The location was terrible, the timing equally so. Sixty million people live and work in the swath of America that Sandy targeted. It came ashore in New Jersey in the evening, close to a high tide enhanced by the full moon. Just to the north, New York City’s vulnerable harbor sat in the northeast quadrant of the hurricane, where the counterclockwise rotation of the storm shoved the ocean right up the Hudson and East rivers. Lower Manhattan was in a full-scale crisis Monday night, coping with flooded streets and power outages as the sea invaded densely populated neighborhoods.
The awesome scale of Sandy meant that an extraordinary number of people received something close to a direct hit. At least 16 deaths in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut were blamed on Sandy, the Associated Press reported. Some of the victims were killed by falling trees.
As of early Tuesday, more than of 6 million residences and businesses had reportedly lost power. The storm put the presidential contest essentially on hold with Election Day just eight days away.
The storm came in slowly, delivering cold, deceptively gentle rain that gradually turned into something different, a pelting mess, with winds ratcheting up over the course of a long day that promised to become an even longer night.
“Part of the challenge for us has been to strike an appropriate balance between nonchalance and utter horror and fear,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said at a briefing in West Philadelphia, where a high school was serving as an American Red Cross shelter. “All we can stress is, it’s going to get progressively worse.”
This was really not just a single storm, but two. From out of the northwest on Monday came an arctic cold front, and it collided with the hurricane. The two systems spent the latter half of Monday merging, with Sandy gradually losing its eye wall and cyclonic shape and turning into a bizarre hurricane/nor’easter hybrid.
The storm officially became “post-tropical,” but that did not mean it was weaker on the whole. The Weather Channel dubbed it “Superstorm Sandy.”
“It can be even stronger and not be a hurricane,” said Brian McNoldy, a storm expert at the University of Miami who blogs for The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.
Sandy generated wind advisories as far west as Wisconsin. By Monday afternoon, more than 10,000 flights had been canceled. Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk, the priciest property in “Monopoly,” was obliterated as the ocean surged across the evacuated barrier island.