Oct 29, 2012 / 8:42 pm
Superstorm Sandy slammed into the New Jersey coastline with 80 mph winds Monday night and hurled an unprecedented 13-foot surge of seawater at New York City, threatening its subways and the electrical system that powers Wall Street. At least four deaths were blamed on the storm, and the presidential campaign ground to a halt a week before Election Day.
Sandy knocked out power to at least 3.1 million people, and New York's main utility said large sections of Manhattan had been plunged into darkness by the storm. Water pressed into the island from three sides.
Just before its centre reached land, the storm was stripped of hurricane status, but the distinction was purely technical, based on its shape and internal temperature. It still packed hurricane-force wind, and forecasters were careful to say it remained every bit as dangerous to the 50 million people in its path.
As the storm closed in, it smacked the boarded-up big cities of the Northeast corridor, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, with stinging rain and gusts of more than 85 mph. It also converged with a cold-weather system that turned it into a superstorm, a monstrous hybrid consisting not only of rain and high wind but snow.
Sandy made landfall at 8 p.m. near Atlantic City, which was already mostly under water and saw a piece of its world-famous Boardwalk washed away earlier in the day.
Authorities reported a record surge more than 13 feet high at the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan, from the storm and high tide combined.
In an attempt to lessen damage from saltwater to the subway system and the underground electrical network that underlies the city's financial district, New York City's main utility cut power to about 6,500 customers in lower Manhattan. But a far wider swath was hit with blackouts caused by flooding and transformer explosions.
The subway system was shut down Sunday night, and the stock markets never opened at all Monday. They are likely to be closed Tuesday as well.
Airlines cancelled more than 12,000 flights, disrupting the plans of travellers all over the world, and storm damage was projected at $10 billion to $20 billion, meaning it could prove to be one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.
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