Trending Topics

Sandy Leaves Mind-Boggling Damage in NJ, Where Some Towns Were Leveled

While the entire Northeast sustained mind-boggling levels of damage from Sandy, the reports coming out of New Jersey reveal epic, unbelievable amounts of devastation across the entire swath of the state—in areas near the coast that were washed away and inland where rain and wind did unprecedented damage.

On foot and in helicopter, President Obama toured the state with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, putting politics aside for the time being—just five days before a monumental election—as they tried to assure residents that government was there to help them. While much of the presidential campaign has been a fight about the role of government, yesterday was a sobering reminder of how much citizens lean on government in times of major disasters.

According to the Star-Ledger, New Jersey from the air “looked like a nuclear bomb had hit.”

The death toll in Jersey has risen to 12, meaning a total of 100 people thus far have been killed by Hurricane Sandy, from the Caribbean all the way up to New England. Last night authorities said two Newark sisters, ages 18 and 19, died of carbon monoxide poisoning after keeping a generator too close to their home.

The devastation in New York City continues to draw much of the press attention because of the bizarre dichotomy that has developed as the city below 40th Street is in the dark, while life above 40th is much closer to normal because there is power, heat, light and running water—meaning showers. As many places in the Northeast were informed that they could be without power for as long as two weeks, the scenes began to feel like a real-life rendition of NBC’s popular new show, “Revolution,” which is about the savagery of life on Earth more than a decade after the planet loses all electricity.

In the city, the subways continued to be shut down, and police flares marked blackened intersections. Bus service was free but delayed. The New York Stock Exchange reopened, but was operating on backup generators.

In New Jersey, as more than 2.3 million people still were without power, patience was wearing thin. At the few gas stations that were open, lines of cars snaked for as much as a mile as residents feared that gas would run out.

There were fears of looting in towns that were evacuated, where residents have not been allowed to return. There were police blockades keeping out of hard-hit towns. A large contingent of National Guard troops was being deployed to mainland neighborhoods devastated by the storm surge, there to help residents and discourage looters.

On their helicopter tour, Obama and Christie saw shore towns like Seaside Heights that were almost completely wiped out, with Ferris wheels and roller coasters in the the Atlantic Ocean.

“We are here for you,” Obama said in a speech to New Jersey residents. “And we will not forget, we will follow up to make sure that you have all the help you need until you rebuild.”

Obama and Christie were full of praise for each other, with Obama saying Christie had been “responsive, aggressive” in getting the state ahead of the storm.

“I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and the people of our state,” Christie said. “I was able to witness that today personally.”

The governor said he’d talked to Obama six times over the last few days.”It’s a great working relationship,” he said.

The president said he had implemented a “15-minute rule” to his staff, vowing that calls from state and local officials would be returned within 15 minutes. He said he would not tolerate any red tape or bureaucracy in getting federal aid and assets to Jersey.

In Seaside Heights, with streets strewn with the personal effects of families and paved with sand and seawater, the police chief wondered what happens next.

“Everything a lot of people is own is gone, residents and business owners alike,” Chief Thomas Boyd told the Star-Ledger. “A lot of people are wondering, ‘Are we going to have a summer?’ But we’re a resort town. We have to rebuild.”

In Hoboken, Public Safety Director Jon Tooke estimated 20,000 people were still stranded in their homes and said high-water vehicles would get supplies to them.

“The dimension and scope of this situation is enormous,” he said. “You have emergency operations at all levels — from local to federal — spread too thin across the city and the state, but we’re working on it.”

In Jersey City, which also suffered extensive flooding from the Hudson River, Mayor Jerramiah Healy ordered a curfew starting Wednesday night for all residents. He also ordered all schools closed until Monday. According to the mayor, as much as 75 percent of the city was still without power.

Obama told stories of some of the folks he had met during his tour: young volunteers who’d marched up and down blocks awash in sand and debris assisting in cleanup efforts; a restaurant owner who for the last 18 hours had been cooking free meals for storm victims and volunteers; a 15-year-old young man whose mother was disabled and who was making sure that she was okay.

“When you see folks like that responding with strength and resilience, when you see neighbor helping neighbor, then you’re reminded of what America is all about,” Obama said. “We go through tough times, but we bounce back. The reason we bounce back is because we look out for each other.”

The property damage is expected to be as much as $15 billion and possibly more, while the loss to businesses some have estimated to be as high as $30 billion—putting Sandy on track to possibly be the costliest storm in history.

“One of our challenges now is to get back to normalcy,” Gov. Christie said. “And so the things we need to do is to make sure that we get power restored as quickly as possible; make sure that people have clean drinking water, and wastewater treatment plants are working; hospitals are taken care of the way they need to. And that we get kids back to school.”



Back to top