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THE SITUATION ROOM

Hurricane Sandy Slams East Coast; Politics of Sandy; Big Storm Still Dangerous; Romney's New Focus: Storm Relief; Sand Where Roads Should Be; New Jersey Beach Towns Devastated; Trapped On Fire Island; Atlantic City's Boardwalk Ripped Apart; Sandy Puts City Under Water

Aired October 30, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: In the wake of an historic and deadly hurricane, New Jersey's governor says the devastation along his state's coast is, in his word, unthinkable.

And major parts of New York effectively shut down right now, subway stations, even La Guardia Airport underwater. The mayor calls it the worst storm ever, ever to his city.

And just one week from Election Day, both President Obama and Mitt Romney, they are shifting their focus. They are responding to the disaster without trying to appear overly political.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Today, we're getting our first clear look at the devastation caused when Hurricane Sandy blew ashore and turned into a superstorm. And it is not over. Right now, the storm is over Pennsylvania, pummeling a wide area with high wind, torrential rain and in some places blizzard conditions.

Here is the big picture as best we know it right now. The storm is blamed for a total 97 deaths, 29 of them in the United States and 67 in the Caribbean. Close to eight million customers in 15 states and the District of Columbia have no electricity.

Nearly 11,000 people across the Mid-Atlantic region spent last night in Red Cross-operated shelters. We have crews up and down the Atlantic Coast, as well as inland. The worst-hit area stretches up the coast from southern New Jersey to New York, where Mayor Bloomberg says this may be the worst storm ever to hit New York City.

One of the biggest challenges in New York City, where the massive subway system is shut down, tunnels and stations are filled with high water. No idea at least of now when those trains will be running again. For the four million people who rely on those trains to get around, this is a difficult, difficult situation.

Take a look at La Guardia Airport. The runways are submerged and levels were so high they reached the jetways where people usually walk on to the planes. And if the flooding wasn't bad enough, an entire neighborhood is destroyed by fire. At least 80 homes burned to the ground in the New York borough of Queens.

CNN's national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, is joining us from the scene right now.

This is an awful, awful image. People are going through hell right now. Deb, tell us about it.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they really are.

About 80 homes, a fire official telling us it could be actually as many as 110. I'm standing in one of those homes. This is the door. It is melted. It is melted into a complete pile of twisted plastic. The irony, Wolf, take a look, these are sandbags. People expected this area to flood.

What they didn't expect was the fire. When one house caught fire, the homes so close together that in fact the wind just swept that fire across some 80 homes. We can tell you this. Wolf, this is sand. This sand belongs on the beach, which is about 30 houses that way.

Cars like one, they were left here, the tires completely melted off. Just a snapshot of the devastation. A number of people in this particular area, they did evacuate. But we spoke to one firefighter and he told us just as the surge hit he was thinking he better put on his life jacket and basically float to higher ground.

Then what happened is he somebody calling for hope. He helped three elderly women and then went back to rescue even more. A total of 14 people that were here when that fire began, and he was able to help them get out. Story after story,people staying too long, but those who simply got out.

Also hit, when you look, Wolf, there is just nothing that is salvageable. We have seen washer driers that are completely melted, refrigerators that have disappeared.

What is amazing is that every now and again, we see statues of the Madonna. Those seem to be intact, actually, but everything else really just devastated, everything destroyed. There is just so much that your mind can barely process it all. You are looking at chairs and you are looking at just remnants of what were homes.

Over here, you may be able to see the foundations, but the home itself completely gone. So, even though it was high so that water wouldn't hit, the home itself completely destroyed. Over in this direction, those homes, the heat so intense that the homes simply just melted.

Story after story of people who either escaped or at least they were able to make it out before the storm -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Where are the people who lived in those homes? Do we know where they are being sheltered right now?

FEYERICK: No, we don't.

A lot of them, the majority of the folks who were in this community -- this community is called Breezy. And you have a lot of retired police officers, a lot of firefighters, Coast Guard. This is a really sort of family community. That's what is so amazing. One man said you would open your window right at the beach just on the other side and everybody -- the breeze would come through house to house to house. Everybody knows each other here. That is what is so incredible. One man is standing in the middle of the debris saying my sister lived here. Her father-in-law lived here. Her friend lived here.

They know what this area is supposed to be. But it appears that everybody did get out safely, that there were no fatalities in this area. There were some emergency service personnel from the NYPD. They had small boats. They were dressed in thick rubber suits and they were going from home the home, because on the other side, while these are completely flattened, these are completely just devastated, destroyed, when you get closer to the bay and to the beach, what you see is you see homes and it looks like somebody really took a gigantic sledgehammer and simply just went home after home after home knocking them off their foundations, breaking through windows.

In some cases, they are just completely sunk into the sand. Just unclear the scope of the devastation. But, look, you have got to look for a bright note, so let's look at the bright note. A couple of houses they are still here. So Breezy is that kind of neighborhood, the kind of community that ultimately it's going survive. It's going to make its way back.

I think that gives a lot of people a lot of hope, but certainly this, it's just hard to know where to begin, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking scene. Deborah Feyerick, thanks so much.

These amazing aerial pictures just came into CNN late this afternoon. This is the Seaside Heights, New Jersey, area, about 30 miles north of Atlantic city. As the floodwater receded, it left a thick blanket of sand covering blocks and blocks and blocks of homes.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the level of devastation at the Jersey Shore, in his word, unthinkable. This is not far from the area where the Coast Guard has been busy all day rescuing hundreds of people trapped by floodwaters.

CNN's Brian Todd is on the scene for us in Teterboro, New Jersey, with more.

What are you seeing, what are you hearing, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the Bergen County Technical Vocational school. This has been turned into an emergency shelter. At least 1,000 people have come through here today, we're told, not all of them are victims from this incident, but at least 250 people have had to be rescued from the three towns you're talking about.

What happened there in the towns of Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt at just after midnight, a berm or a levee was breached by a tidal surge from the Hackensack River. And water just came in within just a few minutes and pretty much engulfed those three towns.

People had to be rescued from the roofs of their homes. Little children had to be taken on piggy back just on adults' shoulders. Babies had to be pulled out. We're told there are still rescues going on, that some high-clearance vehicles that had been brought into some of those towns have had to turn back. It's still problematic. As you can see behind me, the weather is still not very good around here.

I was just told by a police official, a Bergen County police official that at least 3,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. We were here. Some victims were being taken off some of the high-clearance vehicles just to the shelter in this school behind me, one of them, 91-year-old Mildred Schwartz. She has lived in Moonachie, New Jersey, her entire life.

I talked to her just as she got off one of the rescue vehicles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILDRED SCHWARTZ, NEW JERSEY: I never seen anything like this ever.

TODD: Can you describe what happened when the water came?

SCHWARTZ: We were sleeping, my daughter and I.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: We're hearing stories like that from victims all over the place here, many of them coming through this facility behind me and they are just trying to get people kind of matched up together family members who can come and pick them up.

And if they can't, they're just having them shelter here for the foreseeable future, Wolf. And, again, they are still not out of the woods yet. They're still pulling people out of there. And we're trying to get a sense of how many people are still trapped.

I just asked that two officials, a Bergen County official and a police official, how many people are still out there. They said, look, we don't know. We're still going door to door in these towns. They're going by high-clearance vehicles, by boat, knocking on doors, seeing if anybody is there, seeing if anybody is left on the roofs of their houses.

This is just a devastating scene, three entire towns with four to six feet of water on the street in each one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a devastated area that is.

Brian, stand by. We have got some breaking news.

Rob Marciano is joining us from New York City right now with more.

What are you learning, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, just down the street from this location that we have been using as a backdrop, amazing pictures from this unlicensed hotel that was torn apart, at least the facade was. People were allowed to get out of there.

But just down the street from here is the headquarters for Con Edison. We were allowed up into their war room. Or, actually, they call it the situation room. I talked with the incident commander to try to get a feel for how long it will take to restore power here in Manhattan and some of the outlying suburbs.

He told me that South of 29th Street basically is blacked out with a few little spots that have power. And then on the east side as far north as 39th Street, without power, those areas could take up to four days to get complete restoration of power.

Outside of the city, Staten Island, the eastern boroughs, up through Westchester County, those areas could take as much as 10 days for complete power restoration, so an unusual long amount of time. He said this is the worst he has ever seen it. He's been doing this for over 30 years, worse than Irene. This is a frustrating situation for him.

It has all to do with the underground infrastructure. The substation on the 14th Street there by the East River that is only built to sustain a 12.6-foot storm surge. I shouldn't say only because that would be a record-breaking storm surge. We had a storm surge that was even higher than that. That's the main reason that it will take so long to start to get power back on here in Lower Manhattan and points to the east and north.

BLITZER: Correct me if I'm wrong, Rob, but some of those areas Con Edison deliberately shut down power out of precaution. Explain what happened.

MARCIANO: They had to do that.

When you're talking about so much infrastructure that is underground, that is convenient and all because you don't have wires above ground in this city. Certainly, it helps you during a windstorm because you're not going to have power lines taken down. But during a flooding situation that can spell big problems and it did.

So they will shut down some of the stations as a precautionary measure and seal them off so they don't get the corrosive salt water in there. But they certainly can't do that for all of them. And a substation just down the road from me that pretty much controls all of Lower Manhattan, it's connected to all of Lower Manhattan, and they thought they had a flood wall basically that was built high enough.

They judged it on the past historic storms and built it higher than that, never thinking we would get a storm surge that is over 13 feet. That's exactly what Sandy brought them. So an unprecedented event and something they have seen and something that really they didn't plan for, unfortunately.

I asked them are you going to look into upgrading that? That would cost some serious dollars, but he did acknowledge that's a question that certainly has to be discussed.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I know you have spoken with a lot of New Yorkers. How are they reacting, especially in the lower part of Manhattan, where you're reporting they're going to be without power some of them for at least another four days?

MARCIANO: They're not happy about it. I can tell you that.

New Yorkers want everything done yesterday. And now that the winds have died down and people are starting to come out of woodwork, especially if you have no power, you're going to get out on the street and you're going to talk to your community and your friends and neighbors and see what is going on.

They're all congregating. Emotions are beginning to run high. This is only day one, Wolf. It will slowly come back. It will not be everybody that is out for four or everybody that is out for 10 days. But to get complete restoration back, it could take that many days, if not longer. We will see from frustrated New Yorkers.

A lot of people are borrowing our satellite truck to plug their cell phones in. A lot of people were in the Con Edison plugging their cell phones in. Duane Reade apparently up the street is allowing some folks to do that.

In the world of handheld devices, power seems to be even more important when you're on the street -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You're just looking for some place to recharge your cell phone. That's a big deal when you can't find any place and you're about to lose that battery.

Rob, thanks very much.

New York officials say the crane that partially collapsed in Midtown Manhattan currently is stable, though it looks like it is dangling precariously. Once the winds die down, construction crews will strap it to the building so the city can reopen the streets below.

CNN has acquired this amateur video of the crane collapsing during Monday's heavy, heavy winds. Mayor Bloomberg says a contracting company will have to figure out a way to build a new crane to take down the damaged one. We will have live reports with more details on this dramatic story coming up in our next hour.

That superstorm that brought rain and flooding to New York and New Jersey is bringing massive amounts of snow, massive amounts of snow to other parts of the country. We're going live to West Virginia, where they are dealing with a blizzard tonight, and more bad weather could be on the way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lake Michigan right now. You can see it's getting pretty choppy and wavy out there. These are the effects from hurricane Sandy that have reached all the way into Lake Michigan.

The storm that used to be hurricane Sandy has not gone away by any means. It's still right now a major, major problem for big parts of the country, hundreds of miles, causing problems in the Northeast, down the Appalachian.

Let's get the latest from our meteorologist, the severe weather expert, Chad Myers.

I guess we shouldn't be all that surprise that it's impacting already Lake Michigan.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No. We know that there's lake flooding, coastal flooding from that lake. It's so long. And so, when the wind blows from north to south, those waves get very big because it takes a very long time to get there. And if you get down, you know, down by South Haven and basically where Gary, Indiana, sits.

You go the coast, go the shore right there, waves are already 20 feet crashing there. And that right there, that's big enough. Wow. That's impressive stuff.

Something else I don't think anybody expected with the hurricane, it's snow. It's because there was already the low pressure center there that everyone was already talking about that was going to combine with the hurricane. It's still snowing and it's snowing hard in many spots. Blizzard warnings, Redhouse, Maryland, 26 inches of snow, Garrett County. Here's Davis, West Virginia, at 23. Snowshoe, West Virginia, checked in with 20 inches and it is blowing sideways.

Here's how it happened. Here's 4:00 Sunday afternoon, it came right up and it turned right towards shore, right over Cape May, New Jersey, not that far north of Baltimore and these cities actually picked up record low pressures -- pressures that have never been that low, including Wildwood, New Jersey, Baltimore, Maryland, and then places into Pennsylvania. That tells you that this was a very deep storm. This was a very low, low pressure to be breaking all time record pressure.

Mount Washington, the big winner, but it's always windy there, 140 miles per hour. Eatons Neck, New York, at 94. Islip, 91. And Surf City, New Jersey, 89.

We know all about the damage that happened to the Jersey Shore. The damage there is really tremendous. We have only had just minor pictures so far. The Jersey Shore will -- the pictures of the devastation, the people there from Sandy Hook a little farther to the south are talking about blocks of homes that are damaged or just gone.

We're not up in the air yet with helicopters. It's just too windy. A couple of first flights with the Coast Guard and all that. But other than that, when we will see dramatic pictures, even more dramatic than we are seeing right now.

BLITZER: Explain the snow part of this. A lot of our viewers, including me, you know, we -- I covered hurricanes for a long time. We know it gets windy. We know it gets -- that the floods develop obviously. The floods develop.

But we don't necessarily associate hurricanes with snow. Martin Savidge is in one of those areas, Chad. I want him to enter into this conversation.

Marty, before we get appreciation of why, why snow has become part of this hurricane. Explain what's going on in Kingwood, West Virginia, where you are.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can verify everything that Chad Myers was saying. I mean, when you look at the depth of snow we have here, and what makes it that much more difficult is this is a really thick, heavy almost concrete kind of consistency of snow. I mean, it's just really, really wet stuff. And that's the problem. That's why you are getting a slow moving disaster in West Virginia.

The power is going out. But slowly, it's started this morning with maybe 90,000. Then it went to 120,000. Now, it's gone to 300,000. The more it snows, the more it builds up, the more it piles up on the power lines and on the tree limbs, and that's what we have been seeing happen. They just suddenly explode to get this burst of snow and then you get the crash of tree limbs coming down and then invariably somewhere in that mix of power lines as well.

There's no power in this community since about 3:00 this morning. And who knows when it's going to get turned on again, because in these kinds of circumstances, it is isolated areas that often are the problem and it takes a long time for the crew to get there and find it.

BLITZER: We know there are blizzard conditions not only in West Virginia and Maryland, elsewhere as well.

Chad, explain how a hurricane leads to this kind of snow in West Virginia and Maryland.

MYERS: Well, first of all, let's describe where it landed -- well north of North Carolina. It landed in New Jersey. So, that's well north of where we expect hurricanes to land, which is Florida and Texas, the Carolinas, the Caribbean. And it's November, or at least almost.

We had a cold November-like storm come in from the back, so the cold air was already here and then it combined with the hurricane and came across New Jersey and is now parked right about Somerset to Pittsburgh, and it's not going to move very much. It's going to spin for a couple days before it moves away. So, the moisture moves in, hits the cold air that's already here because of this storm, and you get that lake effect snow right there.

And it's ocean effect, it's hurricane effect snow because it is coming down, picking a little bit of moisture off the lakes and then dumping itself right down on that spine of the Appalachians there. I've just noticed a few last pictures here where snow is mixing. That would probably be DuBois, not that far from State College and Williamsport. It's a little bit of snow coming down in central Pennsylvania tonight, that could be a problem after dark when it gets colder, you may see some very slick spots around central -- especially the higher elevations of central Pennsylvania, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Let me go back to Martin Savidge.

Martin, are they expecting more of this blizzard-type snow coming in or is the worst of it over with?

SAVIDGE: Now, they are still expecting more. I mean, this particular area, the blizzard warning is supposed to expire at 6:00. Whether that really happens, we'll have to see. I mean, it's still blowing pretty hard and the visibility is still not good.

But there are other areas -- you mentioned Snowshoe where they got or anticipate they could get up to three feet. They could have blizzard conditions all day again tomorrow. So, it really depends on the elevation and it depends maybe how far south or southeast you are in the state.

But this is going to go on for a while, Wolf. It looks like it's parked overhead.

BLITZER: It looks amazing. It's hard to believe that this is the result of a hurricane.

But we're going to stay in touch with you, Chad. Don't go too far away.

We also know the October surprise of this year's presidential campaign. That October surprise happening out to be a superstorm called Sandy. Instead of campaigning, President Obama is visiting the American Red Cross in the nation's capital today. You're going to hear his message to the rest of the government and to the American people.

And Mitt Romney has shifted his focus as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Election Day is exactly one week away, but the storm has put politics as usual on hold for now. President Obama has been at the White House monitoring the federal response. His only public appearance came about an hour or so when he made a quick visit to the national headquarters of the American Red Cross right here in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My instructions to the federal agency has been: do not figure out why we can't do something. I want you to figure out how we do something. I want you to cut through red tape. I want you to cut through bureaucracy. There's no excuse for inaction at this point. I want every agency to lean forward and to make sure that we are getting the resources where they need -- where they're needed as quickly as possible. So, my message to the governors and the mayors and through them to the communities that have been hit so hard is that we are going to do everything we can to get resources to you and make sure that any unmet need that I -- is identified, we are responding to it as quickly as possible. And I told the mayors and the governors if they are getting no for an answer somewhere in the federal government, they can call me personally at the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Tomorrow, the president will visit hard hit areas of New Jersey where he's been in very, very close touch with the state's Republican Governor Chris Christie.

Mitt Romney has also had to shift focus because of the storm. Here is CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, voters are getting a one-day reprieve to what had been a fierce fight to the end of this presidential campaign at an event here in Ohio. Mitt Romney did get out in front of the cameras, but he tried to put the focus on storm relief efforts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): It was billed as a storm relief event. So Mitt Romney supporters carried bags of groceries through security checkpoints turning this Ohio gymnasium into what looked like a food pantry.

And when the GOP nominee took the microphone, he set aside his usual jabs at the president. Instead, Romney called on Americans to do what they can to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There are a lot of people that will still be looking for goods even though we have gathered these things as you know. But I know that one of the things I have learned in life is you make the difference and you can.

ACOSTA: The Republican candidate said the donated supplies would go to New Jersey where the governor and top Romney surrogate, Chris Christie, was on the morning talk shows, giving the president high marks for his handling of the storm.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE, NEW JERSEY: The president is incredibly helpful in that regard. He has been incredibly supportive and helpful to our state and not once did he bring up the election.

ACOSTA: As soon as Sandy was bearing down on the east coast, Democrats were pointing to this debate from June 2011 when Romney was asked whether the state should take on a larger role in disaster response instead of the current system in place led by FEMA.

ROMNEY: Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the state, that's the right direction. And you can go further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.

ACOSTA: Campaign aides appear to suggest Romney would maintain FEMA, but added in a statement as the first responder states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, would you eliminate FEMA if you're president?

ACOSTA: At a storm relief event, Romney was asked a half dozen times by reporters if he would eliminate FEMA, but he did not respond. FEMA's image was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina after the botched federal response to that storm.

Then President Bush's FEMA Director Michael Brown was savaged by critics for having little disaster experience. Back in that Ohio gymnasium, Romney supporters said they felt a responsibility to do what they can to help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the right thing to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: While the storm cleanup continues in the north east, the campaign appears to be heating back up again. Mitt Romney heads next to Florida, a state that escape Sandy's wrath, but is very much on the GOP nominee's path to victory -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta in Dayton, Ohio. New Jersey suffered the brunt of Sandy's power with rising flood waters surprising people up and down the coast. We are going to one area inundated by water, leaving hundreds and hundreds of people calling for help.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A CNN-I-Reporter shot this video outside his apartment in Union City, New Jersey. It's a video of a generator catching fire, pretty scary stuff. He says police were telling everyone at the time to run. Look at this.

Seaside Heights is the place that many people might think of when you picture the Jersey Shore, but take a look at this. In between those houses is sand, lots of it. Imagine how strong the winds and waves had to be to do this. Look at the map.

Just across the bay is Toms River. That's where our own Michael Holmes is standing by. Michael, what's the latest? What's going on there?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, funny thing, Wolf. We were there yesterday, before the main part of the storm came ashore. We went over the bridge. We went to that spot there and already the waves were crashing through the dunes.

Sea water was coursing down some of those streets and we spoke to a bunch of people who said we're going to ride it out. We're locals, how bad can it be? Well, they saw how bad it can be.

You saw from that video there how much damage has been done to what was the pristine stretch of the Jersey Shore. Those barrier islands bore the brunt of it.

Today, we were there when some of those residents who decided to stick it out against the mandatory evacuation order were brought back across that bridge and they looked very shaken indeed.

One of the policemen we spoke to who was there on the island looking after these people said they have to move three or four times as the water got higher and higher and higher. He is a hardened cop.

He said it was terrifying for everyone involved and he is glad to get off the island. Here in Toms River, the water is going down. There is no doubt about it. There is a lot of this town that was inundated as well, up to five feet of water in some parts of the suburbs.

We saw boats on roadways, cars in water. And this morning they were still 150 people who needed rescuing from their houses. So those rescued, by the way, are continuing at the moment.

The emergency services workers are going out in little boats and bringing them back in. So this has been a hard hit town. I have got say, Wolf, the most remarkable thing of all when you see those pictures, not one casualty in this area so far.

BLITZER: How are the people coping? What are they saying to you?

HOLMES: You know, a lot of them -- a lot of them rode it out and it was fine. But a lot of them had really tough time. I was speaking to one woman. Last night actually we saw these boats on the roadway.

The road was covered with water. We saw two cars submerged in the water. Today by coincidence, we caught up with someone who is in that car. She said she was trying to get away from their house, run headlong into six feet of water.

The water came up to her neck. Her mother was with her. They hat to get out the window, swim to safety. She said it was the most terrifying thing she'd ever experience in life. She thought she was going to die. So a lot of people get it pretty hot. Some of the others who were on higher ground, well, they just lived through it.

BLITZER: Michael Holmes at Toms River for us. Michael, thank you.

Entire areas along the east coast have been completely devastated by this massive super storm. One of those places is Fire Island in New York. Officials are saying about 60 people are stranded there with contaminated water and no electricity.

Resident Karen Boss is on that island. She is joining us on the phone right now. What's it like? Describe the conditions, Karen, for us.

KAREN BOSS, FIRE ISLAND, NEW YORK RESIDENT (via telephone): The water has receded in the bay and on the ocean. There is major devastation. We have no water and no phone service and no electricity. We're on a generator, my husband and I.

BLITZER: I know. There was a mandatory evacuation Sunday 2 p.m., but you decided to try to ride it out. When the storm hit the island, describe what it was like.

BOSS: The winds were wild. My house was rocking, the howling. We did head up the ocean. The waves were extremely, extremely high. Then when the high tide came into the bay, the water was gushing over the bulkheads, the board walks, flooding out everywhere, flooding out the boulevard.

BLITZER: As of now, there is no way to get off the island, is that right?

BOSS: That's correct. As of now, we are stranded here. We heard that there is a bridge where we live and also to the west end of Fire Island.

BLITZER: Describe the condition of your house, Karen.

BOSS: The house that I'm in right now is fine. We have flooding under our house, but our first floor is good. Our second floor is good. We did pretty good.

BLITZER: Under the circumstances. What about your neighbors? Did they evacuate? Are a lot of folks still there or just a handful?

BOSS: Just a handful. There are a total of five of us I believe.

BLITZER: And do you regret not leaving? Did you make the right call? If you had to do it over again, would you have evacuated?

BOSS: I don't regret not leaving. I am thrilled that the communications that I have been able to have with the people on the outside as well as they are for us over here. We were not in any imminent danger that we felt at any time.

BLITZER: Karen, good luck to you and your family and everyone else out there. Appreciate you joining us for a few minutes.

BOSS: Thank you and thank you for the coverage.

BLITZER: Thank you. It's known as a tourist destination for gambling. The beach, its boardwalk, but right now all of that is in shambles. We're going live to Atlantic City for the latest on the devastation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One of the highlights of Atlantic City is its beach, certainly the boardwalk, but this is not how it is supposed to look. Sandy tore a large part of it to shreds. CNN's Mike Galanos spent the night in Atlantic City.

As Sandy came ashore, Mike, you're there now on the famous boardwalk. It doesn't look like the boardwalk a lot of us are familiar with. What's going on? What are the folks there saying?

MIKE GALANOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you said torn to shreds. Let's take a walk over here to a big hunk. This is just a debris. This is the shreds of what's left to the northern part of the boardwalk.

I'm going to a stand on a little chunk of it here, I mean, solid as ever. That was the boardwalk here and people who live around here they just cannot believe it. They walked up to me and said this was our boardwalk. This is what's left of it.

I want to show one other thing, Wolf, as people digest this scene, the board walk torn to shreds as this part. You see these two buildings here? The middle building there was actually a husband, wife, and a daughter who tried to ride out the storm in the midst of that.

I had a chance to talk to him. He wouldn't go on camera. He is just too emotional to talk about it, but they were going to ride it out. At 7:30 in the morning, he said the ocean wave was basically knocking on his front door.

And about an hour later, blew through his front door. So he tries to plywood up the door and house. Next thing you know they are taking up their valuables to the highest point of the home they can and finally they had a neighbor nearby that said you have got get out of there.

And they finally rode it out, but their home is devastated and now there is yellow tape up. The fire department was here a little bit earlier and there was a strong smell of gas. Not safe to be around. That is the devastation that people are dealing with -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Any word on damage estimates in the Atlantic City area?

GALANOS: You know, it has been pretty tough. We have had our CNN teams here in Atlantic City survey from the air, from the ground, and some incredible scenes from the air as we have seen some of boats off of their moorings, almost pushed into some people's neighborhoods and houses and things like that.

You see some of the water, but not that horrific devastation we're used to seeing in storm surge flooding where you have water up to roofs of houses and things like that. It's tough to get a full estimate. They did a pretty good job getting everybody out of here.

And some of the worst devastations, what I'm standing on right here, this northern part of the boardwalk and one last thing, you mention the boardwalk we all know. That is pushing this way.

That pretty much made it out here unscathed. You see some of the scenery here from the north looking towards the south. But right here where we're standing now, that's the back of what you said originally, Wolf, the shreds, what's left of the boardwalk here in the northern part of the Atlantic City.

BLITZER: A lot of our viewers will remember the reports yesterday, the live reports from Ali Velshi who was in other part of Atlantic City yesterday. The water was coming in. It was torrential at least in parts.

Ali has now moved on. He is covering other parts of the story. But what's happening in that main part of Atlantic City right now?

GALANOS: You know, I was very near him and I was doing some reporting as well. The water was up to my knee and up to my waste as well, Wolf. But all that water has receded thankfully.

You know, we woke up this morning and we went out there. Ali and I both did our reporting from there. Thankfully that is near the Convention Center.

What we saw, a lot of, Wolf, very interesting. When I was there this morning, five National Guard vehicles, military reporting for duty, ready to be deployed wherever needed.

Also five ambulance, paramedics trucks came. They made a drive from Indiana, 24-hour ride. They left Sunday. They were here Monday ready to be deployed. So this tragedy that we're seeing unfolded in the north east, being felt across the nation to where paramedics and ambulance teams from the Midwest would make that drive to help out.

BLITZER: The governor, Chris Christie, wanted a full evacuation of all the residents of Atlantic City. The mayor had a different idea. They got into a public fight over it. What's the latest upshot on this little battle between the mayor of Atlantic City and the governor, Chris Christie?

GALANOS: From our vantage point, it's been pretty silent. We haven't heard -- but you're right on with that. As the governor, Governor Chris Christie sounded kind of flabbergasted and basically he intimated that the mayor here of Atlantic City gave people comfort to stay.

I believe that is the quote from Chris Christie. He wanted the mandatory evacuation would end up happen at least more of an official estimate, 500 to 600 people. That's what the Coast Guard told us. They were in shelters, but Chris Christie wanted everybody out of here. That's not what happened -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The mayor, by the way, is going be joining us in our next hour live. Mike Galanos, thanks very much for that report. We're also going to try to check in with Ali Velshi as well.

Atlantic City's businesses rely on tourists. Up next, how one local businessman weathered the storm and is managing in the wake of this historic damage.

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BLITZER: Amazing pictures from the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy pouring into a neighborhood in Ocean City, New Jersey. The water sweeps between the houses and rushes down the streets, covering everything.

Sandy came ashore last night. Atlantic City, New Jersey, turned into an extension of the Atlantic Ocean at least parts of it. Yesterday, we spoke with Montgomery Dahm.

He sent us this dramatic video as floodwaters started to rise. You can't even see the roads. He is joining us now on the phone. First of all, how are you doing, Monty? What's going on?

MONTGOMERY DAHM, ATLANTIC CITY RESIDENT (via telephone): I'm doing fine right now, Wolf. I'm half sitting in the dark. There is still no electricity down here.

BLITZER: Still no electricity. You sent us new video showing the boardwalk not far away from your tavern. It's pretty awful, but describe what you're seeing.

DAHM: Well, it's the north end of the boardwalk. Basically the whole boardwalk was more or less gone. Large parts of it, pieces of it were floating down two to three blocks towards the city. The foundations are there but the board walk is not.

BLITZER: So how difficult is this for you and your community? Yesterday, you're trying to keep your tavern open. You had some generators. You were providing some food for emergency personnel on the ground. Are you still able to do that?

DAHM: Yes. We have a generator system here, but we can't -- we had to cook, you know, basically cold food. We didn't cook. We made cold food. We have beer and drinks, et cetera.

BLITZER: I take it your home is under water right now? I can only imagine the heartbreak that you're going through right now. How much personal damage have you had to endure?

DAHM: Well, I had about five feet of water inside my home. It kind of -- it was catastrophic on the inside of the house. We had a boat half sink in the back. The docks got piled up and stuck under the piles of the floating docks.

BLITZER: But you're staying put and you're OK?

DAHM: I'm staying put in the Sheridan. It's very emotional for everybody down here. It's hard for everyone to leave their homes and you don't know what to expect when you come back.

BLITZER: Good luck. We will stay in close touch with you, Monty.

DAHM: We got beat up down here.

BLITZER: I could see.

DAHM: But you know, when you get beat up, you have to dust yourself off, stand tall and get it on.

BLITZER: I appreciate your attitude very much and good luck. Our hearts go out to all of the folks in Atlantic City and all over New Jersey and New York and all these areas that have been devastated. Montgomery Dahm joining us from Atlantic City. He joined us yesterday and once again today. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on his way to a New York hospital took in dozens of patient including some newborns on respirators, had to be evacuated from another hospital during the height of the storm.

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