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“This is the largest storm-related outage in our history,” said John Miksad, Con Ed’s senior vice president for electric operations. The previous record was the more than 200,000 customers hit with outages last year during Hurricane Irene, the utility said.
Neighborhoods along the East and Hudson rivers in Manhattan were underwater, as were low-lying streets in Battery Park near Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood.
A security guard at 7 World Trade Center, Gregory Baldwin, was catching some rest in his car after laboring overnight against floodwaters that engulfed a nearby office building.
“The water went inside up to here,” he said, pointing to his chest. “The water came shooting down from Battery Park with the gusting wind.”
Power and back-up generators failed at New York University Hospital, forcing patients to be moved elsewhere for care.
In Lower Manhattan, firefighters used inflatable orange boats to rescue utility workers stranded for three hours by rising floodwaters inside a power substation.
One of the Con Ed workers pulled from the floodwater, Angelo Amato, said he was part of a crew who had offered to work through the storm.
“This is what happens when you volunteer,” he said.
With a week to go before the election, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney canceled scheduled campaign events. Obama left the campaign trail to return to Washington to monitor the storm and Romney curtailed political events to show respect for the storm’s victims.
U.S. stock markets were set to be closed on Tuesday. They closed on Monday for the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The federal government in Washington was closed for a second day on Tuesday, and schools were shut up and down the East Coast.
Sandy killed 66 people in the Caribbean last week before pounding U.S. coastal areas.