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Hurricane Sandy Pounds East Coast; Interview With New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone; Assessing Sandy's Damage

Aired October 30, 2012 - 15:05   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That was President Obama speaking today at the headquarters of the Red Cross in Washington, D.C., saying when -- during the darkness of the storm, we saw what is brightest in America. He talked about some of the first-responders, stories he had heard of the first-responders, the firefighters in Queens, the Coast Guard divers and many others.

President Obama also telling local and state officials to cut through red tape, praising the work of Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, of Governor Cuomo here in New York, also Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City, saying he wanted to give the resources, whatever resources the federal government, perhaps unconditional ones, the military may have, put them at the disposal of the officials to try to cut through any red tape and to try to speed this relief effort along.

President Obama also, we have learned now, he is going to be going to New Jersey tomorrow to tour some areas that are hardest hit with Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. We will be hearing a lot more from him no doubt tomorrow, as well as from Governor Christie then.

Just a short time ago, we learned the stock exchange will reopen tomorrow after two days in the dark.

Alison Kosik joins me right now.

What are you hearing?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're hearing the opening bell will ring at 9:30 in the morning, the New York Stock Exchange saying the trading floor, the building are all operational and ready to go.

In fact, they spent the past couple of hours or several hours today sort of practicing this and testing this with its member firms to make sure that everything will be set to go. Just in case it doesn't go off well, it can always fall back on its Arca exchange. That's its all-electronic exchange.

But it is really a priority to get the markets open again, especially because it is the last day of the month, especially if you're a mutual funder, hedge funder, a trader, you want to square up your trades for the last day of the month before you put out the monthly statements.

COOPER: Is there -- it is hard to predict -- any idea how the market will react? KOSIK: I have been talking with some traders today and analysts, and they're getting worried there could be a sell-off just because of a few reasons. One of them is psychological. It has been a long time since the exchange has shut its doors for two days because of weather. The last time that happened was 1888 after a blizzard.

There is some pent-up nervousness about that. Also, the trend has kind of been lower lately. We're in the middle of third quarter earnings season and earnings haven't been all that stellar. You look at the averages right now, the Dow right now is down 2.5 percent. The S&P 500 is down 2 percent. The Nasdaq is down more than 4 percent. The trend is lower as well.

Also, a lot of people had their money locked up in the market for two straight days. They're going to be itching to have their finger on the sell button. It could be a rough start to the opening bell.

COOPER: All right, Alison, appreciate the update. Thanks very much.

A lot more ahead. I want to show you some pictures that are fairly recent to us. These are the flooded runways at La Guardia Airport out in Queens. That airport and Kennedy International both are closed today. Never seen pictures like this. No immediate promise as to when they might reopen. No flights in and out of America's busiest city.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg told us a short time ago there may be damage to runway lights and crucial instrumentation. You see a lot of visitors to New York today just kind of wandering around on streets, not sure what to do, not sure where to go. Central Park is closed. A lot of the places they would like to be visiting are closed.

And obviously they are not able to fly out, so there is a lot of stranded people in New York City right now. It is no -- not an easy time to be in this city. No public transportation here in the city. The subway subjects are still flooded.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Public transportation remains closed until further notice is a good way to think about it. There is no firm timeline for the reactivation of bus or train service but I'm sure the MTA will do everything it can to have limited bus service, perhaps this afternoon.


COOPER: The city is now saying it will try to roll buses at 5:00 this evening with business as usual tomorrow, but no promises yet on restoring subway service. Should point out cabs are hard to come by in New York City right now. There's not a lot of them on streets and the ones that are on streets seem to have off-duty lights and a lot of cab drivers seem to be kind of coming up with their own fares for how much they want to charge people, which is obviously not something they're supposed to be doing. The Taxi and Limousine Commission obviously wants people to keep an eye out for that and report any unusual activity they see to Taxi and Limousine Commission.

CNN's Ashleigh Banfield is south of my location, about two miles from where I am. She's in the area called Chelsea -- Ashleigh.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, just to add to that, the mayor allowed the taxis in this city to pick up multiple fares at a time. They don't usually do that. But they know in an emergency a lot of people need to get around. So couple of people are going to be sharing cabs for the foreseeable future.

I just want to show you the building behind me. Take a look up top. It looks like a dollhouse because you can see right across the street and into the facade. That happened yesterday afternoon in the highest of winds. "The New York Post" is reporting that this is actually an illegal hotel. But I can tell you right now there is no one staying in that building now. You can see the debris is just where it fell on that sidewalk. And there is no one clearing it away at this time because there is so much more to do in this city, there's so much more work ahead.

I can tell you, it's funny, Anderson. You said Central Park is closed, a lot of things are closed, transportation. Look around. Let's just spin around, Rich, and show just all these people who have come out, whether they're tourists or New Yorkers. They're very interested in this scene behind me and the damage behind me.

In fact, there's a police officer who is just across the street and periodically having to go over a loudspeaker saying nothing to see here, folks, clear the way and off the street because there are a lot of people who have come out.

I actually wanted to show you a picture I took on my iPad as I was driving down the street. I didn't think there would be a lot of commerce and economic activity going on. But I saw a lot of restaurants open and a lot of people out milling about on the streets, a lot of stores open as well, which is a bit surprising given the fact that Mayor Bloomberg suggested that the possible economic impact of this storm on the city alone, just economic, not stuff like that, could be upwards of $7 billion. That's going to be a movable target, I'm sure, that number, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Ashleigh Banfield, a lot of people out on the streets just hoping to get a meal somewhere. Folks who didn't stock up are kind of sick of the tuna they have been eating for the last 24 hours and want to eat somewhere in a restaurant.

I saw a pizza parlor on my block that was open. It was jampacked, people cooking up what they could before it spoils because of no refrigeration. Ashleigh, we will check in with you throughout the day.

Sandy has carved a path of destruction of course along the Eastern Seaboard, storm surges, floods, blizzards, even fire. A six-alarm fire in Queens, which is a borough here in New York, has destroyed at least 80 homes. You're seeing pictures of the aftermath of it.

CNN NEWSROOM's Deborah Feyerick is there for us in Queens right now.

It is an area where many decided to stay, Deborah, to ride out the storm. What are some of the stories that you have been hearing on the ground now?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're hearing a number of stories.

For example, one man I just spoke with, he decided to ride out the storm. He sent his wife and his three kids away, but decided to stay just to keep an eye on things. Didn't expect the fire. As the water began to rise, he tells us that in fact he started to move his home -- evacuate his home, he had a life vest and he was going to drift off to find some higher ground.

And then all of a sudden he heard three older women crying for help. So he came and he got the three women and brought them to his patio. And then one of the women said, you have got to go get my elderly brother who was trapped inside, in one of these homes, saying, please help him.

He went in and he got that elderly person along with the aid and these sort of heroic stories, somebody who didn't think that he was going to ride out the storm, thought he was going to leave and ended up saving 14 people.

But, Anderson, we really have to just show you kind of what is going on. Look behind here. OK, this is one of the homes. It is still burning and you can -- there are pockets of flame popping up everywhere. As a matter of fact, in some of the poles where all the wires, electrical wires are, you see little pockets of fire that are springing up there.

They're trying to douse this fire now just to kind of keep it from spreading, because, again, you can still see a number of houses that have now been affected. This one obviously has a lot of heat damage. But others, they're just trying to at least keep the damage to a minimum.

And, Anderson, I want to show you something over here, as we make our way. We have got to be really careful. There are a bunch of nails here and there is so much information for the mind to process. But, look, this sand, Anderson, this sand is actually from the beach. The beach is about 30 houses that way. That's the impact of this storm. A lot of people expected the flooding.

They didn't expect the rain. Look over here. These cars, you have got chairs here, you have got refrigerators that are melted into nothing. This -- we saw this man's car, it just burned. The man over here, he thought, OK, look, he knew there was going to be flooding, which in fact there was, but what he says is nobody expected there to be the fire. And once the fire started, according to the fireman, they came over in this direction. It suddenly just spread, sweeping across all those homes. And because of the way the homes are built, it was just impossible to get the fire trucks in there. Not only that, the water was simply too high following the surge, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, thankfully no loss of life, but amazing, 80 homes destroyed. Terrible. Deb Feyerick, appreciate the reporting on that.

When we come back, we will tell you about the situation which is still happening right now, this crane dangling over 57th Street. We will tell you the latest information on what may happen to it ahead. We will be right back.


COOPER: A short time ago, we played you comments that President Obama made today at the Red Cross headquarters in Washington, praising the first-responders.

And we have seen some extraordinary rescues, incredible stories of first-responders at great risk to themselves, going after people who decided to not evacuate, to stay behind.

Our Michael Holmes from CNN International is in Toms River, New Jersey. He's been witnessing some rescues as well.

Michael, what are you seeing?


Just a few minutes ago, we saw another truckload, flatbed truckload of people being brought off those barrier islands, seaside, in fact. And there has been more than 100 of them brought up. These are the people as you point out that were subject to mandatory evacuation and stayed put. That place was decimated.

I have seen aerial pictures of that. The sand has gone blocks inland, the destruction of houses, damage to property enormous. I talked to a police officer who was there last night and brought the people off and he said it was a terrifying experience.

He said they had to move three or four times just to get above the water as it kept on coming up four, five, six feet of it. He talked of the waves, the ocean literally crashing through the dunes and just coursing through the city streets. He said he's never seen anything like it and doesn't want to again.

The media aren't allowed on that part of the barrier islands yet. But he described a scene of terror. The most amazing thing I think, Anderson, is given what we have seen here in Toms River, which also had extensive flooding, and there's still dozens of people waiting to be rescued from their flooded homes, the most extraordinary thing is there have been no casualties reported at all. And that's really just staggering. COOPER: Yes. And that is certainly good news, a small bright spot in this otherwise terrible, terrible storm. Michael Holmes, appreciate that. We will continue to check in with you throughout the evening.

Our coverage is going to continue all evening long -- 90 stories up from where I am right now, a massive crane is still balancing precariously over the New York City skyline. Incredible video here showing part of the collapse of that crane, happened on top of a nearly completed luxury apartment building soldier to be the city's tallest residential building, probably one of the most expensive. Billionaires are buying apartments there. The one apartment I think went for $90 million.

Its neighbors are now evacuated as officials are trying to figure out how to stabilize that crane.

Joining me by phone is crane expert Thomas Barth.

Mr. Barth, I appreciate you being with us.

What happened to this crane? I have seen plenty of cranes and they usually move with the wind. Why did this one collapse?

THOMAS BARTH, CRANE EXPERT: The boom was at a high angle.

And when the winds came up, it just blew it over backwards. And I believe that the crane operator or somebody got out of the crane and did not release the house brake, where it could weather vane. That's what I believe caused the accident.

COOPER: You say weather vane, because normally cranes are meant to act like a weather vane in the wind, but this one clearly didn't. How precarious is it right now?

BARTH: Well, when you see the videos of when the boom went over, the boom hit the tower.

It could have damaged the tower, which I'm sure it did. But to what extent, I don't know. And as it is now, this crane is going to sit there because they can't jack it up, they can't jack it down, they can't do anything with it. They either are going to have to put another tower crane up alongside of it and take it down safely.

COOPER: So you're saying in order to deal with it safely they may actually have to put another crane up there and bring it down that way?


There is no mobile crane that they can bring into the city that has a 1,000-foot boom.

COOPER: I heard that what they're going do in the interim is to basically try to go up there and then, guess, secure it somehow, latch it to the side of the building. Is that true?

BARTH: Well, the tower crane right now, as you look at the pictures, it has got arms on it. It is latched to the building.

And what they may want to do is go up there and probably put chains or something to pull the boom in a little bit, where there would be some stress on it where it couldn't dangle in the air back and forth -- like there has been other videos where when the wind was real high, the crane boom was swinging back and forth. That's a very dangerous occurrence.

COOPER: Yes. Well, it is extraordinary. And thankfully it hasn't collapsed even further and gone flying through the air.

Thomas Barth, I appreciate your expertise.

Up next: the blizzard that is blasting West Virginia. We will take you there live.


COOPER: Well, the predictions that New Jersey was going to bear the brunt of Sandy turned out to be very, very accurate.

National Guard video shows what Sandy did to oceanfront property in Seaside Heights. That's one of the Jersey Shore towns badly damaged by Sandy.

Joining me on the phone from Long Branch, New Jersey, is Congressman Frank Pallone.

Congressman, I appreciate you being with us.


COOPER: You represent the Sixth District, which includes Asbury Park, Atlantic Highlands. I was in Asbury Park last night. I left there early this morning, a lot of damage along the coast. Describe some of what your constituents are dealing with today.

PALLONE: Well, a lot of the constituents are just going back to their homes and realizing that they're totally destroyed.

I was in Union Beach, along the route in Sandy Hook Bay, and the first four blocks on the bay, the waves came in and basically either carried the homes away or battered them to a pulp. And so they don't have a place to come back to.

And the concern that I have is you see all these power lines and gas lines that are broken. And they have to be so careful that they're not going to come in contact with them. So, there is still major safety problems as well. That's a big concern.

But the devastation is unbelievable, homes that are, you know, carried away, destroyed. In Long Branch, two-thirds of the boardwalk is destroyed. And the Pier Village area, which is the business, tourism, area, had a lot of major damage.

In Atlantic Highlands, where I am right now, you know, the whole marina area is destroyed. The boats were simply taken up that were being stored there and floated down the street. So, you know, we have damage to the public facilities as well. City hall in Long Branch wasn't usable. The Boro Hall in Highlands there had so much damage, I don't know if that's really usable.

And the problems that continue, I was just at (INAUDIBLE) where there is still severe flooding that is undermining homes and businesses there. So, right now, my major concern is for safety, that the biggest concern is let's make sure people don't come in contact with these downed power lines or these gas lines that have breached.

But we're starting to do an assessment. We're starting to get reports in so that we can get the federal government in with FEMA, you know, to help pay for a lot of this damage. But I have never seen anything like it before in my lifetime.

COOPER: Yes, I think a lot of people feel that way. And, as you say, it's really important that people who -- people are sick of being in their homes without power, but not to be wandering around. There are downed power lines. There is still standing water around. It is a very dangerous situation in a lot of places.

Congressman Pallone, I appreciate you being with us. And I'm sorry for all that you and your constituents are going through and wish you the best.

In West Virginia, Sandy collided with multiple storm systems. It is dumping know across the state. Snow. Take a look at Snowshoe Mountain Resort. It's pretty. It's also dangerous right now across West Virginia. Nearly 250,000 people are without power.

Our Martin Savidge is in Kingwood, West Virginia, where, get this, blizzard, flooding and high wind warnings are all in effect now. What a combination.

Martin, you were just out in this blizzard, trying to drive in it. How bad is it?


We have been in these kind of whiteout conditions almost for 12 hours straight. It is just continuing. In fact, the blizzard warnings are going to go into the night here and into tomorrow in other parts of the state.

Let me show you some of that drive because it shows you the unique hazards of this particular storm. Take a look.


SAVIDGE: You can see for the most part here that the plows have been doing a really good job of keeping the streets clear. They're using salt. So, at 33 degrees, that stuff works really well.

Here is your danger, though, the weight of the snow bringing down tree branches. Not only do they block the road, but they also will drag down power lines. It is the problem. You can see off there to the right. There is another branch that has come down. Looks like somebody has cut it already. But at any given time, these trees, as beautiful as they look, as painted as they are with the snow, it's actually hundreds of pounds of extra weight on there.

And they're leaning ever so precariously over the road, and though it might look attractive, you realize that's a lot of kinetic energy that is just waiting to explode and release in some way.

We have seen it in a couple of spots where the trees just explode and in a blast of white snow and then the tree limbs come shattering down on top of you. So these areas in particular are pretty dangerous for a lot of different reasons.


SAVIDGE: This area of Kingwood where we are has right now got about a foot of snow. It is really that heavy, really difficult, treacherous stuff to walk through. There are some parts of the state though that could see as much as three feet of snow before this is all said and done, Anderson. And no one is really sure when that may be, when it is all said and done.

COOPER: Yes. When a mess. Martin, appreciate it. Stay safe there in West Virginia.

Up next, we do have new developments on that dramatic evacuation of a hospital in New York, including the transfer of newborns. Special coverage continues on CNN.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), 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.

The most devastating news is that we lost 15 New Yorkers last night. That is our best estimate at this time. My guess is, if anything, that number is going to get larger.



COOPER: Hey, welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper in New York reporting on the aftermath of Sandy.

It is 108-years old, but the New York City subway -- the subway has never faced anything like Sandy. It is being called the most devastating event to ever happen to the subway system in this city.

Take a look at some of the pictures. As Hurricane Sandy pushed waters through the streets of New York City, saltwater gushed through cracks in doors, down stairways through grates in the roads.

At the height of the storm last night, seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded as did the Queens Midtown Tunnel. The Brooklyn/Battery Tunnel was inundated with more than 13-feet of water. The Holland Tunnel also remains closed.

Kevin Ortiz, a spokesperson from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, joins me now on the phone.

We heard there is no firm timeline on the reopening of the subway. Do you have any estimate?

KEVIN ORTIZ, SPOKESPERSON, NEW YORK CITY METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY (via telephone): Well, at this point, Anderson, it is too early to say how long it is going to take to restore the system to full service.

Essentially, we're still in the process of pumping water out of these East River tubes, as well as stations that were flooded.

You know, once we do that and that can range anywhere between 14 hours to four days depending how bad it is down there, then we have to go in and really assess the damage and then also inspect rails and make any necessary repairs that need to be made.

So, in essence, you know, we're looking at a long process here.

COOPER: And how would it be done? Would it be done, line by line, or be opened all at once? I mean, could like the one line open and another line not or how would you do it?

ORTIZ (via telephone): Well, the process right now that we're looking at restoring service on a partial basis, we're in essence there is some parts of the system that weren't impacted by Sandy, so that we would look at inspecting and then opening up those portions of the system first.

And then, as I said before, you know, the other parts that were impacted by the storm surge, it is going to take a little time.

COOPER: And in terms of tunnels and bridges, what is open? I used the Lincoln Tunnel to come back from New Jersey this morning. That was open or at least partially open. What else is open now?

ORTIZ (via telephone): In terms of MTA-operated bridges and tunnels, five of our seven bridges are now open. The only two bridges that remain close ready the bridges that connect the Far Rockaways in Queens and that's due to flooding.

But all of our bridges, you know, in the other boroughs in terms of the RFK, the (INAUDIBLE), the Whitestone, those are all open. Our two tunnels remain closed. The Brooklyn Battery/Hugh Carey Tunnel and the Queens Midtown Tunnel remain closed due to the flooding that you're seeing now.

COOPER: Well, Kevin Ortiz, I know you've got a lot of work ahead of you. I appreciate you talking to us. Thank you.

In the midst of Sandy's fury last night, a crisis called people who work in a crisis environment by surprise. Nurses and medical staff scurried to evacuate more than 300 patients from the NYU Medical Center overnight. That's all the way on the east side in the 30th.

Among the evacuees, tiny babies from the hospital's NICU. The hospital lost power in the storm then the backup power failed. This was one of the most worst case scenarios for this hospital.

I want to bring in Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta. What is the latest on the evacuations over there?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I was on the phone all night with NYU executives and doctors. They told me this morning that everyone is out as of 11:00 in the morning, 300 patients, patients from adult-intensive-care unit, pediatric, neonatal intensive care unit, out at as many as five different hospitals around New York City, brought there to safety.

And these about a thousand different workers, doctors, nurses, policemen, firefighters, worked to get those things out.

COOPER: I was tweeting about this last night. I just can't imagine anything -- I mean, it reminds me of the hospital stories we heard out of Katrina and New Orleans.

There must have been patients on ventilators that had to be manually kept alive and getting babies out of the NICU in the dead of night when all the power has gone out. I mean, I can't imagine how difficult that was.

COHEN: Yeah, it reminded me very much of my time in New Orleans after Katrina.

The adults -- it was interesting, the adults on respirators, those respirators had batteries, so they were, you know, brought down, some of them 15 flights of stairs on respirators with batteries.

For some reason, the neonatal -- the neonates, rather, the little newborn babies, their respirators did not have batteries, so doctors had to do -- or nurses probably did it -- what's called bagging and that's where the doctor or the nurse rather actually squeezes air right into the baby's lungs so they're walking nine flights down from the NICU while the whole time squeezing air into those babies' lungs.

COOPER: And, as far as you know, no fatalities as a result of this?

COHEN: No, as far as we know, all is doing well. And, you know, some people right now, Anderson, are asking the question, why didn't they evacuate sooner? And I think that's a question that is going to be talked about at NYU for a while now.

COOPER: Yeah and certainly the backup power situation needs to be looked at, but thank goodness, nobody that we know of -- there were no fatalities.

Elizabeth, thank you. We've got a quick programming note. CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is talking with doctors at Mt. Sinai, one of the hospitals that took in some of the patients that Elizabeth was just telling us about.

He'll have their story tonight on my program, "AC 360," and we're going to be live, of course, at 8:00 tonight.

Up next, Wolf Blitzer joins me on President Obama's visit to New Jersey, which is going to occur tomorrow, alongside Governor Chris Christie.


COOPER: Well, people living in Milford, Connecticut, are heading down by the water to check on the damage to their homes. Ali Reed from our affiliate, WTNH, is there.


ALI REED, WTNH REPORTER: You can see that shed right there in the middle. Apparently, residents told me that during the height of the storm last night, that shed was going all over this road here.

Now, even just about 25 minutes ago, when we arrived on this street, it was all mud. As you can see, water is starting to come in now. That's because high tide is just under an hour away.

So, if we could turn over here on the right, you can see the sound. You can see the waves. These two homes right over here, these were destroyed by a Irene, so these two homes have been rebuilt.

But you can see right now the waves coming in, the water rushing in because high tide, again, is just under an hour away.


COOPER: That was the scene in New Milford, Connecticut.

Earlier in Washington, we saw President Obama speaking at the Red Cross, praising first-responders, also praising the efforts of Governor Chris Christie, Governor Mario -- Governor Cuomo here in New York and also Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City.

He also talked about federal bureaucracy making sure that they basically just cut through red tape and get aid to people who need it most.

I want to check in with our Wolf Blitzer because, Wolf, we're learning now that President Obama is going to be visiting New Jersey tomorrow with Governor Christie.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Yeah, I think it is very significant. He's decided he wants to see the damage, the White House announcing it just a little while ago and it comes on the heels of very effusive praise that Governor Christie has been giving the president of the United States in a wide range of television interviews earlier today.

He says that the president, the federal response from FEMA, other federal agencies, they have been going out of their way to help the people of New Jersey. He's grateful for that.

And that relationship between the president and Governor Christie, even though Governor Christie strongly supports Mitt Romney, seems to be OK as far as disaster relief is concerned.

Both of these men, the governor and the president, are trying to stay above politics for now at least. They're trying to do what is best for the people of New Jersey and New York, some of the other states, obviously, that have been affected by this disaster and it is a real disaster.

These -- all of these leaders, they're working around the clock to do the best they can under these difficult circumstances.

COOPER: Yeah, I think we have some of the comments that Governor Christie made. Let's play that.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president, personally. He has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area. I expedited that.

Next thing, I was on the phone with FEMA at 2:00 a.m. this morning to answer the questions they needed answers to get that designation and the president has been outstanding in this.


COOPER: And, Wolf, this really had an impact on the campaigns for both President Obama and for Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: Yeah, the president, obviously, not going to campaign tomorrow. I think he will resume his campaigning on Thursday. It sort of froze at least at the top levels, the two presidential candidates, their ability to go out there and campaign.

I think they're going to resume it pretty much tomorrow and Thursday. Romney much more quickly than the president right now.

But, you know, it is hard to believe, Anderson, when you think about it, we're today exactly one week away from the election and the election is not dominating the news by any means. It is barely being mentioned, in fact. It's almost an afterthought because there is this search-and-rescue operation, the floods, the continuing disaster as it unfolds.

That's obviously the big story. Who would have thought? Talk about an October surprise. I think Sandy has turned out to be a major October surprise.

And we don't know what the ultimate ramifications politically will be from what has happened. It is anyone's guess at this point.

COOPER: Yeah, and certainly not on the minds of all those who have been affected by that storm, that aspect of it.

Wolf, we're going to check in with you. Our coverage is going to continue and Wolf is going to take over shortly.

When we come back, we have some breaking news from Con Ed on when power may be restored. Remember, 8 million people across a number of states without power right now. More details ahead.


COOPER: Hey, welcome back to our continuing coverage. We've just gotten word that U.S. federal agencies will reopen in Washington, D.C., tomorrow. They had closed down because of the storm.

Also want to check in with Rob Marciano in Chelsea where that facade of that building had been ripped off by the storm. He's got some information from Con Ed on when power may be restored and where.

Rob, what did you learn?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Anderson, as you know, now that the winds have died down, people are kind of coming out of the wood work, especially the ones without power, and they want to know exactly when that power is going to be turned back on.

Well, just from the position I stand, a few blocks to the east is the headquarters of Con Edison. We were allowed into the situation room. I spoke with the incident commander, the v.p. of engineering there, who has been through a number of these storms, including Irene.

He says this is by far the worst one he's ever seen and estimations for Lower Manhattan, from 29th Street south and parts on the East Side up to 39th Street are without power now and for all of those areas to be with power that could be up to four days.

Now, some areas will be getting power during those four days -- before those four days are up, but to get complete power back, Lower Manhattan, four days.

They're hoping to get stock exchange back up and running later today for business tomorrow. That hasn't been confirmed yet.

Outside of Manhattan proper, including the five -- the other boroughs and parts of Westchester County, parts of those areas could take as long as 10 days. So you can imagine how frustrating folks are going to be when that hear that news.

Now, there will be spots that slowly come back online, but the problem is substations and the underground infrastructure have been compromised with this massive amount of flooding.

We had a record 13.8 feet of storm surge come in through Battery Park. The 14th Street substation, which is built to withstand a surge of 12.6 feet, that would have been an all time record. We blew that record out of the water, so to speak.

So, that's the main problem. That's flooded and, even when that drains, you've got saltwater intrusion and have to assess the damage and it is just going to take a long time for that to be repaired and get back online.

So, that's the latest from the Con Edison just down the street.

COOPER: Wow, four days. Yeah, I live down in the Village, without power right now, and also cell service, e-mail service is completely disrupted and I can't get any phones to work down there. Hopefully that will be restored soon, too.

Rob, appreciate that reporting.

We're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Hey, welcome back to our continuing coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

I want to head back out to northern New Jersey where we have been watching rescues like this all day and throughout much of the night. People being told to grab one bag of belongings and to get the heck out.

Listen to New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie a few hours ago.


CHRISTIE: In Moonachie and Little Ferry, we have dispatched state and federally-supported teams to assist in rescues and are providing shelters to those in need.


COOPER: Well, CNN's Maggie Lake reports now from outside a shelter where the evacuees are being taken.


MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are at the evacuation site in Bergen County where rescuers have been bringing in trapped residents all day in the towns affected by surprise flooding from Moonachie and also Little Ferry.

We believe that a levee broke sometime during the early morning hours. The towns were already without power. Floodwaters rushed in, sending residents scrambling to the top floors and, in some cases, onto rooftops as they waited for help, starting in the middle of the night and then through the early hours.

First, Bergen County officials then joined by the National Guard, state police, Port Authority in boats, in trucks, and in National Guard vehicles, rolling in to try to get out trapped residents, many of them children, elderly, completely caught by surprise by the flood..

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know how many people are out there yet because some people may have left on their own and, so, we don't have that number.

There are three towns affected -- Carlstadt, which is an industrial area so there's no people there and then Moonachie has about 2,700 residents. Little Ferry has about 11,000. So, that's the combined total of people for whom we are making sure that there are no more problems.

So, we're going house-to-house-to-house.

LAKE: We just spoke to officials who say they will continue those rescue operations into the night, if need be. They plan to go house- to-house to reach all the residents that need to be evacuated.

This is the staging area. They are going to take those who don't have relatives nearby to shelters until they can find a longer term plan for them. People are not allowed back in those towns, we think for at least five days.

Back to you.


COOPER: It's a lot of people miserable tonight.

We're going to have continuing coverage. We're going take a short break. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Well, in Maryland, electric crews are scrambling to get the power back on. And in Ocean City, officials are out assessing damage. That's where we find CNN's Lisa Sylvester.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Anderson, this is Ocean City, Maryland. A lot of the tourists may be very familiar with this area.

You have the bayside on this side here, then you have the Oceanside just a few blocks away and the water level rose so high that the bayside and the Oceanside actually became one.

And believe it or not, what you're seeing here on the bayside, this is actually low tide, so as we get into high tide later on this evening, this water and this where we're standing, in fact, may very well likely flood again.

But this storm did a number on this boardwalk. It chewed it up. You can see down there some of the boardwalk actually lifted up. Also, those lamp posts, normally, they are standing straight up high, but they are now tilted on their side.

You also can see a number of the trees like this one here that actually was uprooted by Hurricane Sandy and all of this debris that just pushed through to the other side of the roadway.

Now, I'm here with one of the residents of Ocean City, Maryland. This Mike Hedleski (ph). You live right there in the house. You can see your backyard is essentially the bay. So how did you fare?

MIKE HEDLESKI (PH), OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND, RESIDENT: We did OK, actually did a lot better than I thought we were going to do.

It turns out the rain and the wind weren't actually too bad around here, but the storm surge, as you guys can see, did a ton of damage around here.

No water actually got inside the house. In our garage, we had about eight inches of water, so messed up some stuff there, but other than that, no real structural damage.

A lot of people saw that the pier kind of collapse overnight. I think we have a piece of that in the backyard, too.

So, other than that, we did OK.


COOPER: Lisa Sylvester, thanks very much for that.

Our coverage continues. I'm going to be on tonight on "AC 360" at 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., live editions of "AC 360" for the latest on the storm coverage.

Right now, let's go to Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room."


BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much.