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CNN NEWSROOM

President Obama Tours Hurricane Damage in New Jersey; Interview With New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez

Aired October 31, 2012 - 15:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN's special coverage of superstorm Sandy, the destruction, the rescues, the early efforts to recover and most importantly to rebuild.

And we are going to rebuild. I'm live here in New York City from the balcony of the Time Warner Center. You can see just over my shoulder that collapsed crane still hanging like a dagger over 57th Street, entire area, about seven blocks, still cordoned off, causing a huge traffic headache, as you can imagine.

A lot of people still evacuated from this area. This hour, President Obama is in New Jersey to take a look at the shore with one of Mitt Romney's biggest supporters, Governor Chris Christie.

More on that in a moment. But, first, some breaking news, New York City's best known hospital, Bellevue, is now being evacuated. Hundreds of patients are being moved due to a failing power supply. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join us momentarily with more on that.

The storm has claimed at least 50 lives in the U.S. and one in Canada. Damage expected to run into the tens of billions of dollars. National Guard troops are rescuing families trapped by floodwaters in Hoboken, New Jersey, right now.

We learned today that the Navy is sending three amphibious landing ships to the coast of New York as well as New Jersey in case they're needed. The nation's largest subway system still waterlogged, and limited subway and rail service begins tomorrow, but above 34th Street, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg just said a moment ago in a press conference, below 34th Street, no subway service.

One sign of normalcy today, the New York Stock Exchange is open and the opening bell was rung by Mayor Bloomberg. Getting back to business there.

We have this today from NASA, first time we're seeing this. Satellite images of superstorm Sandy from its inception in the Caribbean to its landfall in New Jersey. Days of watching, warnings and preparations distilled into some 19 seconds, but the storm is not done yet. Should point that out. It is expected to dump more snow in West Virginia, bring heavy rain, wind and snow to Canada and it's still making waves as high as 14 to 18 feet on Lake Michigan. Take a look there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remnants of Hurricane Sandy, got to love it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It's amazing the power of this storm, it just keeps on going. President Obama is getting a personal look at the destruction in New Jersey. He's touring as I mentioned the damage zone this afternoon with Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who says this is no time for politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is so much bigger than an election. This is the livelihood of the people of my state. What they expect me to do is get the job done. And when someone asks me an honest question, I give an honest answer. How has the president been to deal with? He's been outstanding to deal with on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey will be meeting with President Obama and Governor Christie later today obviously in New Jersey, as I said, to tour the damage.

I have got the senator on the phone now from Atlantic City.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

What is your greatest concern right now?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, my greatest concern is getting some people who are still trapped like in Hoboken out of their homes, the water putrid with gasoline and electrical wires.

And appreciate that we got the National Guard there yesterday. And then getting power on, we still have close to two million people in the state without power. Power makes a big difference in people's lives and working with utility companies to try to accelerate that process and ask the president to help us with the Department of Energy even to use some of their resources potentially to help us get more power back online.

COOPER: Are you satisfied so far with the response you have seen at the federal and the state and the local level?

MENENDEZ: I am.

I mean, you know, look, I have lived here my whole life in New Jersey. I have never seen anything like this. And so I recognize the magnitude. And so far, you know, we have a close cooperation with the governor, and the president has committed all the resources, signed the highest emergency declaration, has unlocked all of FEMA's assets here.

We have the federal search-and-rescue teams here, in addition to the National Guard. So, so far, so good. It certainly doesn't -- until somebody gets back in their home or gets the light on or can get out of their home because the water has receded or they get rescued, of course it is never quick enough, but we're just going to keep pushing hard.

And I'm proud of everybody. And I have seen some of the best in people today and yesterday,people helping each other, people who lost everything and, you know, instead of worrying about themselves or feeling like victims, out there helping other people.

COOPER: Yes. We just saw images of some guy out in Hoboken with a ski pole basically trying to clear up some of the gutters to help out with some of the flooding, just a citizen doing what he can and that certainly, as you said, we're seeing some of the best in people.

Have you ever seen anything like this, the kind of -- Hoboken's flooded before, but I don't think I -- I have certainly never seen it like this.

MENENDEZ: No, it's never -- Hoboken has the unfortunate problem of being, first of all, below sea level and secondly they have what we call combined sewer systems.

So they get wastewater and regular water through that system. And so that ultimately creates a havoc when there is the type of flooding, but this, you know, 100-year storm makes it an occurrence far beyond anything I have ever seen in Hoboken. I lived there until a couple of years ago. And this is the worst it's ever been.

COOPER: What do you think is the hardest-hit area in New Jersey? Is it Seaside Heights or Seaside Cliffs?

MENENDEZ: Well, it is several parts of the shore area. I was just in Pleasantville before I came over here to Brigantine, where I'm watching enormous destruction from the whole marina and boats that are in the middle of the street.

And in Pleasantville, which is right outside of Atlantic City, I went to a strip with the mayor there, and you have a whole row of these homes, they look like dollhouses because the back ends have been pulled off and just destroyed inside the house.

The shore area hit very badly, Atlantic County very badly, but also places like in Bergen, where I was yesterday, in Little Ferry and some of those places around there, Moonachie, you have tremendous flooding going on. They weren't expecting it. They weren't in the range of who had to be evacuated.

The storm surge created a break on a levee that has never been breached before. And you have -- as the mayor of Moonachie said to me, Senator, I lost my police department, I lost most of my fire department, city hall is underwater, and 80 percent of my community is underwater.

COOPER: Wow.

Well, Senator Menendez, I appreciate you joining us and our thoughts are obviously with everyone in New Jersey right now who is trying to deal with the aftermath of this storm. Thank you for joining us.

MENENDEZ: Thanks so much, Anderson.

COOPER: Let's check in with our Wolf Blitzer, who is joining us now in Washington -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Anderson, if somebody would have said just a little while ago, maybe even a week or two ago that in the final few days before the election the president of the United States would travel to New Jersey and would go around the state touring parts of the state with a Republican governor, Chris Christie, given what Chris Christie has said about him during the Republican Convention, it would have been unbelievable.

But we're seeing that right now. Both of these men want to be together, they need each other right now. They both have to work together to make sure the people of New Jersey and some of the other states like New York and Connecticut, they get this job done because this is a real disaster. It goes to show you how unpredictable the political world can be.

The images that we already have seen today and the images we're about to see of Governor Christie and President Obama walking around together in Marine One, flying over the shoreline of New Jersey together, eyewitnessing this destruction and the disaster, they're going to be very powerful images that I think will have an impact on these final days of this election.

And obviously they're going to have an impact on the people because if they can get the state level, the federal level on track to do what they have to do to deal with this crisis. That will be good for the folks and millions of people who are suffering as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

COOPER: Yes. And, Wolf, as you know, it is not just the images. The words that Governor Christie has said over the last 24, 48 hours, the praise he has heaped on President Obama I think surprised a lot of people.

And Governor Christie when asked about it, said, look, it is not a time for politics. I believe he said something to the effect of I don't give a damn about the presidential election right now. His concern is just getting aid to the people who need it.

BLITZER: Right. Yes, he needed the federal government to get involved, declare a disaster zone for New Jersey, disaster area for New Jersey. He was on the phone the other night at midnight with the president. The president got on the phone, and within a couple of hours FEMA and the federal government did exactly what the governor of New Jersey wanted.

And I think it is legitimate. I think Governor Christie who is a straight-talker, he really feels grateful now to Washington and the federal government for doing what they're doing, and he's grateful to the president of the United States. It is interesting. The president was ready to go to New York, Anderson, where you are as well, but the mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg suggested yesterday that was not necessary, it's not a good time. Whenever a president visits an area, it takes up a lot of resources, you got to deal with an important guest like that. So Bloomberg basically said don't come now, maybe come later.

But Governor Christie said, come now, I want to show you what's going on, you must see this disaster, we have never seen anything like this in New Jersey before. So, please come. And in effect the president said, yes, I'm on the way.

If the governor would have said, this is not a good time, with all due respect, Mr. President, for you to come and visit this devastated area, the president wouldn't have gone. He didn't force himself on the governor, but Christie wanted him to come and these pictures that we're going to be seeing very soon are going to be -- are going to underscore that commitment that the federal government and state government has now to the people of New Jersey. And I think it will be a powerful image.

COOPER: Yes. Logistically, it is probably easier in New Jersey, given the huge sort of swathe of destruction. They're able to tour it by helicopter.

Here in Manhattan, traffic is a mess and I can tell you all over this island, and so obviously any president arriving on this island, whenever the president comes, traffic gets even worse. Clearly, they don't want to do anything that is going to make it worse right now.

Wolf, we're going to check in with you throughout the day and obviously in THE SITUATION ROOM coming up. We also want to show you right now just where some of the most devastated areas are from Sandy.

For that, let's to Brooke Baldwin in Atlanta -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. You were talking to Senator Bob Menendez specifically about Seaside Heights. This is the Jersey Shore, totally obliterated. This is where Governor Chris Christie was just telling reporters he had taken his family to the roller coaster and around the merry-go-round just before the RNC in August.

Chad Myers is with me as we look at these pictures in the Atlantic Ocean.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. That is Fun Town. That's Fun Town before it got hit.

Then we will take you toward the casino as well. This is what the boardwalk looked like, beautiful, pristine, great beach. It burns your feet to get to the shore, to the water, that's how great and how long the beach is there, all the way down to Wildwood. And now look what we have.

BALDWIN: This is post-Irene, guys. Do we have the current pictures? Here we go. That was the roller coaster and now sitting in the Atlantic Ocean.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS: The entire pier is gone. And you know what? I know this is devastating to think about the pier being gone, but the pier is just the pier. The people are behind the pier, the people's homes that live there, the full-time residents.

There is an awful lot gone to the west of there as well. The entire Seaside Beach area is just a small sliver of -- just a spit of sand, literally. It's only about, I don't know, six blocks wide. The water went completely over Seaside Heights into the bay behind it and then right into Toms river. Those are the pictures.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Let's go south, guys, of Seaside Heights and let's show some pictures from Long Beach, New Jersey, also sort of on that southern barrier island.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS: Closer to the eye.

BALDWIN: Closer to the eye. And what are we looking at? Just a bunch of water?

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS: You had wind damage and surge damage all along the Jersey Shore. And then the surge went beyond the shore and then into the bays behind the beach and into all of these other communities that really were on hard land.

All of a sudden, you didn't expect this, where the hard land in the bays, or the bay-front property also got destroyed by the same surge.

BALDWIN: Gosh. Anderson, these pictures from the sky, the aerial images just really give you the perspective of how bad, how sad it is for so many people there in New Jersey.

COOPER: Yes. And there are still some communities, as you mentioned, Seaside Heights, where we really haven't been able to get an on-the- ground view and we're efforting that. We want to bring that to our viewers as soon as we can.

We just got an interview with the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, and you're going to hear from him when we come back. He was touring that devastated area in Queens. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Hey. Welcome back to our continuing coverage.

I want to check in with our Deborah Feyerick, because she just talked to the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo -- Deb. DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, the governor was here.

He stayed really briefly, but he wanted to see just how bad the devastation was. He's touring parts of New York and New Jersey, as you know. Here is what he had to say about how New Yorkers are going to rebuild.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The tragedy is obvious. It is amazing that there were no fatalities. And as terrible as this is, that there were no fatalities in and of itself is a godsend. We lost 26 people in the state of New York thus far.

And we're still counting, because the more we are discovering, there's still a potential for fatalities, but that nothing -- no one died here really is a blessing.

And we are here to find out how we can best help. We need water restored. We need services restored. We want people back in their homes. A lot of work, that's obvious. But New Yorkers have been challenged before. We have been knocked down before and we get up and we get up stronger and better than we were before. And I will say to my colleagues, we're not just going to rebuild this community, we're going to build it back better than ever before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Now, Anderson, arguably, the governor did not stay very long. As a matter of fact, he didn't even get very far, but he's been surveying the damage through all sorts of media, keeping an eye on things here.

Anderson, you know, it is amazing, because when you look and you see just the scope of how many homes were lost here, it really does look like a bomb was dropped, this entire area incinerated. But also what is amazing is, Anderson, we're seeing a lot of people and those people are coming and looking in the debris and some people are incredibly emotional.

They're trying to figure out exactly, you know, what they're going to do next. Some people were living here year-round, others just coming for the summer. But still there is really a sense of resiliency. They're not sure exactly what their next move is going to be. A lot of people left with the clothes that they were wearing. One woman said, look, we locked up our chairs, we locked up our bikes, I left everything where it was, thinking, OK, there would be a little flood damage, but not so much, and I will be back tomorrow and get my things.

Well, clearly, that didn't happen. But we're also hearing -- you heard the governor say, Anderson, about loss of life, that thankfully there was no loss of life. Well, just as a precaution, the fire department had special teams sifting through the debris, going through the debris, just to make sure that everybody was really accounted for. And that's one thing. So far, nobody is missing, but there can always be an elderly person who may not have checked in or somebody who hasn't reached a person because the cell phone service here is just so bad. So you have got those teams out. You have got the people coming back. Somehow, Anderson, this community will rebuild, but right now, the big question is how -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. And that's the question for a lot of people.

It is not just -- as you said, it is a very tight-knit community and in many cases there are multiple members of a family who have lost their homes all in that area, because they're living close to one another.

Meantime, in Hoboken, New Jersey, the National Guard, as we pointed out, is rescuing trapped families. A little girl in a Halloween shirt was the first one lifted off the National Guard truck today, obviously not the kind of Halloween she anticipated.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer is asking people to bring boats to city hall to help free people trapped in their homes. National Guard is also working to pump out the millions of gallons of water, water that is mixed with sewage. Mayor Zimmer is urging people not to go outside because of live electrical wires in the water. There is 50,000 people living in Hoboken, I should point out.

Brian Todd is there for us right now.

Brian, again, we're just seeing so much work by the National Guard, who really just arrived late last night.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did, Anderson.

They arrived starting shortly after midnight to try to evacuate some people from their apartments, from their brownstones here, people who just thought they couldn't really stay in their homes too much longer. Not-life threatening situations necessarily, but at least some discomfort there and people just not wanting to be in the homes with the water like this.

Now, we have to say now that the water is receding. It has receded pretty drastically over the last hour. There is a kind of stretch of dry street there behind me. That was not there an hour ago. A lot of these cars completely -- not completely, but submerged up to the tire range there.

Now some of the water receding. A lot of that is due to the efforts of gentlemen like this. This is a volunteer from the neighborhood here. He and a couple of other guys have come out here on the corners here, clearing out storm drains.

And I think that that's responsible for a lot of the water receding. City workers also doing what they can to siphon this out. This is a surge from the Hudson River that came up from the storm drains. When the storm came, the water came into the drains, the Hudson surged, water had nowhere to go but here. And now you see the result. This is the corner of Newark Street and Garden Street in Newark. you mentioned this is a town of 50,000 people. Several thousand of them were stranded in their homes for at least several hours overnight and into today. And another issue here is the water is just filthy. There is a health hazard here. This water is filled with debris, garbage, chemicals, anything you can imagine here, so it is a health hazard as well.

COOPER: How great is that that just people are coming out with whatever equipment they have, a ski pole in some cases or whatever they have, and just trying to clear storm drains? That's -- you know, as we said, we have seen time and time again, storms like this bringing out the best in people and obviously a strong sense of community there. It is great to see.

Brian, appreciate your report. When we come back, there is obviously politics involved in all of this in terms of how this is all going to affect the election, how it is going to affect early voting as well. We will take a look at that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Hey. Welcome back to our continuing coverage.

The presidential campaigns are breaking new ground with the election now six days away. Mitt Romney has resumed campaigning in the shadow of a major disaster. Romney spoke a short time ago in Coral Gables, Florida.

At his appearance there and in an earlier speech in Tampa, he seemed to mute his criticism of President Obama. He did say it is time to take a new course. Romney will make a campaign stop in Jacksonville this evening, and then three scheduled stops tomorrow in another swing state, Virginia. President Obama resumes campaigning tomorrow, just five days before the election with appearances in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Boulder, Colorado, and Las Vegas.

Brooke Baldwin is with us now from Atlanta with a look at how this disaster represents unchartered waters for the presidential campaign -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes. This is truly unprecedented, this national disaster here six days, Anderson, six days before this presidential election.

Let's go straight to the ground to Youngstown, Ohio, to CNN contributor John Avlon. He's a senior political columnist for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast."

John Avlon, here we are, natural disaster, six days ahead here of November 6, how does this change the way these campaigns approach the election?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Brooke, it really does add to the drama here one week out a couple of ways, I think.

First of all, the fact that President Obama took himself of the campaign trail to focus on his current job, which is actually being the president of the United States, there are no campaign events, but there is the opportunity to appear what he is, the commander in chief. And he's gotten generally high marks.

The fact he appeared with Governor Chris Christie today, the popular Republican governor of New Jersey, that shows again that ability to bridge some divide and be sort of a pragmatic leader. That's exactly what the Obama campaign wants, more than anything else.

Mitt Romney trying to walk that line very delicately, turning campaign rallies into hurricane relief events. It puts the emphasis off the more divisive politics and more on a civic conversation that frankly we should be having. And in some cases early voting has been affected by Hurricane Sandy. That's been a minor issue in North Carolina and Virginia in particular.

But here in Ohio, certainly, early voting going on, no sign of stoppage just because of the storm on the East Coast.

BALDWIN: John, you know, speaking of bridging the divide, we have heard the theme of unity, both from Mitt Romney and the president, appealing to that sense of unity, no doubt prompted as you point out at least in part to the East Coast disaster.

Do you expect between now and Tuesday they will remove the gloves again?

AVLON: I think the gloves will be removed, particularly because we're seeing the unprecedented impact of outside money, these outside groups that aren't playing by any normal rules because the campaigns don't have to own them.

We already saw one flyer in Virginia associated with apparently Americans for Tax Reform that tried to politicize the storm. So the outside groups and the outside money, you're going to see an uptick in dirty tricks in part because of this dirty money that is flowing through the election system. The candidates may try to stay out of the fray, but the outside groups will be more than willing to take off the gloves and fight hard because this is a war of attrition right now.

This fight is so close that it comes down to every vote. It is a game of inches.

BALDWIN: With the close fight, it has been days since we have looked at polls. So in the name of getting our bearings here, we do have a poll today. This is in three swing states. This is "The New York Times," CBS News an Quinnipiac University poll.

First off, you have Florida 48-47 for Obama, Ohio 50-45 for Obama, and finally Virginia 49-47 for Obama. These three states very, very close. Looking at the numbers, John Avlon, what do they tell you?

AVLON: What they tell me, Brooke, and they're fascinating, in particular Florida and Virginia. These are the big three swing states. That's what we have been going through on the battleground bus tour, Florida, Virginia, Ohio. Mitt Romney had real momentum coming out first debate. He had gotten a pretty sizable or comfortable, narrow -- but narrow lead in Florida, Virginia.

That seems to have dissipated to the point where those two polls you mentioned have Obama narrowly up. And Ohio has always been President Obama's firewall. As you know, no Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio. The fact that that lead still seems sizable, that's good for Chicago.

But there is so much noise around the polls now, the focus is really on early voting and the ground game. The polls are an indicator of what is going on, but it's no substitute for actual votes. And that's the focus of both campaigns right now -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: John Avlon in this battleground bus tour in Ohio, John, thank you.

We will shift the focus back here to the aftermath. This special coverage here in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy continues. We're now getting word of some evacuations happening at Bellevue Hospital, Bellevue Hospital. We're going to talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta about this after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: As we said, we've got breaking news to report, getting word of more details on evacuations at Bellevue Hospital here in New York.

We're going to check in with our Sanjay Gupta who's going to be joining us shortly from outside Bellevue.

We're just getting some images that we're seeing of patients being evacuated. And, as I said, we'll check in with Sanjay in just a little bit.

Seaside Heights, New Jersey, in better times, voted one of New York -- New Jersey's top ten beaches. You know, you've all seen the pictures from helicopters of the devastation there, gained notoriety, of course, as the location of MTV's "Jersey Shore."

Tourists flocked to its oceanfront amusement pier. Just take a look at what the landmark looks like right now.

This is the park's rollercoaster, the Star Jet Coaster is still standing. It's now standing several hundred yards out into the ocean. These pictures are now resonating across the country as people who have visited the Seaside Heights amusement pier remember better days.

Listen as New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie reminisced about the time he was there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We got back up into the helicopter and flew to the Jersey Shore of my youth where we used to go all the time, to the boardwalk at Seaside Heights and it is gone. The pier with the rides, where I was -- took my kids this August before the Republican convention, where I got into that famous yelling match with the guy who was buying an ice cream cone.

Those rides are in the Atlantic Ocean. The (INAUDIBLE) is in the Atlantic Ocean. The (INAUDIBLE) that that my two younger kids rode this summer is in the Atlantic Ocean.

The rollercoaster that all of them rode this summer is almost -- it almost looks like the pier came out from underneath it and it just fell onto the ocean floor and stayed almost fully constructed.

The stands in the middle of the boardwalk that sells sausage and peppers and lemonade is gone. Unlike the others where they're pushed farther back from the boardwalk, this one sat right in the middle of the boardwalk. It was unusual on that boardwalk. I remember it very well and I looked for it today and the entire structure is gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A lot of businesses, large and small, now gone. I want to bring in Paul Ballew. He's a former Federal Reserve adviser who currently works for a firm that tracks the recovery process for small businesses. He lives in Short Hills, New Jersey.

We're looking at pictures of the rollercoaster in Seaside Heights and now pictures from the park's better days. This amusement pier, it is a huge tourist draw to the Jersey Shore. It's going to hurt.

Any idea how much we're talking about -- how much this is going to hurt New Jersey's tourism economy?

PAUL BALLEW, FORMER ADVISER, FEDERAL RESERVE (via telephone): Well, I'll tell you, it is a big deal if we don't recover because tourism is one of the top three industries for the state and about three-quarters of the industry is associated with the Jersey Shore.

So, we at Dun & Bradstreet are closely trying to monitor what we know in terms of the full impact and the recovery process, but it is going to take a little time and then it is really the big question of how fast we can ramp up for the next season. That is the peak season in the summer period of time, Anderson.

So, a little bit of time to rebuild, but there will be lingering effects even underneath the best-case scenario.

COOPER: And I know so many small businesses -- I mean, what is the recovery process? What kind of a process is it?

BALLEW (via telephone): Well, the recovery process, unfortunately, even underneath the best case, ends up having scars and some of that is just the fact that businesses will miss the next window of peak season.

Some businesses don't always have the financial resources to fully recover. It is that question mark that still lingers out there. The past experience we have on this is that it is a couple of years that we really have to go through that recovery when you look at comparable events that played out in U.S. history.

COOPER: Can it be up and ready by the summer? I mean, maybe it's too early to know that.

BALLEW (via telephone): Well, it is a big question at this point in time.

I would say the U.S. has a unique capacity to recover quickly, more so than most markets and most economies around the globe, but even underneath that scenario that we would say everything would break right, it is not going to be fully back for this summer season.

Generally, it takes two or three summers to get back and the severity of the devastation along the coast, which is what your pictures are showing, just tells you how much has to be rebuilt and so we'll have to see. We'll have to hope for the best.

It is wonderful that everybody is coming together and providing resources. That will help, but summer is only six, seven months away, so that's a lot of rebuilding to do between now and then and the weather, of course, isn't always going to cooperate during that period of time because we've got the peak of the winter season.

COOPER: Yeah, it's getting worse and worse.

Paul, I appreciate your expertise. Thank you for being with us right now.

BALLEW (via telephone): You're welcome.

COOPER: As I say, we're following this breaking news story about Bellevue Hospital being evacuated. We're going to give you an update on that. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is outside, monitoring developments there.

I also want to bring you the latest on what we know about the subway system, when and if it may get back on track.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, Superstorm Sandy turns yet another New York popular tourist spot into a ghost town. A CNN iReporter shows us the scene. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YANN WILLIAM HICKS (voice-over): This is Coney Island Station. Normally, it is hustle-bustle here. Nothing but muck on the street level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Wow, two pictures strike at the heart of New Yorkers. This is one of them, taxis parked in what looks like a lake.

Then there is this, the city's subway tunnel flooded.

I want to bring in our Jason Carroll. Jason, where are you right now? What are you seeing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm on the -- I'm on one side of the Queens Borough Bridge, the Manhattan side and what I've been doing all day, Anderson, is just trying to get a gauge of what it has been like for commuters.

Take a look at what we have been dealing with and seeing all day long. This is how a lot of people, thousands, are getting into the city, getting to work. They're hoofing it, They're just on foot. It is the only way a lot of the folks we've been talking to say they've been able to get to where they need to go.

There are some buses running, but this is what you deal with, as well. Right across the street there, Anderson, lines and lines of people waiting to get on some of the buses to get you where you need to go.

We've heard stories of people waiting hours to get on a bus. As you know, no subway service, no train service, so commuters are basically doing what they can to get to work.

I want to introduce -- bring in Demetra Balodimas. Tell me about what your day was like, trying to get where you needed to go.

DEMETRA BALODIMAS, COMMUTER: Well, I usually take the Long Island Railroad into Penn and then transfer to a subway, so this morning I got up, you know, gave myself an extra hour, hour and a half, got a ride to another part of Queens, jumped on an express bus, tried to get into the city, and it's just has been chaos.

It was like a slug moving over the bridge.

CARROLL: And, so, this morning, if you had to time it, how long did it take you?

BALODIMAS: Close to four hours.

CARROLL: Four hours to get into work today?

BALODIMAS: For a 50-minute commute.

CARROLL: So, now, I know you're heading home, heading back to Queens. How long? What are you going to do? You're going to ...

BALODIMAS: I walked -- I mean, I left on foot, so I'm going to go over the bridge and call my brother-in-law again who dropped me off this morning at the bus stop and see if he loves me enough to come and get me.

CARROLL: I'm sure he does. Demetra, we thank you for joining us.

BALODIMAS: Thank you. CARROLL: And, Anderson, basically, this is a lot what a lot of people have been dealing with. We spoke to some people earlier today down at the Brooklyn Bridge, talked about their experience. I followed a couple along. They tried to get somebody to share a taxi with them. That didn't work.

Another driver pulled up. He said he was going to charge them $50 just to take them across the Brooklyn Bridge. They said they weren't going do that.

We did get some good updates, some good news from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He said that tomorrow there will be some limited subway service/ That will be restored. Again, I use the word limited.

Also, limited rail service on the Long Island Railroad.

Mayor Bloomberg also saying, Anderson, that starting tomorrow at 6:00 a.m., anyone trying to get into the city in terms of this is noncommercial traffic, trying to get into the city, drivers will have to have at least three passengers in their car.

He's doing that, obviously, to try to relieve a lot of this gridlock that we're seeing on the streets here.

Anderson?

COOPER: Yes, Jason, I've got to tell you, just me trying to get into work, I waited 20, 30 minutes trying to get a cab, couldn't get it. And some of the prices these cab drivers are charging, it is ridiculous.

I mean, they're going off-meter because they can put multiple people in a cab now, which normally they can't, but they're basically -- I mean, in some cases, they're trying to gouge customers saying, you know, saying, $20, $30 for a ride that should be $5. It's ridiculous.

I certainly hope that the New York City Taxi Limousine Commission, David Yassky, the commissioner, really cracks down on this or at least, if you're in a cab and your driver is doing that, you know, take, take a picture of their i.d., and send it to the taxi and limousine commissioner or send it to us because it is outrageous that anybody would be taking advantage of New Yorkers at a time like this.

CARROLL: Absolutely, Anderson. That's certainly good advice. And I know exactly what you mean. I mean, I live downtown, so in order for me to get to work, I've got to walk some 50 blocks. It is the only way to do it.

And I witnessed it, as well. You can see people trying to get cabs and there's this negotiation that sort of goes on. I know it's probably hard for people who are not from New York to try to understand this, as we see the cabs going by now, but there is negotiations that go on in terms of price because you are sharing a cab with other people and so there has got to be some rules or something in effect so people are playing by some of the rules here. COOPER: Yeah, you just hate to see anybody taking advantage of a situation like this. I should point out I couldn't actually even get a cab. Ultimately, just some people in a car stopped, they recognized me, and they drove me up relatively close to my office. I got out and walked the rest of the way, so -- but, you know, I was very lucky and normally ride my bike around.

So, anyway, Jason Carroll, we'll continue to follow this. And, again, any instances of people being gouged, you just hate to see that in a situation like this. You know, we have seen so many examples of this storm bringing out the best in people. We want to continue to see those sorts of things.

When we come back, we're going to talk to some folks in New Jersey who saw their -- saw boats being watched away, who saw piers being washed away.

Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, we're just hearing now more and more stories of how people have got through this storm.

I want to bring in CNN's Sandra Endo now in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, where survivors watched boats and docks come crashing into their houses.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the rescue-and-recovery effort is still under way in some parts of Atlantic City.

I'm here in a bay side community. You can see the waterfront right here. Take a look at how destructive Superstorm Sandy was. This was a dock, but completely demolished. That shows you how strong the wind and the waves were in this area.

There was a mandatory evacuation order for this area, but clearly, some residents say they wanted to ride out the storm and this homeowner stayed inside during the entire time.

And they say they watched the waves come up and bang into their homes. They saw parts of the dock bang into their porch right here, as well as a houseboat basically collide, causing this trail of destruction.

You see pieces of their home on their lawn and, obviously, just a trail of debris here. This is a scene, a lot of residents are coming back to as they try to pick up the pieces.

Now, if you look across the street, that is where the dock ended up or at least a portion of it in somebody's driveway. You can also see an uprooted tree, downed power lines, and if you take a look at the end of the street, that is where a houseboat ended up and washed ashore.

So, clearly a very devastating scene here for a lot of residents, very difficult to come back and try to pick up the pieces. Obviously, a lot of cleanup work left to do. We have seen FEMA officials here trying to survey the damage, as well, and residents said they came back and found dead fish on their driveway.

So, this is going to take a long time for this community to pick up the pieces.

Anderson?

COOPER: Good to hear that FEMA officials were there on-site.

Sandra Endo, thanks.

More on the breaking news that we're getting news of evacuations at Bellevue Hospital here in New York. Let's bring in our Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, what have you learned?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): We have been talking about this for a little bit of time, getting more details about the fact that Bellevue is now going through a more complete evacuation.

You've got some 700 patients who are being evacuated, they say, over the next couple of days.

What I should point out is we're learning some of the critically-ill patients were evacuated earlier, Anderson. It was part of a protocol that they had, but the generators that they thought could be, should be able to do the task, what they're finding over the last day they've been actually carrying oil up 12 flights of stairs to try and keep that generator going.

The fuel pumps that were pumping oil up to the generators at higher levels simply were not working anymore, starting to malfunction. Some of them were underneath water.

So, it's been a bit of a chaotic situation there, it sounds like, over the last 24 hours.

The decision was made I think officially around 1:00 today to go ahead and just evacuate the entire hospital.

I should point out, Anderson -- I don't know if you know much about this hospital or where it's located in the city. I know you've been talking about this for some time, but this is a hospital that also has about 125,000 emergency room visits a year, average, so, you know, that's several hundred a day and you can get an idea of the toll that takes on a city like this.

COOPER: I've also got to say, Sanjay, given this location and also NYU Medical Center, the problems they had, for anyone living downtown now, that's two hospitals downtown that are now not available.

GUPTA (via telephone): That's right. And, you know, they -- I've talked to some of the folks at NYU Langone. They say that they hope to be up and running. They said maybe even this week. Although spending some time over there yesterday, realizing that within a period of 45 minutes on Monday night they got 10 feet of water into some of these systems, it's hard to believe that that could actually happen.

You know, one thing I want to point out because a lot of people have been asking about the generators, Anderson. I know you've talked about it, as well.

Just to paint you a little bit of a picture, we got some information from people inside the hospital. These generators are typically located in various locations around the hospital. So, some may be at lower levels, but they typically put generator at higher levels, as well, because of the concern of flooding.

These generators run on fuel, but they often have an oil pump mechanism, as well, to help keep the generators going and it's that oil-pumping mechanism which is located at sea level or below sea level that seems to have not worked, malfunctioned or flat-out failed at Bellevue.

That's seems to be the real concern and that's why they've been carrying that oil up 12 flights of stairs for the last 24 hours or so.

COOPER: Wow. Again, Sanjay, appreciate the reporting. We'll continue to monitor that development.

More coverage when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Superstorm sandy.

We've been seeing a number of rescues out on (INAUDIBLE) Island, aviation rescues to tell you about.

At least 50 people in the U.S. we know have died from this Superstorm. We're learning more about one of the victims, Claudene Christian, was a deck hand on the HMS Bounty, the ship sank off the coast of North Carolina on Monday, The Coast Guard says she died after being swept overboard in the storm.

Claudene was a former Miss Alaska. She started her own doll company at age 17. Her true dream was living the seafaring life about The Bounty. In one of her tweets she says, "I'm in love with my ship."

She said she joined the crew in hopes of educating children. Here, she is remembered here by her aunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICIA SALISBURY, CLAUDENE CHRISTIAN'S AUNT: She just was always staying busy and active at things.

They just had The Bounty in dry dock and I didn't know it was back out to sea, especially with this weather coming in. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And we're just learning more and more about some of these victims.

Our coverage continues in just a moment. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: I'll be back tonight at 8:00 and 10:00 Eastern for live editions of "AC 360" with all the latest on the storm.

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

Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thanks very much.