NEW YORK (AP) — Much of New York was plunged into darkness yesterday by a superstorm that overflowed the city’s historic waterfront, flooded the financial district and subway tunnels and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people.
The city had shut its mass transit system, schools, the stock exchange and Broadway and ordered hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to leave home to get out of the way of the Superstorm Sandy as it zeroed in on the nation’s largest city.
By evening, a record 13-foot storm surge was threatening Manhattan’s southern tip, howling winds had left a crane hanging from a high-rise, and utilities deliberately darkened part of downtown Manhattan to avoid storm damage.
“It’s really a complete ghost town now,” said Stephen Weisbrot, from a powerless 10th-floor apartment in lower Manhattan.
Water lapped over the seawall in Battery Park City, flooding rail yards, subway tracks, tunnels and roads. Rescue workers floated bright orange rafts down flooded downtown streets, while police officers rolled slowly down the street with loudspeakers telling people to go home.
“Now it’s really turning into something,” said Brian Damianakes, taking shelter in an ATM vestibule and watching a trash can blow down the street in Battery Park before the storm surge.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last night that the surge was expected to recede by midnight, after exceeding an original expectation of 11 feet.
“We knew that this was going to be a very dangerous storm and the storm has met our expectations,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-long-time storm.”
Shortly after the massive storm made landfall in southern New Jersey, Consolidated Edison cut power deliberately to about 6,500 customers in downtown Manhattan to avert further damage. Then, huge swaths of the city went dark, losing power to 250,000 customers in Manhattan, Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert said.