By Michael Muskal and Tina Susman
5:10 PM PDT, October 29, 2012
Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Monday evening, arriving ahead of schedule with a punch as powerful as feared.
The storm, with winds and driving rains that have already caused flooding up and down the Eastern Seaboard, made its heralded landfall near Atlantic City, N.J., around 8 p.m. Eastern time. It arrived slightly earlier than forecasters had originally projected because it had picked up speed, moving at about 28 mph.
In many ways landfall was just a small mile-marker on what officials said Monday would be a relatively long and hazardous road. The cost of the damage was already in the billions of dollars, and the tab was running because the largest waves will come later this evening as the tide becomes high.The storm, with hurricane-force winds and sustained gusts of up to 90 mph, is expected to wind through the Northeast and drop between six and 12 inches of rain in the next few days. Tons of water have already been pushed inland, threatening power grids, transportation systems and the well-being of as many of 50 million people.
More than 750,000 people were reported to have lost power across the region. Cities including Washington and Boston closed their mass-transit systems. Schools were shuttered and shelters began to fill with hundreds of thousands of people ordered to leave their homes and seek safety from a trio of storms: Sandy, a blast of cold air from Canada and another system blowing in from the West.
Wall Street trading was disrupted, as were political campaigns throughout the region just eight days before election day.
In a conference call with reporters, National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb on Monday said Sandy was both unique and similar to past storms. Other hurricanes and tropical storms have hit the Northeast, but Sandy, coming from the south, was unusual for this time of year. It was also physically larger, sending hurricane winds more than 200 miles from the center and tropical storm-sized winds of more than 60 mph as far away as 500 miles from its center. The storm was also more varied, ranging from rain in the east to heavy snow, up to 3 feet, in West Virginia.
Wind toppled power lines and sent waves crashing into waterfronts from New York to Chicago. A construction crane atop a luxury high-rise building in Manhattan toppled in the wind. Television images showed it dangling, but it did not fall and no injuries were reported.
Airlines canceled more than 10,000 flights, stranding passengers in airports around the world. And even the federal government in Washington effectively shut down on Monday and employees were told to stay home on Tuesday.
New Jersey reported receiving the brunt of early damage from the storm. Water flowed over seawalls and most of Atlantic City was soaked, crippling the casino industry in the tourist city.
Gov. Chris Christie said there was at least one death reported in Atlantic City, but it was not confirmed that it was due to the storm. It may have been an unrelated heart attack on Sunday, he said.
During his evening briefing, Christie lashed out at Lorenzo Langford, the mayor of Atlantic City, who he said told people they could stay despite the threat of flooding.
“We now have a large number of people … that are in Atlantic City, and at this juncture there is no other way for us to go in and get them,” Christie said during a televised news conference. “They’re going to have to ride out the storm there.” Christie accused the city’s mayor of encouraging people to remain despite his orders.
Muskal reported from Los Angeles, Susman from New York.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times