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Sandy’s Wrath

Stuy Town Dark, Flooded

Residents of Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town try to carry on as usual, walking dogs, going out for smokes, and checking the street in the face of power outage and high water wrought by the superstorm.

As Hurricane Sandy lashed New York City, dumping massive amounts of water, causing scattered power outages, and inflicting minor injuries, Manhattan residents displayed everything from their usual sangfroid to curiosity to impatience.

Unfazed by a large police presence up and down First Avenue in the Stuyvesant Town development on the East Side and downed tree limbs near 14th Street and First Avenue, couples went out to walk their dogs and have a smoke, appearing very casual amid the whirlwind.

A crowd at 14th and Avenue B watched Fire Department vehicles and Con Ed trucks working on some kind of problem that appeared to be related to electrical issues caused by  flooding.

Michelle Roth, who has lived in Stuyvesant Town for a year and a half, wandered down with friends. "We were just bored,” she said. “We were sitting in the dark and we wanted to see." She spoke briefly with a Con Ed staffer and then reported: "He said there was no script for this."

If there were a script, it was not followed by Sandy—already estimated to have caused billions of dollars in damage and a still unclear number of deaths along the northeast shore—including five in New York City. Sandy robbed some 5.7 million people of power, including tens of thousands in Lower Manhattan. The superstorm knocked out the electricity in Stuyvesant Town, ripping down branches of all sizes, including some big ones, while it was at it.

Lights were out Monday night in the development. The flicker of candles and flashlights could be seen through some apartment windows.

Flooding in the enclave seemed to begin at Avenue C and worsened moving eastward. The water deepened quickly and was almost covering a fire hydrant within 100 yards. Lights flashed and alarms blared on some cars parked in the water.

East and north toward 20th Street and Avenue C, the water rose above the tires of some parked vehicles, and pushed around large chunks of plywood and other debris.

HURRICANE SANDY

Politicize This Tragedy!

When government policy allows, and even subsidizes, business and individuals to engage in behavior that helps produce killer storms like Sandy, government has failed its most basic responsibility—and it should be discussed, says Peter Beinart.

We’re only a few hours into Hurricane Sandy, and commentators left and right are already accusing each other of “politicizing” the storm.

As if that’s a bad thing.

Hurricane Sandy

A man abandons his car as water flood local streets in Freeport, New York on October 29, 2012. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

In fact, politicizing is exactly what this storm needs. Last night, the cable networks barely mentioned global warming. Evidently discussing the root causes of the biblical weather that has struck the United States—and much of the rest of the globe—in recent years is considered bad form.

I suspect that in the days ahead President Obama will avoid mentioning Mitt Romney’s proposed disbanding of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for fear of being accused of injecting crass electoral concerns into what should be a pristinely apolitical natural disaster.

The sanctimony is nauseating. In a democracy, politics is not something we stop discussing when tragedy strikes. It’s the mechanism we use, as best we can, to prevent such tragedies.

If there’s one thing that even the Tea Party agrees that government should do, it is protect lives, property, and public order. When government policy allows, and even subsidizes, business and individuals to engage in behavior that heats up the oceans, and that extra heat helps produce killer storms like Sandy, government has failed its most basic responsibility.

And when Sandy hits, and government lacks the resources to save as many lives as possible, political outrage is a much healthier reaction than pious fatalism.

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Seven Hurricane Heroes

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Sandy Could Cost Mitt Wisconsin

With Obama still ahead in Ohio, Romney could need the Badger State’s 10 electoral votes to have a path to 270, reports Matt Taylor.

Hurricane Sandy may be a safe distance from Wisconsin, but the Frankenstorm has upended Mitt Romney’s late push to claim the Badger State’s 10 electoral votes.

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The Republican presidential nominee was compelled to ax an event in suburban Milwaukee, a GOP stronghold, Monday evening as his team (like President Obama’s) apparently decided to stop politicking with flooding, power outages, and even deaths on the horizon.

But a Romney visit may not have made all that much difference, as just a few months removed from the conservative movement’s resounding victory over organized labor in the bitter Scott Walker recall fight, Wisconsin seems to have reverted to its old left-of-center self when it comes to national politics.

Not only do polls show President Obama still ahead (albeit by far less than his 14-point margin from four years ago), but Tammy Baldwin, a liberal Democratic congresswoman who represents the college town of Madison and was assumed to have an uphill battle on her hands, has drawn even in the polls in her bid to take out popular former Republican governor Tommy Thompson in the U.S. Senate race.

The Republicans predictions of a new era of conservative hegemony after public-sector unions failed to recall Gov. Scott Walker now seem were more than a little premature in a state that lasted backed a Republican presidential candidate in 1984.

Mitt Romney could take a hit from Hurricane Sandy in Wisconsin, but what does the storm mean for other pols? Watch our mashup of politicians responding to 'Frakenstorm.'

Wisconsin political insiders and longtime observers of the state’s elections don’t dismiss out of hand the possibility of a Romney upset, but given that George W. Bush came up a few thousand votes short here both in 2000 and 2004 (while winning neighbor Ohio), a last-minute sprint by Romney suggests fear that the electoral college math just isn’t adding up in some of the swing states he originally intended to win, like Ohio, Iowa, and Virginia.

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Don’t Surf Sandy

The massive waves may be a siren song for the hang-ten set. But listen to Mayor Bloomberg and sit this one out. By Josh Dzieza

Other than weathermen, surfers are probably the only people who gleefully run to the beach when they hear a hurricane is coming. All through the fall, they watch tropical depressions and hope that one will spin its way far enough north to send swells to the normally wave-starved mid-Atlantic states. Hurricanes like Isaac and Leslie brought some of the best waves of the year, and as recently as a couple days ago surfers hoped that Sandy could be another such storm. Now it’s clear that it’s not.  

The Case Against Surfind Sandy

A man surfs as Hurricane Sandy approaches in Long Beach, N.Y., Oct. 28, 2012. (Mike Stobe / Getty Images)

“Let me say something again and again and again: please, the beaches are dangerous and surfing is extremely dangerous,” an exasperated Mayor Bloomberg warned on Saturday. It was one of several pleas for “the young kids going out and surfing” to get out of the water and go home. If Bloomberg’s surfing bona fides are in doubt, ask Mike Watson, a forecaster for the surf modeling company Surfline: “This is no longer a surf situation, it’s a stay-safe situation.” 

Still, there was a small window before the storm hit when experienced surfers went out. Jesse Farmer, a veteran hurricane surfer from North Carolina who is now studying climate science at Columbia University, says he saw about 50 people in the water at Long Beach early Sunday afternoon. “I saw a couple great waves, local guys who had the place dialed and knew it in and out.” But, he said, by the afternoon it was like being in a washing machine; there were waves breaking unexpectedly in different places, powerful gusts, and a strong current sucking everyone sideways down the beach. By late afternoon people were getting out of the water, and by the next morning conditions were worse still. Anyone foolhardy enough to venture into the churning mess on Monday received a summons, as did two surfers at Coney Island (which isn't a beach people normally surf at). 

Hurricanes can bring great surf to the East Coast—but not when they collide with a nor'easter, turn west, and come ashore as the largest Atlantic storm ever recorded. “What you want is a storm like Katia last year, that just sits out in the Atlantic,” said Farmer. Katia arrived just in time for last year’s Quicksilver Pro surfing event in Long Beach, disproving the many skeptics who believed New York could never host a world-tour-level surf competition. Hurricanes generate lots of waves of different sizes and speeds; when the storm stays out at sea, the smaller waves dissipate and only the largest make it ashore, sorted into sets of similar size. But when the storm makes landfall, you get the small waves along with the big, all mashed together in a disorganized jumble. Add gusts blowing the tops off waves, and it doesn’t make for good surfing.  

What happens when thrill seekers do get caught at sea? Watch a heroic Coast Guard rescue of boaters caught in Sandy.

Down in Florida, far from the storm, it’s a slightly different story. “It took some time to settle down, but it’s been a pretty solid event,” says Watson, who lives in Florida. There were reports of 20-foot waves on Saturday, and big-wave surfers were towing into Pumphouse in Palm Beach. (It’s so hard to paddle out in waves that big that people have to Jet Ski out, catch a wave, and ride it to the channel where it dies in deeper water.) But as the storm moved closer to shore around North Carolina, the situation worsened. The winds got stronger, the waves choppier, the current faster. And it’s not just the water—there are large pieces of wood from broken piers and beach-house decks that waves can fling at you. “This is now a matter of life, property, and staying safe,” says Watson. 

The surfing outlook isn’t good for after the storm, either. Irene moved through fast enough that there was some swell left over after the wind died. Watson doesn’t think that will happen with Sandy. The storm is too big and moving too slowly. On the south of the storm, the counterclockwise winds blowing out to sea will likely knock down much of the swell before the storm passes. 

Man of the Moment

Sandy’s Savior

The president has suspended campaigning to lead the federal response to a devastating hurricane. Howard Kurtz on why the crisis gives Obama a big edge over Romney.

Washington was under assault by torrential rains as President Obama stepped to a White House podium and briefed the nation on the progress of a deadly hurricane.

“The great thing about America is when we go through tough times like this, we all pull together,” Obama said Monday afternoon as the television cameras rolled. “We look out for our friends. We look out for our neighbors. And we set aside whatever issues we may have otherwise to make sure that we respond appropriately and with swiftness.”

The president was not campaigning—indeed, he had canceled an appearance in Orlando that morning and flown back to a nearly deserted capital—but in a way, he was.

He was auditioning for another four years as commander in chief by demonstrating that he had taken charge of the federal response and displaying compassion toward the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

President Obama held a press conference to address the storm on Monday.

That’s his job, of course. But he now has the chance to perform it under the unique spotlight of a national disaster that, fairly or unfairly, has left Mitt Romney with little running room in the final week of an extremely tight presidential campaign.

Romney canceled an event in Wisconsin on Monday and his schedule for Tuesday rather than push against the storm’s gale-force wins. He said he was acting “out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy.”

That was the sensible course, because the hurricane’s impact goes well beyond shutting the candidates out of crucial Eastern swing states. Even if Romney had gone ahead and campaigned, how much attention would he have gotten with the media’s attention riveted on the monster storm? The truth is, he would have been blown off the screen.

Wailing Sirens

That 9/11 Feeling

Eleven years ago, New Yorkers were spellbound by the sight of the burning towers. On Monday night, it was the unholy roar of the wind. Michael Daly on how the city’s emergency responders and Mayor Bloomberg eased the fear.

The mysterious whistling sound on high turned eerie when the source proved to be the hurricane’s winds gusting through the exposed steel of the nearly complete Freedom Tower at ground zero.

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The NYC skyline is shown first on Oct. 29, 2012, during the blackouts caused by Hurricane Sandy, and then on Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo (2))

And with that noise came a conscious thought that had until then been a jangling edginess whose own source was not immediately clear.

The thought was this: could it possibly be that 10/29 proves to be in any sense the meteorological equivalent of 9/11? Would disaster strike us again?

The anxiety increased as the storm drew closer and the city approached the hour that Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned would be the worst.

An added feeling of being trapped came as the closures were extended from the subway to the bridges and tunnels, and people were advised to stay inside. Where we had once stood spellbound by the sight of the burning towers, we now listened to the unholy roar of the wind. Windows and doors rattled, and sirens wailed in the gathering night.

Only this time the sirens were not converging toward one place. They were going in all directions, and to hear them was to imagine dire emergencies of every kind, everywhere.

If 9/11 was about what we saw, then 10/29 was about what we heard. And even when we cannot fully believe what our eyes behold, they are far better than our ears at gauging the true magnitude of a threat.

Watch This!

Hurricane Sandy’s Biggest Idiots

They were ordered to evacuate—or at the very least to stay inside. Instead they jumped in the water, went running around outside, and found other stupid stuff to do. WATCH VIDEO of the storm’s worst dumbasses.

New Jersey issued the most blatantly terrifying evacuation warning of all time to its residents. (Paraphrase: You will die if you stay, and you will die a selfish person because you didn’t “think about the rescue/recovery teams who will rescue you if you are injured or recover your remains if you do not survive.” Mayor Bloomberg was less concerned with instilling the fear of God into city residents with his advice: “Stay hunkered in to your home and have a sandwich out of the fridge and sit back and watch television.”

While the wisest and most logical of us in the tri-state area heeded officials’ warnings, whether fleeing to Grandma’s upstate or locking ourselves indoors and finally starting that Downton Abbey Netflix marathon we’ve been craving for months, an illustrious population of boneheads could be counted on to go outside and get stupid. We’ve rounded up a Hall of Fame of the biggest Hurricane Sandy doofuses. Enjoy!

‘Hurricane Horse’

While you were stocking up on water and staying away from windows to be safe in the storm, this guy went out for a jog in Washington, D.C., with no shirt on and a horse mask on his head. Hilarious hurricane hero? Drunk idiot? Either way, the shirtless jogging horseman has just become Sandy’s mascot and Wednesday’s most topical Halloween costume.

Jet Skiing in New York Harbor

With Hurricane Sandy just 90 minutes from making landfall on New York, this genius took his Jet Ski out in Manhattan’s New York Harbor. To recap, forecasters call for surges of six to 11 feet and unprecedented wind speeds, and this man heads out into the waters on a vessel that appears the size of a rubber duckie next to those waves. Summed up New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn: the man is “out of his mind … out of his ever-loving mind.”

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Sandy Floods New York

Sandy’s floodwaters overran New York’s defenses, filling tunnels and subway stations with seawater and submerging entire streets. See the most chilling images of the storm’s aftermath from around the Web.

FATALITIES

5 Confirmed Dead in Storms

5 Confirmed Dead in Storms Michael Heiman / Getty Images

One man killed by falling tree.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed that five people have been killed so far in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall Monday night in New Jersey, and took out power in much of Manhattan. The only confirmed death in New York City was a man in Queens, who was killed when a tree fell on his house. The locations and causes of death for the other four fatalities have not been released.

Read it at The Globe and Mail

DROWNING

Large Areas of Manhattan Flooded

Large Areas of Manhattan Flooded Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Reports of cars floating down Wall St.

Storm Sandy made landfall just before 8:10 p.m. ET Monday, and soon after, Manhattan went underwater. Reports came from all over the city of flooded streets and surging water. In Lower Manhattan, the South Street Seaport and much of Battery Park City was flooded. There were reports of cars floating down Wall Street. Photos revealed portions of Alphabet City under water, as well as portions of the West Side Highway, the Battery Tunnel, and streets as far north as 33rd Street. Power throughough Lower Manhattan was also out, with electrical provider ConEdison preemptively turning it off as a safety measure.

Read it at CBS News

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Pols Made (or Ruined) by Disasters

New York Battered

Waiting for Sandy’s Worst

With bridges closed, transportation suspended, and power out for many, New York hunkered down Monday evening. Michael Daly reports on the damaging high tide—and the reports of building collapses.

The water was just cresting the seawall at the foot of Wall Street on Monday morning when it stopped and then slowly began to recede.

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Michael Bocchieri

But there were no sighs of relief, only the sense that a monster of a size almost beyond imagining was drawing in its breath and coiling its muscles as it lumbered ever closer. It would be delivering a blow whose magnitude could not be reckoned until it struck.

And with it would come the next high tide at New York Harbor, likely higher than any in the city’s history, rising with the storm’s unprecedented power to as much as an 11-foot surge because of a full moon.

“The real flooding is going to come tonight,” Mayor Bloomberg said at an 11:30 a.m. press conference. “Eight o’clock so going to be the worst and that’s only a few hours from now.”

Back down at the harbor, the tide was still going out to sea where Hurricane Sandy had begun its slow turn toward land. The storm was hundreds of miles wide and it was whipping up winds as high as 100 mph. It was itself lumbering at only 18 mph, but that made it all the more dangerous because when it finally arrived it would not just be roaring through.

To stand at the churning harbor’s edge and see how high it was and then consider how much higher it might rise was to sense the magnitude of the approaching force. Not just some wave but the sea itself would be rising.

In the meantime, the supposedly great powers of Wall Street could do nothing more than what the city was doing at subway entrances. The New York Stock Exchange and the portal to the R train both had piles of white sandbags, though the latter also had sheets of plywood.

ABANDON SHIP

H.M.S Bounty Replica Sinks

15 crew rescued, one missing.

The famous H.M.S. Bounty replica featured in Pirates of the Caribbean is now at the bottom of the ocean, after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on its voyage from Connecticut to Florida on Monday afternoon. The Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members from a rubber life raft off the coast of North Carolina. Crew member Claudene Christian was found “unresponsive” later on Monday, and was taken to the hospital; Capt. Robin Walbridge remains missing. Crew members on the 180-foot replica of the 18th-century tall ship were reportedly in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center and trying to make it around the storm when their three-mast ship was wrecked amid 40 mph winds and 18-foot waves.

Read it at The Washington Post

Sandy Who?

West Village Warriors

No matter what Mayor Bloomberg says, many residents of one of New York’s wealthiest neighborhoods aren’t worried a bit about Hurricane Sandy. Lizzie Crocker tours the neighborhood.

After last year’s nearly apocalyptic warnings gave way to the less-than-apocalyptic Hurricane Irene, residents of New York’s tony West Village remained practically unfazed by the impending “Frankenstorm” on Monday. Joggers on the West Side Highway braved the rain and wind in the afternoon, sporting little more than shorts and T-shirts, while parents emerged from their brownstones with their excited young kids who skipped down the cobblestone streets in colorful rain gear.

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A police officer walks along the promenade on the Hudson River near Battery Park on October 29, 2012 as New Yorkers prepare for Hurricane Sandy. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images)

“I think the news tends to blow these things out of proportion,” one Village resident told The Daily Beast as she emerged from her local bodega—not with flashlights and batteries in tow, but with cupcake mix to entertain her 6-year-old daughter at home. “We’re just trying to be productive so we don’t go stir-crazy,” she said. “Everyone was in a similar frenzy last year before Irene, but even if this storm is worse I don’t think we’re going to be off the grid for very long.”

People remained out and about in Battery Park City around 1:30 p.m., ignoring Michael Bloomberg’s orders to evacuate the low-lying community (“Zone A”!) where severe flooding is expected.

“We live on the 9th floor so we’re not worried,” said Terrance, 28, and his girlfriend, Cailey, 26, who were calmly walking back to their apartment on South End Avenue with beer and paper towels.

The scene was a bit more frantic a few blocks south at the Gateway Plaza. The residence's general manager Gregory Tumminia said he was taking extra precautions and had been warned by Con Edison that the building might lose power around 5:00 p.m. “We’re securing all the furniture at dock entrances, ensuring that everything is tethered down and covering electrical grates so water can’t infiltrate at a quick pace,” Tumminia told The Daily Beast, adding that more than 50 percent of the building’s residents had evacuated.

Meanwhile, construction workers were frantically unloading sandbags outside the Goldman Sachs building and piling them up in front of the entrance of the financial firm’s sleek, steel-and glass headquarters. Across the street at the World Trade Center site, where Bloomberg expressed concerns about flooding on Sunday, a few workers could be seen tying down construction materials.

Thrill-seekers at South Cove Park climbed over yellow caution tape blocking off the Hudson River promenade to take pictures of the barely visible Statue of Liberty and rolls of waves crashing against the piers. But by 2:30, as winds began picking up and water spilled over into the streets, police were on the scene urging onlookers to leave the area.

What Makes a Hero?

Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that deploys veterans to help with disaster recovery, did their part to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan last week. Team member Curtis Coleman, a former Marine, shares his thoughts on heroic leadership.

  1. We Love You, Lydia Callis Play

    We Love You, Lydia Callis

  2. Chris Christie's 'SNL' Warning Play

    Chris Christie's 'SNL' Warning

  3. Marc Jacobs’ Apartment Is Flooded Play

    Marc Jacobs’ Apartment Is Flooded

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Hilarious Wind-Blown Reporters

Hilarious Wind-Blown Reporters

As Hurricane Sandy barrels toward the northeast, see some of the most hilarious wind-blown reports.

More Frankenstorm News