President Obama Declares Major Disasters in New York and New Jersey

President Barack Obama declared major disasters exist in New York and New Jersey following the destructive impact of the hurricane Sandy, the White House announced today.

The U.S. president declared a “major disaster” in New York and New Jersey states after the superstorm hit the US East Coast, causing flooding and cutting power to millions. Photo: The White House/Flickr

The National Hurricane Center reported that as of 5 a.m. Tuesday, the powerful hurricane was moving westward across Pennsylvania and was centred 145 kilometres west of Philadelphia.

It flooded New York City streets with record levels of water, leaving millions of people without power and bringing transportation to a halt through much of the region, Montreal Gazette reports.

The destructive nature phenomenon caused the worst damage in the 108-year history of New York’s extensive subway system, according to Joseph Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“This will be one for the record books,” said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Consolidated Edison, which had more than 670,000 customers without power in and around New York City.

It will take up to four days to get the water out of the flooded subway tunnels, the MTA predicted.

“The damage has been geographically very widespread throughout the entire subway, bus, LIRR (Long Island Railroad) and Metro North system”, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said.

New York officials had earlier ordered to evacuate about 375,000 residents out of Lower Manhattan and other areas under threat.

“Lower Manhattan is being covered by seawater,” Howard Glaser, director of operations for the New York state government, was quoted as saying. “I am not exaggerating. Seawater is rushing into the Battery Tunnel.”

U.S. stock markets were closed on Tuesday for the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The federal government in Washington was closed and schools were shut up and down the East Coast.

Sandy made landfall in New Jersey yesterday evening with 80 mph sustained winds killed at least 17 people in seven states and flooded the town of Moonachie.

Bergen County chief of staff Jeanne Baratta told reporters: “Moonachie has been devastated. Every street has got four or five feet of water on it.”

The storm cut power to more than 7.4 million homes and businesses from the Carolinas to Ohio, caused scares at two nuclear power plants and stopped the presidential campaign cold.

“The election will take care of itself next week,” President Obama said. “Right now, our number one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives… and that we respond as quickly as possible to get the economy back on track.”

The hurricane also reached the Midwest: Chicago officials urged residents to stay away from the Lake Michigan shore as the city prepares for winds of up to 60 mph and waves exceeding 24 feet well into Wednesday, The Daily Mail informs.

The National Hurricane Center reported that wind speeds inside the hurricane dropped as the storm became a post-tropical cyclone. However, Sandy still has hurricane-force at 75 miles per hour (120 kmph) after it made landfall near casino resort Atlantic City.

Disaster estimating firm Eqecat predict that the superstorm would affect more than 60 million Americans, a fifth of the population, and cause up to $20 billion (15 billion euros) in damage.

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