Once in a generation storm – Sandy eyewitness Nick Vaughan
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UPDATE 12.55 PM:
Manhattan-based Kiwi wine-writer Nick Vaughan signs off
"Time for one final update from the city that never sleeps.
Looking out the window I can see that bus service has resumed, meaning people can now get to and from work.
One man Erica talked to said he hasn't been home in three days since he was needed at work and he had no way to get back to Queens.
Last I heard, Sandy's death toll counted 33 in the U.S. (Now reported to be 100 - Editor) and the financial cost of this disaster is impossible to calculate at this early stage.
Wall Street is set to resume business tomorrow (Wednesday in New York) - just in time for Halloween. I saw the famous bull statue earlier today and, well, it's still there.
The streets are busy once again but much of the city is still without power.
Erica's sister, Vanessa, is staying with us tonight. Last time we spoke to her she was at a bar with friends, making light of the blackout - but the novelty wears off and she's a student so she needs power to study.
Erica was out all day filming for the New York Times, at one point I had to run down from the apartment to bring her a change of shoes and a charger for her camera battery.
She filed three stories today and looks like she needs a glass of wine. I'm sure that can be arranged.
In some respects this story ends where it started. The Goldman Sachs protesters are back on the street illustrating just how quickly this diverse city bounces back to its feet.
If you were to stand street-side at Central Park right now you wouldn't struggle to recognise this iconic city.
Taxis jockey for position at traffic lights, the smell of street food wafts through the air and New Yorkers shout instructions into their cell phones.
Make no mistake, this city is tough and no hurricane is going to keep it down for long.
Off to dinner now..."
Kiwi Nick Vaughan continues his reports from downtown New York.
"Ok, here we go with this morning's update.
It's 9.30am (Tuesday) now and we're back at Central Park.
Lots more people are on the streets, taking in the damage, but it is still relatively quiet for New York City.
We didn't know if we would be able to make it down to Battery Park since we heard mayor Bloomberg ordered all taxis off the island.
But, in typical New York fashion, this seems to have been completely ignored and we were able to convince one cabbie to take us down to Zone A, hang around with us while we got our shots, then bring us back uptown.
The damaged crane is still dangling by a thread, but it looks like the worst of the storm is definitely behind us. The recovery phase has begun.
I was able to get some good shots of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which is completely flooded.
While at the scene my wife Erica interviewed an off-duty NYPD officer who told us that up to seven subway lines are flooded and will not be opened for at least a week.
You can see evidence of last night's carnage everywhere. The roads are littered with debris, construction sites look more like bomb sites and anything that can be blown over – has been.
As we drove past abandoned Wall Street, photographer and journalist Erica said, "It's so strange to be covering a disaster in my own city".
She is no stranger to these situations, having covered the second Christchurch earthquake and the Rena oil spill when we lived in New Zealand.
New Yorkers are pretty tough though and everyone we spoke to expressed resolve and resilience.
The most poignant moment occurred when we were filming the flooding downtown.
A lady lady spoke to us with wind and rain in her face. She pointed up at the almost-rebuilt World Trade Center and told us, "If we got through that, we can get through this".
Another example of the New York state of mind came from a Department of Transportation worker standing above the flooded South Ferry subway station.
Erica was asking his partner if anyone had been down in the submerged station yet. The other guy turned to me and shrugged, "No way am I going down there, you need scuba gear".
Central Park is showing a lot of new scars. The famous Columbus Circle entrance is now framed by two felled trees which tourists are gleefully taking pictures of.
Our friends in Connecticut phoned in this morning and said that the whole coast is devastated and a number of properties have been severely damaged.
They are calling this a once in a generation storm.
The rain is only intermittent now and the wind has dropped down to normal levels for this time of year.
It will take some time to understand the full extent of the damage but I have to say, New York City did an exceptional job of both preparation and response. Now is the time for recovery.
The traffic is starting to get crazy. Everyone is trying to get back into the city and, of course, everyone wants to see the damage.
The broken crane has become a major tourist attraction and the food carts have now made their way back onto the street to take advantage of the returning population."
Nick Vaughan will have a special report in Weekend Review telling how resourceful New Yorkers have weathered Superstorm Sandy.
SANDY EYEWITNESS SAYS GOODNIGHT FROM A BATTERED NEW YORK – MORE TOMORROW
NICK VAUGHAN'S UPDATE 4.05PM
"Final update before I go to bed.
Having spoken to Erica's sister on the phone I can confirm that it is actually most of mid-town that is without power and not just below 14th street as reported earlier.
The outages appear to have affected much of the East Coast, with hundreds of thousands of people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in the dark tonight. I'm also hearing reports of fatalities, which is the worst possible news.
It's getting late now and I'm about to turn in since I was up early and have promised to help Erica film down at Battery Park early tomorrow morning.
If nothing else, she will need me to stop her from being blown away if these conditions persist. We'll be ok, though. I lived in Wellington for four years so I have some experience with the wind.
I'll leave you with one final anecdote I picked up while taking some photos earlier this evening.
A doorman I spoke to told me the force of the wind lifted him off his feet on his way to work tonight.
He smiled when he told me he weighs 200 pounds (90kg) and admitted, "Walking to work tonight probably wasn't the smartest idea".
In his hand was a souvenir – a metal road sign he had collected after it flew through the air, narrowly missing him. I hope his luck follows him home.
Good night from New York and please spare a thought for the emergency services working in dangerous conditions throughout the night."
NBR'S SUPERSTORM SANDY EYEWITNESS LATEST UPDATE 2.30PM:
From Kiwi wine writer Nick Vaughan in the Central Park area of New York
"Just been outside the apartment and it’s very, very windy.
There are bits of corrugated iron, scaffolding and street signs flying around the road and it’s not safe to be there.
There are fire trucks and cop cars all over the place.
We only walked one block because of this.
The streets aren’t exactly desolate, there are a few people out there but it’s not a good place to be.
We just received a message on all of our phones from the governor saying as of 8pm “stay inside, emergency conditions apply to all residents.”
Everyone is required to be indoors.
It’s probably not the worst storm ever but it’s pretty bad.
I have heard that everything below 14th Street has no power, but I think that may be a precautionary measure.
It’s night time now and we’ve heard that it’s almost certain the subways will have some degree of flooding.
We’re not far from the crane that is wavering in the sky like a big broken arm.
It is just swinging like a pendulum back and forth.
The construction people think it will survive the night but I’m looking at it now and the degree of movement is significant."
SUPERSTORM SANDY LATEST EYE WITNESS UPDATE / 11.50am:
Exclusive from Nick Vaughan in New York
"It's 6.30pm now and the lights have started to flicker with alarming regularity.
We will probably be safe from power outages here, but I imagine lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens may be in for a dark night.
Everyone is taking care to make sure their phones and laptops are charged should we lose electricity.
No update on the broken crane on 57th Street and 7th Avenue.
It is still dangling precariously in the sky, wavering back and forth in the wind.
It looks like it could fall at any moment but some construction expert on TV seems to think it will survive the night.
There are still dozens of emergency crews at the scene and the neighbouring building have been evacuated.
Erica's cousin Jarret lives in a high-rise on Wall Street.
He told me he cannot return home because he lives in Zone A and was evacuated by his building manager yesterday.
He is crashing with friends in mid-town but is not worried since he went through the same thing last year during Irene.
Jarret says that downtown is virtually empty but people in mid-town are taking it in their stride.
"The hardware store was like a club, they were only letting people in when people came out. It was like a velvet rope".
Our friends in Washington DC are reporting 'major storm action' and further north in Connecticut there is flooding at low tide – not a good sign for the coming hours."
HURRICANE SANDY UPDATE / 10.30am:
Nick Vaughan reports from New York.
"It's 5pm here and the rain is really starting to kick in.
Erica, Alex and I have a glass of wine in hand (Kiwi sauv blanc!) and are wondering whether the restaurant reservation tonight will ever eventuate.
The place is just one block away but I'm not sure they will be open – or if we will leave the house!
Looking out the 16th floor we can see sheets of water coming in sideways, weaving their way down the avenues.
That is offset by the symphony of flashing lights parked below this crane that is about to fall from about 90 storeys in the air. I can see seven sets of emergency lights, all in a line (see photo).
It is absolutely howling through the city now."
HURRICANE SANDY EYEWITNESS UPDATE:
Recently-married New Zealander Nick Vaughan (29) reports serious damage in central New York from Hurricane Sandy.
"A big crane on top of a skyscraper near our building in Central Park West is about to crash to the ground," Mr Vaughan, the son of NBR ONLINE journalist Rod Vaughan, says.
"New York is being battered by strong winds and driving rain which is building in intensity," Mr Vaughan says from his 16th floor apartment in an upmarket 35-storey block in next to the Trump Tower overlooking Central Park.
Mr Vaughan and his photo-journalist wife of two months, Erica Berenstein, have "hunkered down" in their apartment building, which he says is firmly planted of solid rock foundations.
He says streets are deserted.
Central Park is locked up and off limits because of falling trees.
This is what Mr Vaughan told NBR ONLINE this morning:
I’ve been living in New York City for a little over two months now, and have had a number of ‘firsts’ in that time.
Shortcuts through Central Park and driving in Manhattan were two of my more recent achievements, but it is Hurricane Sandy that has my attention at present.
New York Governor Andrew M Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Friday. Since then the city and coastal areas of the up and down the East Coast have been preparing for Sandy to turn inland.
That has already happened in Atlantic City, New Jersey and New York is next in the firing line.
Around 370,000 people have been affected by enforced evacuation zones (including the financial district) and I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of flooding in Brooklyn and Queens.
As a precaution, the New York City subway system was shut down last night and will likely not reopen until Wednesday.
Schools are closed Monday, Wall Street suspended is trading and travelling in and out of the city is difficult given that two major tunnels are closed, and other crossings like the Brooklyn Bridge could close at any moment.
Citizens have been urged to stock up on food, water and batteries, with the New York Times reporting that up to 10 million people may be affected by power outages. So yesterday afternoon my wife and I set out to brave the pre-storm chaos, all man-made.
At Zabar’s deli on the Upper West Side, customers clamored over each other for cured meats, smoked salmon and fresh bread. While waiting in line, one nervous shopper told my wife, “I’ve lived in New York for 30 years and I’ve never seen people get like this”.
Customers jostled among themselves for the remaining cooked chickens and a fight even broke out over one of the last chooks.
Eight blocks down the road, Trader Joe’s market on Broadway had a line spilling into the street as nervous people queued for groceries and bottled water. New Yorkers are no strangers to waiting in line but tensions are visibly boiling over in some areas.
My mother-in-law witnessed another fight at the high-end Whole Foods supermarket in the Time-Warner building. She says it is always busy in there, but this was the busiest she’s ever seen it.
The altercation erupted after one customer bumped into another – a common occurrence on any other day – but this was no ordinary occasion. New Yorkers, I’m told, can get very aggressive when they’re in survival mode.
Speaking of survival mode, both candidates in the US presidential race have put campaigning on hold while the east coast deals with the hurricane.
Back in New York City, a band of protesters are defying Sandy’s imminent arrival. They have been camping on the sidewalk outside Goldman Sachs’ CEO, Lloyd Blankfien’s, residence for weeks. The assembly is one of the last vestiges of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
One of the group’s organisers, a man who gave his name as Mark Apollo, said that 15 protestors slept through the wind last night and planned to do the same again through the storm this evening.
“It’s going to take more than a storm to get rid of us”, he told me.
For their sake, I hope they listen to Mayor Michael R Bloomberg, who warned the city this morning: “The real flooding is going to come tonight."
MORE TO COME