NEW YORK (AP) — New York City awakened Tuesday to a flooded subway system, shuttered financial markets and hundreds of thousands of people without power a day after a wall of seawater and high winds slammed into the city, destroying buildings and flooding tunnels.
Scenes of the damage were everywhere. At least 50 flooded homes in Queens caught fire and were destroyed. A hospital removed patients on stretchers and 20 babies from neonatal intensive care, some on respirators operating on battery power.
Where usually bustling crowds and traffic jams streamed through sidewalks, streets and subways, they were largely empty. And high above midtown, the broken boom of a crane continued to dangle precariously over a neighborhood.
"Oh, Jesus. Oh, no," said Faye Schwartz, 65, Tuesday morning as she surveyed the damage in her Brooklyn neighborhood, where cars were strewn like leaves, planters deposited in intersections and green metal Dumpsters tossed on their sides.
The storm was once Hurricane Sandy but combined with two wintry systems to become a huge hybrid storm whose center smashed ashore late Monday in New Jersey. New York City was perfectly positioned to absorb the worst of its storm surge — a record 13 feet.
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.
"We knew that this was going to be a very dangerous storm, and the storm has met our expectations," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "This is a once-in-a-long-time storm."
In Queens, nearly 200 firefighters tried to contain an enormous blaze that consumed 50 homes in the Breezy Point neighborhood. They had to use a boat to make rescues, firefighters told WABC-TV. They climbed an awning to reach about 25 trapped people and take them down to a boat.