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CNN BREAKING NEWS
More Than 1 Million Customers Without Power In New Jersey; Sandy Strikes New Jersey; Sandy Inundates Long Island; Parts Of Delaware Experience Significant Flooding; Sandy Slams Northeast; NYC: 670,000 Residents Without Power
Aired October 29, 2012 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: -- again, we're trying to get more details on that. Our storm coverage continues well into the night. Erin Burnett is standing by in Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan -- Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, a deadly night, 11 people now dead in five states, thanks to Hurricane Sandy and flooding continues along the east coast, incredible flooding, over a 1,000-mile area.
Here in Manhattan where we already posted records on that front, a crane is dangling from a skyscraper in midtown and it could drop at any time. The latest as we continue to track storm Sandy. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett OUTFRONT tonight underwater. I want to extend a special welcome our viewers from around the world who are watching this storm that we've been watching over 1,000 mile area here on the east coast of the United States, affecting about 20 percent of the United States population.
Flooding has been the big issue. Where I'm standing right now, those of you who are watching the earlier know the water was up above my knee. Earlier tonight, we set a record here in Lower Manhattan, in terms of a storm surge.
The record is 13.88 feet and that exceeds by almost three feet the record set back in 1960 with Hurricane Donna. That's just some of the records we've seen as the storm continues to strike across the 1,000- mile area as it continues to head north.
In New York, the largest transit system in the world is closed. Schools are closed. Where we are standing right now is actually an island right now even on Manhattan completely flooded out.
The stock exchange has been closed. The first time they did so at their discretion since September 11th, 2001. As I mentioned, 11 people now confirmed dead across five states as the storm continues.
Let me bring in Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough president. Marty, thanks very much for taking the time. Can you tell me what you're seeing right now in Brooklyn? Is the worst of the storm over? MARTY MARKOWITZ, BOROUGH PRESIDENT, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK (via telephone): Well, I mean, we've been hammered very badly tonight, throughout the day, but certainly this evening especially in our areas that are adjacent to the water front and the seashore, particularly in neighborhoods running from mill basin, and right across Manhattan Beach and Coney Island, Sea Gates and other neighborhoods.
So part of Brooklyn, many trees are down, smashed cars, many smashed homes. We lost a lot of trees and flooding of basements has happened up and down the borough, where people had to move to higher ground.
Garretson Beach, I got quite a few phone calls where water reached up almost to the first level of their homes. Cars floating in the -- on the streets so we really got hit. This was a nasty, nasty storm. That's for sure.
BURNETT: And we just had some reports, I don't know if you're able, Marty, to confirm this, that Coney Island Hospital could have had a fire on one of its floors, that the Fdny wasn't able to get there because there was flooding surrounding the hospital. Is there anything you can tell me on that, how accurate that is or what your understanding is at that time?
MARKOWITZ: Yes, my update as of 11:00, I do not have that. It may have happened. But I do not have that, that I can verify at all. I can't verify it. I can say that certainly, you know, electricity is down all over the place.
More than 80,000 folks have no electricity here and there's no question -- here it is. There was -- hold on, I'm getting it right. Fire at Coney Island Hospital, extremely urgent, FDNY having difficulty because of flooding. That was right before 11:00 p.m. but I don't know the situation right now, I'm sorry.
BURNETT: No, that's all right. But it goes to show, I know that where we are right now, Marty, it feels like the water has gone down, so it's a little better. But I know in terms of the danger and the things that can happen with the wires and electricity and fires. That we still have many more hours to go, is that your sense?
MARKOWITZ: Many more hours, and many days of restoring this great city, every part of our city. It's going to take the effort of all of us collectively to really clean up, and I know they're doing the best job they can.
They're going to be very, very busy over the next few days as well as the uniformed services in getting our subways -- we have to get back to work, kids have to get back to school.
None of that can be done until it's safe for everyone and that will -- it's going to be a humongous job.
BURNETT: Yes. We're seeing some of the subways that have been breached.
MARKOWITZ: Well, I know one thing about New York City, there's no city that's greater, more resilient, and has the chutzpah to do it. It will be New York. No matter what, we'll be up as quickly as possible, but it's a challenge for sure.
BURNETT: All right, it sure will be. Marty Markowitz, thank you very much for your time tonight, the president of Brooklyn Borough.
And as you heard him giving his understanding of what was happening there at that hospital. Here in New York, the waters seem to go down a little bit, obviously so much of the danger and risk for so many is real, and will be for many more hours tonight.
The storm's wrath continues to be felt inland and up the coast. Atlantic City was in the heart of the storm. Ali Velshi has been taking a battering throughout the day. Ali, what is it like there right now?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you, Erin, it is finally going down. It's finally receding. The water is for the first time in several hours at my knees, not going further up. It's going down.
But this water is full of vegetation from the ocean. The ocean is less than a mile behind me, about 3/4 of a mile. If you look down, you can see the red lights, showing up as a red glow on TV. That's the boardwalk.
Right beyond that is the ocean. This water, this is ocean water. There are waves in the streets of downtown Atlantic City. This is where I am. When I was here a few hours ago, I was standing on wet pavement. It is now fully engulfed.
There's power out. You can see power behind me. At this intersection right behind me, everything from here forward is out. Everything from here back you can still see the power. That's Caesar's, and Bali.
Those are evacuated. There's a curfew in place and an entire travel ban, you couldn't get out of here if you tried to anyway. A lot of tension earlier you heard between the mayor of Atlantic City and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
New Jersey Governor Christie felt that the mayor didn't take the warning seriously enough, didn't pass it on to the residents of Atlantic City to get out, and he told them if you haven't gotten out at that point, stay.
Chris Christie said that was the wrong thing to do. We spoke to the mayor on Anderson's show and he said the governor doesn't know what he's talking about. He's ill informed. Bottom line, can't do anything about it now.
People are hunkering down. Probably 400 to 500 people in shelters here in Atlantic City. You can see the gust that is just whipped up around me right now. While the water levels are receding, we're still getting the back end of the storm.
All indications are we have at least an hour more of this to go before it starts to settle down and move to other parts of the region. Philadelphia, 60 miles west of me, has still got to see the worst of it.
They're still expecting flooding in low-lying areas in Philadelphia, much like New York everything is shutdown there. That's the situation in Atlantic City right now -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Ali Velshi and I have to say to all of you. I mean, at least we're able to hear Ali even though you can hear the wind. In an hour or so ago, that was not the case, you could not hear him at all the storm was so bad there.
Let's go to Chad Myers now at Severe Weather Headquarters. Chad, can you tell me where the storm is right now and sort of where it's headed next? Who is next to feel the center of the storm?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is southwest of Philadelphia by ten miles. And so Philadelphia, you are feeling the worst of the wind, so is Trenton, all the way down to probably almost Baltimore. That will be the core.
All in all, the winds can still be 60 to 70 miles per hour on this side, and also on this side, Erin, because it's such a large low pressure center. It will be interesting to go back to Ali Velshi at the end of your show, because by then, this band right here will be right over the top of him.
And his winds will increase by 20 or 30 miles per hour when that band moves over. And you will find that all night long. When the wind goes away, that means it has stopped raining where you are, stopped raining briefly.
But it will pick up again, the winds will, when the rain comes back. That was a big band that rolled through Boston. Wind gusts there 67 miles per hour. Now moving up toward Rutland, even into Portland, Maine, here probably in the next 10 or 15 minutes, winds will pick up there.
Same story as you get further to the south, Baltimore, D.C., every time a squall comes by, the winds pick up. It was a 66-mile-per-hour wind gust in Cleveland today, that I was watching live from one of the affiliates there, water rushing out of Lake Erie, getting blown from the north out of Lake Erie.
Same story over here as well, water will come down Lake Michigan, an awful lot of erosion here, coastal flooding south of Lake Michigan. You get farther down here from, Elkins to Charleston and Beckley, West Virginia, it is snowing, already 14 inches of snow on the ground basically just started for real. It will snow for the next 36 to 48 hours in that area and there are blizzard warnings in effect -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Chad, thank you very much. The snow is just -- one of the incredible things about this storm. As we take a brief break, I want to show everyone, where we are right now is an island. You can see the street lines are on. It really stands out. Walter is going to pan across, I just want to show you as you see Manhattan, and now you're looking at Manhattan, it is completely dark. The one building with the little bit of light is actually the Citigroup Trading Building and that building has back up power, but it's dark.
And let me just show this picture from Twitter that a viewer send us on Twitter, looking at the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn. Pretty incredible thing as we put that up there for you. It is rare to see Manhattan like this, so dark and that is what this storm has done. We're going to take a brief break. We'll be back in a moment.
BURNETT: And we are back as we continue to follow the track of the storm. Let's bring in Senator Bob Menendez now from New Jersey. I know, Senator, that you also have lost power along with, I believe it could be half of the state of New Jersey. What's your understanding now as to how bad this storm was? Was it as bad or worse than you thought?
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ, (D) NEW JERSEY (via telephone): Well, pretty bad, Erin. You know, we've got anywhere from 3/4 of a million to 1 million of people in New Jersey without power at this point.
In the building that I live in, three of the windows I was in got blasted out by the wind. We've got road closures and so we've got some major consequences as a result of Sandy.
BURNETT: And when you think back, your life in New Jersey, how does this rate in terms of other storms? Where I'm standing we're talking about the surge was a record, we didn't see anything like that, topped by almost three feet from what we saw back in 1960. Is this the worst that New Jersey's seen?
MENENDEZ: Well, I think it's the worst I've seen here in my lifetime in the state. Between storm surges, between the wind, of course we're not through with it yet, it's as bad as I've ever seen.
I've never seen the flooding that's taken place, for some coastal parts, it's been huge flooding obviously, Atlantic City and other places, Monmouth Ocean, Atlantic, big parts of where it was hit.
But a lot of trees down, large trees down, a lot of ruptures of power lines, flooding in places like Hoboken where it's tough for them to get to people. It's a major, major incident.
BURNETT: And Senator, I know you just had a chance to get off the phone with Governor Chris Christie with the state of New Jersey. How did that conversation go?
MENENDEZ: Well, you know, we had a conference call lining up all the different departments and giving us a briefing about it. And also, on the call that President Obama had called him, told him to call directly for any assistance. And I've also had conversations with FEMA director, as well as the Army Corps of Engineer. And I'm pleased to see that we have more than 1,500 FEMA personnel positioned along the east coast working to support disaster preparedness as well as search and rescue operations.
There's 28 teams comprised of 294 FEMA corps that are pre-staged, as we had asked for. There are three Federal Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces. So, you know, it's nice to see the federal government is working hand in hand with Governor Christie, and all of the county and local officials.
BURNETT: All right, Senator Menendez, thanks very much for taking the time. Good luck. Obviously, it looks like a personal story for the 60 million people in this country who have been affected by this storm.
Let's get to Jason Carroll now who is out on Long Island. Jason, I know, you've been watching the storm come where you were, it was pretty incredible. What is it like for you at this moment?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now --
BURNETT: And yes, it appears we just did lose Jason's shot. We'll try to get that back up in the next couple of minutes if we can. That's sort of the way it's been, everyone. I don't know if you've been watching CNN, but it's touch-and-go. Sometimes when the weather's really bad, we drop the shot. Jason, are you there?
CARROLL: Yes, I'm with you now. Can you hear me now?
BURNETT: Yes, I got you. Go ahead.
CARROLL: Are you guys with me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CARROLL: Terrific. I just wanted to bring you up to speed what happened. As we were talking about the flooded Montauk Highway, you can't see it now because the lights are out, but tell us exactly what happened, where you were, where you came from.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we were down by South 6th Street. My brother was driving, and we didn't see the puddle over here.
CARROLL: Puddle, that's an understatement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The car died in the middle of the puddle. That's it.
CARROLL: Also down here you were talking about another house fire down there as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came down to South 6th Street. Our friend's house was on fire. So he came over down by one of the stores. So we came over to meet him. We didn't see the flooding over here. My car stalled out. CARROLL: That's why a lot of people are saying do your best to stay off the roads. Obviously, we want to make sure you guys were safe. But folks were able to get you to safety. Thanks so very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No problem.
CARROLL: Erin, that's exactly what folks have been dealing with out here in Lindenhurst. You heard about the fires. We saw a fire over two our right. That was just about an hour and a half ago. Emergency crews got out there. They were able to put that out.
There were at least five other fires in this particular area where we are standing. Again, Montauk Highway, a section of it, it was breached. But we do see the waters starting to recede.
We actually had to move back a bit because what you can't see above me down here are wires, live wires. And obviously live wires and water do not mix.
BURNETT: And I think we just lost Jason's shot again. He was saying live wires and water don't mix. I can tell you that here as well. Where the water comes up north of my knee, you know, obviously there were no live wires around here, but that is a problem for so many places where the storm is hitting right now.
Speaking of water, and how high it came, I want to show you another picture. This was taken by city council members from Queens, which is one of the boroughs of New York City. You can see four piers completely underwater in this picture. It's another sign of just how quickly the water rose.
I can tell you where we are right now, not only did it rise quickly, but the little part of the city of Manhattan right here is still an island. It rose quickly to eight or ten feet, just very, very quickly, the combination of the high tide and full moon and storm surge.
Some of these pictures coming in give you a sense of how severe this weather moment was where we are, and still is as the storm continues to move inland. We're going to take a break.
When we come back, Gary Tuchman, we'll check in with him. He is currently in Delaware getting hit by the storm. We'll be back with that in a moment.
BURNETT: I want to go back to Gary Tuchman now. He's in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Gary, tell us what's it like there?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, Rehoboth Beach, Bethany beach, Dewey Beach and Fenwick Island are in the state of Delaware's four beaches and they've lost quite a bit of beach because of what my surfer friends call the absolutely radical waves we've seen on the Atlantic Ocean today. Of all the hurricanes I've covered, I've never seen waves this big. I would estimate, and so would my colleagues, they were 20 to 25-foot waves here. I've seen that in Hawaii before in the Pacific, but never seen it in the Atlantic in any of the hurricanes we've covered.
But the people here in Delaware, in Ocean City, which is in Maryland, in Virginia, all part of the Delmarva Peninsula, which I know you know very well, Erin, because you're from here originally, Delmarva, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia.
The people here right consider themselves very lucky and that's because the main thrust of this storm ended up going 40 miles to the north of us in that direction. So there's a lot of flooding here.
There are cars that are under water. There are streets that are flooded. It's not nearly as bad as it could have been. The most important news, we don't know of any casualties on the Delmarva Peninsula from storm Sandy.
What we do know something very unusual, though, very rare, obviously for us to cover hurricanes at the end of the hurricane season. The season goes from June 1st to November 30th. This is the end of October. It's very cold outside and that's the problem.
There are thousands of people without power. And that's not just here, that's everywhere. That's New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Virginia, Pennsylvania, people without power. It's very cold outside right now.
Usually what we're dealing with is power out in the summer. People swelter, but they can get cool and take baths or go in the air conditioned malls. But here people are going to be cold tonight. Still raining, still windy, but nothing like it was before. Erin, back to you.
BURNETT: Gary, thank you very much. Appreciate it. And so as Gary said, sort of the Delmarva Peninsula does feel lucky that the worst of the storm hit a little bit north of them. But where is the storm headed right now.
As we told you just about 20 minutes ago, it was just about to strike Philadelphia. We're going to find out where the storm is going right now with Chad Myers and also find out where some of this heavy snowfall is when you're seeing and hearing about as a result of this storm. Back after this. We'll be back.
BURNETT: Breaking news. I want to tell you what you're looking at right now. This is a live shot, courtesy of our affiliate WABC. What you're looking at is the evacuation of the NYU Medical Center on the east side of Manhattan towards the lower east side of the island of Manhattan. They are evacuating that.
As you can see, people are being brought out. That's the latest from our affiliate WABC. As we get more information on that, we will let you know. The storm obviously right here, we've seen the peak. Waters have started to recede.
But across so much of the country, the storm is just moving inland and will soon strike. Let's get to Chad Myers and find out where Sandy is headed right now -- Chad.
MYERS: Well, as it moves of to the west as we expected, we're going to get that influx of snow in the West Virginia Mountains. We have a couple of reports in Randolph County in West Virginia, already 14 inches of snow on the ground. And it's still snowing.
It's a heavy wet snow. Some reports of branches breaking as we're getting -- just a few inches of snow on the ground. Snowshoe, West Virginia, one of the ski resorts there, seven inches of snow. Over Brighton to the south of Flint getting a little bit of snow and then kind of a rain/snow mix from Columbus down through Chillicothe all the way down even into parts of Kentucky and into Tennessee.
It's going to snow all the way down to Tennessee, the North Carolina Mountains. It's going to continue to blow across this region for the next 36 hours even though the storm is winding down for some people, not winding down for others.
We're going to get winds here, still, every time a squall comes onshore, of 60 to 70 miles per hour. We're going to go through an entire low tide and then back up to another high tide before this water finally calms down, before this surge finally just settles back out to sea and there's no more surge.
I know that was an impressive surge for you, Erin, 13.88 feet where you're standing right now above the mean level sea level where the old record was 10.2 so over three and a half feet higher than it's ever been before right where you are.
BURNETT: Chad, thank you very much. Just a couple of -- not even a couple of hours ago, about an hour and a half ago, the water was here above our knees.
And one other record, I just want to share with all of you, New York Harbor had a record wave height today recorded of 32-1/2 feet, 32-1/2 feet for a wave in New York Harbor.
The prior record that it broke was 6-1/2 feet. Again, that gives you a sense of the scale. I want to go to Rob Marciano who is in Asbury Park, New Jersey -- Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Erin, there's been a number of records broken today, hasn't there been. Extraordinary storm no doubt about it. All the things that Chad described and then the far- reaching effects, certainly down the coastline.
Here along the shore of New Jersey, it's been quite damaging. Here in Asbury Park, about 40 miles as the crow flies from New York City, we had it looking pretty good for a little while but then when high tide came in onshore. The water just breached the boardwalk and came pouring into the city. That water has receded, but we still have areas that are pond. It's difficult to see at night here. But good one to two, in some cases three foot of water that has inundated much of the city of Asbury Park here.
You can imagine, you can bet that that scene has been across the Jersey shore community from north to south, and likely damage on some of the board walks come tomorrow morning, but the winds, ferocious at times, and quite erratic, to be honest with you.
Something I haven't seen in many tropical systems, winds swirling, and gusting over hurricane force winds. That made it quite treacherous here in Asbury Park.
Power is out. We've seen power flashes all night long. As I look around, even the street lights that were holding on, they're out as well. That could be days, maybe weeks before power is restored to our area across the Jersey shore -- Erin.
BURNETT: The power, Rob, the situation seems that can be devastating for so many people, for a long period of time. Now that you're able to look around without the wind and rain coming down, can you tell me sort of your sense of how bad the damage is when you look at houses there?
MARCIANO: You know, there's shrapnel, so to speak, being thrown on the roadways, a lot of flying debris earlier as well. That's been littered around. But honestly, with the water that's on the roads, it's difficult to know what's underneath that water.
So we'll have to wait for that to recede. The way these coastlines are set up often, a barrier island or protective sand dune and a boardwalk, and further inland when you get past that, there's often rivers and lakes that drain toward the shoreline.
Often in this type of a situation, those two bodies of water will meet. So we basically have to wait for this water to drain through those backwaters and back into the ocean. That may take some time.
Until then it will be difficult to get around because you don't know what's under the water as far as debris is concerned and what kind of damage around this community.
We haven't been able to see, at least right now, tonight, tomorrow we'll get a better glimpse of that, but I would imagine is fairly widespread and pretty substantial -- Erin.
BURNETT: Rob, thanks very much. I want to go back to Ali Velshi now in Atlantic City. First of all, Ali, has it really start to calm down. The last time the wind was really high when I was talking to you about a half an hour ago.
VELSHI: Yes, it's still blowing. It's probably not as bad. It seems to have started to calm down. I think we're seeing largely the back of this, Erin. As you know, you'll get a band every now and then, you'll get a surge, you'll get a gust, but then it settles down. We're gusty a little bit right now. Then it will settle down and be pretty calm. I have had word from Philadelphia, power outages have begun there, flooding has begun in earnest. They're getting the worst of it now. So it's moving inland on this side.
Atlantic City, the water has started to recede. There is power out. We know there are still people who didn't leave the city. They're going to wake up to a whole lot of water that's overtopped the boardwalk that's behind me.
We still are in a section of town where there's a lot of power out. But I think the worst of it is probably done for Atlantic City at this point -- Erin.
BURNETT: Ali, what about those billion-plus, multi-billion dollar casinos? I know there's one, you know, a lot of people in the north east may occurred to have revel, that just opened. Do have any sense of damage to those casinos?
VELSHI: I can see them all. I can see the Taj Mahal over there, Bali's behind me, Caesar's, Trump over there. They are pretty sturdy, as you know. We have not had a situation where the winds here were high enough to have knocked out windows.
So at the moment that would be the biggest damage they would face. They're all evacuated, as you know, so there's nobody in them. I did go and take a look at them about four hours ago. And everything looked to be intact.
From the wind and experience that I'm getting over here, I would guess in many cases, they're flooded, or parts of them are flooded because we've seen 9-1/2 feet, probably, of surge around here. We're at about 7-1/2 feet. It was up to my waist.
So we've probably got a good deal of flooding. That is what they knew they were going to get. They have all been shut down. I don't think too much damage. This place has been emptied out and that was the decided to shut them down so tourists don't come in.
One thing I'm telling you, that it's feeling a little bit better. These gusts are coming through every now and then. And Chad did say that there will be bands that will make this feel a lot worse.
So if you're watching this, in any of these coastal areas, don't look at this and say, it's time to go out and take a look at what's going on. It is going to -- we're going to have these bands of it getting much, much windier.
Even as I'm standing here, Erin, I'm about twice the size that you are, but a gust will come in and it will really start to push me. So stay home. Even if you see this, stay home. Don't come out just because it looks like it's calming down a bit.
BURNETT: All right, good advice from Ali. Ali, thank you very much. Here in New York City, it appears that the worst is over. There have been some bands come through, but not like the ones Ali has seen right now.
We had the brunt of the storm and then it calmed down. It is the flooding and aftermath in the nation's biggest city that will be so difficult to deal with. No power for much of Manhattan right now.
In many cases, flooding, cars are literally floating on the streets. Some of that is on the east side of the island of Manhattan. We have a live report showing you that in just a moment. We'll be back.
BURNETT: Here in Manhattan, the biggest issue continues to be flooding, even though high tide is over and some of the waters at least where we are, are down by six feet. It was well before my knees. Chris, I know there have been cars floating. What else have you seen?
CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I personally have not seen a floating car yet, Erin, but what I have seen down here, we're on Avenue "D." We're several blocks away from the east river.
As you can see, that river has made its way here. I'm pointing down there. You can barely see it because it's so dark down here. We're essentially in a blackout in this part of Manhattan, because the power has been pre-emptively shut off in some areas by Con Edison.
And other areas, especially where we are right now, there was an explosion at a transformer several blocks north of where I'm standing right now. Con Edison confirmed a short time ago that about over 200,000 folks in this neck of the woods were affected by that explosion.
So just, maybe an hour and a half ago, water was at my shins. Folks have sort of stopped a lot of the on looking that we saw when we first got to the scene. You've got downed tree limbs, cars that were flooded a lot worse.
The water level was a lot higher earlier. These cars are definitely going to have some damage. We've seen tow trucks trying to get some of these cars out of here now that the water has gone down -- Erin.
BURNETT: Chris, I know that you actually drove there yourself, through the streets of Manhattan in the dark and the storm. So tell me what you saw.
WELCH: Yes, my crew and I made our way down here, when we got to about 34th Street, we started to get a little freaked out. We were talking about this tonight. This is not a sight you see in Manhattan very often, completely dark streets, actually very ominous, if you want to say that.
We drove down a couple seats trying to find a location. Honestly, we didn't feel comfortable in some of those areas because they were narrow streets, water, trees down. We didn't want to put ourselves in harm's way down there. So continued driving, got little further south, decided to come down here, where we could show you some of these images a little better, but yes, the drive down completely black.
Talked to a lot of folks down here saying, we were walking back from dinner, everything was normal, aside from the winds and some of the rain.
Everything was normal because the lights were on. Suddenly we heard these booms, a transformer explosion. They saw flashes of light and total darkness -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Chris, thank you very much. We appreciate it. And of course, as the aftermath continues here, as Sandy continues obviously to affect over in Philadelphia, but right here in Manhattan, I told you a moment ago about NYU Medical Center, how they were actually evacuating that.
I want to bring in Elizabeth Cohen, our medical correspondent, on the phone right now. Elizabeth, what more can you tell us about this. We've shown people the images of them having to evacuate this hospital on the east side of Manhattan. What else do you know?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): I know now that they're in the process of transferring about 200 patients. I'm told this is nearly all of the patients there, to nearby facilities. I'm told they're on backup power.
This can be a very, very difficult situation when a medical center, especially one this large, goes on backup power because you need the electricity for many of the machines keeping folks alive.
They have what they call intermittent telephone access issues. It sounds to me like their phones aren't working. They're having communication issues to the point where the hospital is not even calling the families to say, we're transferring your loved one.
They're leaving that up to the receiving hospital. It sounds like this is a very difficult situation at NYU. Erin, they opted not to transfer people. They decided that yesterday, not to transfer people. And now it looks like they're doing it under much more stress than if they had done it before.
BURNETT: Elizabeth, do you know sort of what happened? From where I'm standing right now, there's power and lights, but there's no power in Manhattan. Except I can see Citigroup's trading floor. They have backup power.
I would imagine a hospital would be a place with even more backup power plans. This would be incredibly unusual and a shock to happen. Do you have any sense of why the failure on the power and the backup?
COHEN: I think you're absolutely right, Erin, I think this came as a surprise to them. I was actually at NYU last year for Irene. They had multiple layers of systems in case something failed. It's unclear to me why they've now gone on to backup power, which may not be working so well which is why they're transferring people out.
What I can hazard a guess here is it's just water damage, for water damage for electrical systems, you're really in trouble. I'm told they don't have water on patient floors, but certainly water gets in parts of the electrical system, you can be in trouble no matter how many backup systems you have.
BURNETT: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much, reporting with the latest on the evacuation of, as she said, about 200 patients in Manhattan.
We're going to take a break and when we come back, Sebastian Junger will be our guest. He is the one who wrote the book "The Perfect Storm" about the perfect storm. He can compare and he will be with us after this.
BURNETT: Now, this just in. The senior vice president of Con Ed, which is the power company for Manhattan here, just came out and said they have had more storm related power outages in this storm than they have in any storm in history.
As we've shown you from some of the pictures, much of Manhattan south of 39th Street, the power is out. Some of it Con Ed chose to do, others of it because of a transformer outage, are completely out.
There's only been one other time in the blackout of the summer that I've seen Manhattan look this dark. I want to bring in Sebastian Junger now who wrote "The Perfect Storm" about the nor'easter back in 1991.
Obviously, made into the movie in which George Clooney starred. Sebastien, let me ask you. You studied that storm so carefully to write that book. It was called the perfect storm.
So many of this have called this frankenstorm, in many ways the perfect storm when it comes to all the bad things that can happen. Now that we are where this storm is, passed here in Manhattan, what's your comparison?
SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR, "THE PERFECT STORM": Well, the storms are similar in some ways. In the storm I wrote about, and this storm obviously there was a major hurricane. There was a low pressure system and a high pressure system.
Those things combine in catastrophic ways that meteorologists that I interviewed for my book sort of groped for a way to explain it to me and said, look, it was a perfect storm. All the variables that make a storm bad, they were all maxed out.
In some ways, that's happened again with this storm. Of course, the big difference is that today, it's a hurricane that's coming ashore, the storm I wrote about the hurricane stayed at sea. And the nor'easter, low pressure system hit the coast with devastating effect. BURNETT: And that's one of the things I think a lot of us didn't really realize coming into this, when you start seeing the low pressure systems that were set. So I know Sebastian you have a personal story here.
Your incarnation now, you have a restaurant on 23rd Street in Manhattan. Tell me about the situation there right now. And obviously that's below sort of the general power line here on the island of Manhattan.
JUNGER: Yes, I was just down there. I was really concerned about it. I started a restaurant with several friends of mine in 2000. And the water is lapping at the door right now. But she seems to be dry.
I was out on 23rd and 10th, and it's completely dark down there. I saw groups of people roaming around. There's no police at all. My pants are wet up to my knees right now. It's a very, very weird scene down there right now.
BURNETT: And so when you look back at the storm of 1991, and what we've seen now, Sebastian, what's your bet on how long it will take to recover? I mean, given the fact that this is a storm that is still not only progressing up the east coast, but also a storm that affected 60 million people.
JUNGER: The storm that I wrote about in '91, it wasn't as big a storm. It was a nor'easter, big in the sense that it wasn't 1,000 miles wide. This hurricane is 1,000 miles wide, and having huge effects along the coast.
It's dumping a lot of snow inland, and completely shutting down the New York City subway system. As I talked about with friends, that's going to have a devastating effect on Manhattan. The entire -- most of the labor force that works in Manhattan, the people that run things.
That run stores, that clean things up, they all live in the boroughs. I don't know how they're going to get in. I think Manhattan will have a real problem for the next week.
BURNETT: Yes. And when you think about what's happening in the subways and so many question marks on that front, Sebastian Junger, thank you very much.
One of the things here, flooding obviously is a big part of the problem, and it could be the biggest part of the problem. But when you look at the damage that is going to be inflicted by Sandy, a lot of it will come in the form of wind damage. There could be records set in terms of the damage from the wind.
Tom Foreman filed this piece on just how bad that could be.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin, as Sandy's winds have spread over hundreds and hundreds of miles, so, too, the estimate of how much damage will be caused by them has gone straight up. Well over $7 billion right now from wind alone. How is that possible? We sliced open another hurricane here, Eric, created layers out of it. Look at the bottom down there. Those red sections, that's where the wind is the most intense as you move up in the storm, they start dissipating a little bit.
But all of the tallest buildings on the east coast are all right down there in the red zone. And in many ways the buildings themselves will make the wind damage worse. Let me show you how.
If you had air flow going over an empty field, or perhaps a bunch of low buildings, it would largely be unimpeded, but when you add New York City to the equation, you change everything because now the air has to speed up to get around those buildings, the obstacles to its flow.
It goes around them, over them, find any way it can. That magnifies the three things terrible about hurricane winds. It makes them more explosive. In aerospace terms, whenever an air flow hits a square or rectangular object, it creates what's called turbulent flow.
In layman terms what that means is the air starts colliding with other things, it's all roiled up in there and fighting for space. That makes it more violent.
Also with hurricanes, these are sustained winds. This won't last for a few minutes. This will go on hour after hour with all of those gusts of air looking for any weak spot in a doorway or window, or the corners of a roof.
And thirdly, these are directional winds. They will keep hitting from the same direction. So if they find a weak spot, they're going to exploit it. The dangers in all this are very obvious.
If something gets torn off from the top of a building, it's obviously a huge threat to all of the people down below. But it can also pierce the side of another building as it falls. And when that happens, once you have cut into the side of a building, no matter how well it's made, you've exposed it to a whole new danger.
Then the rain and the wind can attack from not only the outside, but from the inside out. And that's why the winds of hurricane sandy really do present a very real threat to cities all along the east coast -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, right now it is nearly midnight on the east coast of the United States. Sandy right now is right over the city of Philadelphia. The 1,000-mile-wide storm is being felt even where we are.
Obviously, the surge here has started to recede, but the big question will be in the biggest city in the world, when can it get back up and running again? And that could be quite some time. Let's send it off now to "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT."