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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Hurricane Coverage; Sandy Closes on Land Fall in New Jersey; Sandy Now a Post-Tropical Storm; Residents in Long Island Being Rescued

Aired October 29, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, we are tracking a storm, the superstorm here striking the east coast.

Sandy now is delivering a big wallop to Manhattan, where I am standing. When you think about the flooding right now, where we're standing right, is soon to have record. It's not yet high tide. It will be sometime within the next two hours.

I can tell you right now, the water behind me in the Hudson River soon is going to crest right over where we are now to a peak surge of about 12 feet. Again, that would be a record and in so many ways, the storm is a record when you look at the wind gusts.

Some of the winds that have been coming down where we are right now in Battery Park have been truly incredible. It feels like little needles are hitting you in the face. We're going to be giving you the latest track.

A crane here in New York has put a force in a danger zone. We have all that coming up through the next hour. Live breaking the coverage continues of Sandy. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight. I am live in New York City, a part of the city that has been evacuated. New York City is under siege right now from Sandy -- a little hard here, even to talk, as you can tell.

Let's get to Chad Myers right now in Atlanta. Chad has the very latest on the track. Chad, I know it's been downgraded a little bit, but right here, I can tell you, it feels like it's stronger by the second.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's just a different name. It's not so much that it got downgraded. It is just no longer tropical in nature, which means it's colder than it is warmer. And you will feel that. You will feel that cold air wrap in.

We've had reports of sleet all over the eastern United States today as that cold air has been wrapping in. The wind blowing down and the rain drops on the way down to the ground turning into small, little sleet pellets.

The reason why you are getting more wind right now is because the wind field is coming around to you, blowing that water into the Battery. This is going to be an issue for you. It's right where you are at Battery Park City will begin to flood. At least another couple of feet from where you are now because there are hours, hours, Erin, of the same wind direction blowing water straight into New York City.

BURNETT: And Chad, I mean, it's pretty amazing here. Watching it, literally over the past 20 minutes, we have started to see the water come up a little bit more. It's definitely going to be cresting.

On the south part of this promenade, the water has already come over the edge. And that of course, as we said, again it's a record. As the storm starts to come here into New York City, where as I said, the next couple of hours are going to be among the worst we're going to see.

Atlantic City in New Jersey has been getting the brunt of this for quite a few hours. Ali Velshi is there and I'm going to go to him right now -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Erin, we have stopped. The rain has stopped in Atlantic City. I am standing in the ocean, but I'm no downtown Atlantic City right now.

You can see behind me, probably three quarters to a mile away is the Atlantic Ocean, but I am standing in one foot of water at a major intersection in downtown Atlantic City. It is cold.

What Chad said is completely true. In the last hour, we must have felt a temperature drop 10, maybe 15 degrees. It is a very, very cold wind. This city is under curfew right now, absolute travel ban.

If you have not left, you cannot leave. You cannot get out even if you tried because the passage into it is washed over. Everything in Atlantic City is washed over. Flooding is widespread.

There are power outages all over the city. All the street lights are gone. All the traffic lights are gone. There's auxiliary power down behind me. That's why you can still see the lights of valleys and of Caesars and a number of stores that have auxiliary power.

There's one set of traffic lights about three quarters of a mile. The only vehicles on the street right now are emergency vehicles and the National Guard imposing that curfew, making sure no one is out. It has become very cold. The water has risen dramatically in the last hour.

Flooding now the major, major concern. We know there are people here, here's an emergency vehicle that's going to cross right in front of the camera right now. People are, the police are out here, fire department is out here.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has said if you are not out of your house, stay in your house, get to high ground and you will not be rescued unless there is a dire emergency, until the morning.

Right now, we've got a utility truck just driving by, making sure that everybody's off the street, but that's the only activity in New Jersey, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, right now and along the coast. The water levels are rising quite rapidly here -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Ali Velshi, thanks very much to you. As he said, the water levels are rising there. So many of our viewers I know right now are around the world and we want to give a welcome to all of you.

New York City, obviously, the most populous city in the United States and soon to be at the center of a storm, which is affecting about 60 million people in the United States. I have never seen New York City the way that it is today. Completely shut down.

Schools were shut down. The subways are shutdown. The bridges and the tunnels are shut down. It has never been like this before and as we said, we are anticipating record floods coming here within the next hour, which we're going to be monitoring right behind me.

I want to bring in Ed Rappaport of the National Weather Center. And just ask you first of all, sir, thanks so much for taking the time. Could you tell me how much worse do you think this storm is going to get from here?

ED RAPPAPORT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: For the coastline, this is what, about the time you'll see the worst of the winds. However, the surge continues to rise along the coast. That's the greatest concern from this storm and for most storms and hurricanes.

In this case, the flow is coming ashore. And it's driven a storm surge across the shoreline, which is now on the order of seven feet in the Battery and 12 feet at Kings Point in New York.

Now, in addition to that, these are occurring not at high tides. The high tide for the Battery is in about a couple of hours. You still have about four more hours for Kings Point.

The surge is high actually to the right end to the south here, to the left, seven feet of surge, New Jersey and seven feet of surge as far east as Connecticut.

BURNETT: It's pretty incredible watching the water come up. I'm hearing about record after record. Saying it doesn't matter how strong this storm is, that a lot is about the fact that the pressure is so low, and that it's going to last so long.

Can you tell me how much longer it's going to last? Especially for those out there, I believe a million and a half of them have already lost power.

RAPPAPORT: Right. With the center about to move ashore now, in Southern New Jersey, this area in blue here, means that the coastal areas are just about halfway through their experience with this storm.

That means another 12 to 24 hours along the coast. Inland, the conditions are just now deteriorating and away from shore, the threat is still water. It's not storm surge, but it's rainfall, expecting as much 10 inches of rain in this area here.

BURNETT: And I'm also curious about something. I mean, given the fact that we have more than 10,000 flights that have been delayed and we just have a brief moment of calm here, this is obviously something people around the world are watching, Ed.

We have hurricane season ever year. There are hurricanes often at the end of September, end of August, I'm sorry, and early September, but how often is it that you get a storm this late? How rare is this superstorm?

RAPPAPORT: We get a hurricane about once every two years, actually, in November. What's different about this case though is that the storm, the hurricane is so far north. We usually don't see storms of this strength at any time of the year for hurricanes in northern part of the mid-Atlantic and the north eastern part of the country.

The other thing that's unusual about this is the track and it's this track that's causing us so much of the problem for the storm surge along the coast because the winds are piling the water up and as the center goes inland, those waters will begin to increase the surge even more to the south.

BURNETT: All right, Ed, thank you very much. Really appreciate you taking the time tonight.

I want to get to Jason Carroll. He is out on Long Island in an area that has been mandatorily evacuated. There are people though who did not evacuate. Jason is now seeing some rescues happening there on Long Island.

Let's bring Jason in now. Jason, what are you seeing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, just a few moments ago just as we were live on the air, we saw some of the very last residents in this particular area where we are finally deciding it's time to come out and leave.

The water was just rising too quickly. It was rising too high. They have been out of this area all day long. We saw the water steadily come up. We saw people leaving throughout the day. This is an area under mandatory evacuation.

Even so, some residents decided they were going to wait it out. Well, just as we were live a few moments ago, an elderly woman, her son, her daughter, decided it was time to go, so they were finally able to make it out.

Even before that, we had a point, Erin, where we went out with fire crews from the fire department, went out with them. We saw at least three rescues happening when we went out with them. They told us throughout the day they had rescued almost two dozen people.

Sometimes, from homes, sometime, from cars and it's just a very valuable lesson. When you hear warnings about the storm like this coming, when you see the water starting to rise, don't wait. You know, emergency officials will tell you best thing to do is get out and get out safely.

BURNETT: All right, and Jason Carroll, thanks very much to you. You know, as Mayor Bloomberg of New York, said it so well, when they tell you to get out of an area that is supposed to be evacuated, you should get out. You wouldn't want it to be saving you that cause some first responder to have to risk their life or lose their life.

Coming up next, we're going to be joined by Ray Kelly, the commissioner here in New York. He's going to be talking to us about the city subway system. It's protected by only about 700 pumps. That's coming up after the break.

Plus, this crane, we'll show you a picture. We could see it out of our office us today. It's a crane along the edge of the tallest residential building in Manhattan and it is dangling right now. We're going to tell you exactly what's happening with that. We'll be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to OUTFRONT. I'm Erin Burnett. We are here in the middle of the superstorm and I'm joined by the New York City Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly. Let me just ask you this. Have you seen anything like this before? I mean, how do you rate this?

RAY KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER: This is pretty bad. No question about it. To go back to 1932, we had a northeaster here and certainly had the potential to be bad for a while. This storm is going to linger over the city for a while.

BURNETT: I wanted to ask you about this flooding because, obviously, we're in a mandatory evacuation zone right now. The water is flooding. High tide is coming within the next hour. So it's going to get worse. How concerned are you about flooding especially with the subways?

KELLY: Very much concerned about it. I think that's the major concern with this storm. We know that the residential buildings here and office buildings may very well be flooded, but if you say the subway system as well.

This is salt water. Obviously it can do significant damage to the system. So we're concerned. We believe that -- is going to shut down. Actually, they have shut down, some grids in Lower Manhattan and there may be more. So, I think the major concern here is prolonged blackouts.

BURNETT: Prolonged blackouts. And what about -- you know, people are watching around the world tonight and they are looking and they are saying, you know, New York City is the capital of the world in a lot of ways.

The markets here closed down by choice for the first time since September 11th, 2001. I mean, I think that gives a sense of how seriously people sit this storm. When did you know how bad it would be? KELLY: I'm sorry. What?

BURNETT: When did you know --

KELLY: I think last week, there was a lot of talk about preparation for this storm. Lots of things were inspected, for instance, cranes were inspected. Obviously, so earlier today, something that was unanticipated and a lot of preparation.

I believe this city has done everything they could reasonably have done, but Mother Nature is Mother Nature. You know, we're still going to feel significant effects.

BURNETT: Let me ask you about that crane because I could see it outside today before I came down here. How did that crane end up in that situation? Was there a way to hold it down? And how many people are at risk? It's just dangling there. It seems like it could cause a lot of loss of life.

KELLY: It's really unknown as to how the crane got to where it was. It really tipped over, the boon tipped over, but the whole area has been evacuated and cleared. We know traffic, the street below it.

The steam pipes are being turned off. The gas lines have been you know, made certain they're not having any gas going through them. So in the event it did fall and it lands on the sidewalk, it's not going to cause any explosion or a fire.

BURNETT: And how do you spend the rest of your night as the storm comes through? As we said, the next -- the next two or three hours, what are you going to be doing?

KELLY: Obviously, assess the damage that this water is eventually doing. We're going look at other areas in the city, Brooklyn and the Bronx as well, other areas at risk. So we're going to be assessing that throughout the night.

BURNETT: In terms of loss of life, what do you know right now in Manhattan?

KELLY: We've had no loss of life, so far, obviously, want to keep it that way. We're doing everything we can to make sure that people get out of the affected areas. We've provided transportation ourselves, but now, if people are not out, they should stay in place.

BURNETT: We've also hard reports perhaps of a building collapsing in Chelsea. What can you tell me about that?

KELLY: The building collapse at 15th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. It's a residential and commercial building. The facade fell. There are no injuries or people in the building. The building was evacuated at this time. No reports of injuries.

BURNETT: All right, Ray Kelly, thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time. Thank you again. All right, we're going to take a break. We're going to come back as our continuing coverage of the superstorm continues. OUTFRONT will be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right, welcome back to OUTFRONT. I want to get to David Mattingly. He's in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where he's also feeling the wrath of the storm right now. David, what is happening right there?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, just to give you an idea of how fast this water is rising. Just two hours ago, this intersection was dry. Now, you can see how high up it is now. The house over here behind me was completely dry. Now, the water is up in that house.

We are more than a full block away from the waterfront and yet this is the beginning of the storm surge that is expected to peek just hours from now, but right now, we're watching this water slowly climb, taking in houses and also coming from way back down there in the darkness now, this water had been relentless.

The governor of Connecticut probably put it best. He said if you live near the water on Long Island Sound, you're probably going to be in the water before this storm is done. And that's exactly what we're looking at right here. They're talking about winds of 50 to 60 miles per hour from now until 3:00 in the morning continuing to push this water inland.

Electricity is out everywhere. The number of people just in the last couple of hours of people without electricity has tripled and this storm is really just beginning to make itself known in the state of Connecticut -- Erin.

BURNETT: And how bad do you think it will get there? As you said, just beginning and you've got hours and hours to go. Are you looking at records when you look at people losing power and the storm surge and the damage you might see? I know some of the real estate along the Sound is some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

MATTINGLY: What we're looking at right now and these are the predictions before the storm came ashore. They were predicting up to 11 feet of the storm surge along the coast in some places.

At this moment, no one has revised those figures, but we're still expecting to see the worst of this, maybe four, maybe five hours from now as we start to approach a high tide.

Like I was telling you, just a couple of hours ago, this intersection was dry. That house was on dry land and that's how fast this water is rising.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to David Mattingly as you could see there reporting from Connecticut.

And as David talks about the power that's out there, I want to update you all right now on the numbers we have, 2.2 million people right now are without power across 11 states right now thanks to this storm.

And as David was saying, where we are tonight, as well as getting stronger and we are going to show you the water is just about to lap up here. I'm going to show that just a couple of moments.

Plus, we're going take you to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where some of the real devastation as the storm has passed through there is just starting. That's coming up in just a moment. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back, everyone. I am here right now in New York City and I want to welcome our viewers in the United States who are watching the superstorm as well as our viewers around the world.

New York City has never seen a day like this. Everything was closed. The subways are closed, all public transit was closed. The schools were closed. The streets were empty. The Starbucks were closed.

This is truly a record breaking day in so many ways for New York and one of the records that we're about to see from the storm is going to be happening in the next couple of hours.

And I want to show you right now the water is lapping over my feet. As you can see, it's come right over here. I'm in a mandatory evacuation zone in Battery City in Lower Manhattan.

Now this was all built on a landfill. You're looking at the Hudson River and as you can see there. The water is lapping completely over the promenade here.

We are still and I want to emphasize this, we are still not at high tide, so it's going to get higher than this. In the past hour that I've been standing here, it's come up about a foot and a half.

And we are expecting it to come up to 10 and 12 feet and then there's the wind and right now, actually I have to say the wind has been pretty calm. But the wind here today has been getting stronger and stronger. It's going to continue to get stronger.

And we told a little bit there's been a building that collapsed in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. As the New York police commissioner was just telling us on the show and also, of course, there's that crane, which we have showed you before and we'll put it up again right now. That crane, which is right along the side of the largest residential tower being constructed in New York, actually going to be a building sort of for the world's rich and famous. And that crane had been pointing up, dangling and hanging there.

So those are just a couple of the things we started to see. But in the next couple of hours are going to be the worst here in Manhattan.

And I want to bring Chad Myers in from our severe weather center.

And, Chad, as I just showed everyone, the water, is now coming over in little waves. How much worse or higher do you think that this storm surge is going to get here in Manhattan?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, I don't think we know that answer. We still have about an hour or so before the true high tide stops there and starts to try to roll back out of New York harbor. I don't believe the water is going to get out of New York harbor and the wind, Erin, is going to continue to push in.

I wouldn't be afraid to bet at least another couple feet. High tide's only going to add another foot, maybe half a foot. But there's going to be more water now pushed in because the wind has changed directions. For most of the day, the wind was either from the northeast or from the east, and not really getting into the New York harbor. But now, as the water gets pushed up the coast and into New York City, that water will come up dramatically.

Let me show you what I'm talking about here. Here's the tidal gauge for Battery Park and we are at this point right here. High tide, not quite there yet. So, another half a foot because of high tide, but also, could be another at least a foot and a half because of the water continuing to get pulled back. We are at record levels there and I think we're going to continue to get record levels.

There's one other scary part and that other scary part is up hear near Kings Point. That's not that far from LaGuardia. It's at 12 feet right now. But that's low tide. There's seven more feet on top of that for the high tide, 12 plus seven is 19 feet. Talking great neck if you're above 19 feet or somewhere close to that, you need to be very, very careful tonight because it's going to get up there.

That Long Island sound is definitely filling up and it's filling up because there's just so much wind now pushing the water in the wrong direction. This could be a devastating flood for a lot of people. Even Lyndon Hurst, we saw the pictures there from Jason Carroll, we saw how high that water, it's 's going to go another couple of feet before high tide is finally over.

Tremendous flooding and I think you need to be careful for the next couple -- I don't know, you get 28 minutes because it literally could come up another foot rather quickly.

Erin, can you hear me?

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to Chad. We appreciate it.

Yes, I can hear you. I'm sorry, literally a gust came through right when you are -- right as you re finishing up there, but it is now literally coming over in waves.

So, as Chad was saying, it's going to be rising quickly. I can tell you, we're seeing that right here in Battery Park.

As we continue to watch that, I want to bring in Randy Townsend who's in Surf City, New Jersey, I believe.

Randy, I know you chose to wait out the storm, right?

RANDY TOWNSEND, RESIDENT, SURF CITY, NJ (via telephone): Yes, I did.

BURNETT: And so, tell me what it looks like where you are.

TOWNSEND: It's a lot of wind, seems to have power here on the north end of the island, as far as I can see here in Surf City. Outside of that, nothing else. There's some minor tidal flooding on the center street here, but everywhere else, all of our main roads are completely flooded.

BURNETT: So, tell me why you made the decision to stay. I know, the mayor here in New York has said to a lot of people have felt, look, you were told to get out, you should get out. You wouldn't want a first responder to come rescue you.

So, how did you make the decision to stay?

TOWNSEND: I have a lot of family and friends here, not only homeowner homeowners, but business owners and will probably need the help cleaning up afterwards that stayed as well, that are still here.

BURNETT: All right. Randy, thanks.

Just for a moment there, I want to bring in the police chief Randy Boyd of Seaside Heights. I know Seaside Heights has been one of the hardest hit.

Sir, thanks so much for coming on. Can you just tell me how bad it is? I know the storm is sort of technically pulled through there by now.

THOMAS BOYD, SEASIDE HEIGHTS POLICE CHIEF (voice-over): Well, what we have now -- I'm out in a five-ton Army truck. It's good for 10 feet of water and we've had seven feet go over. My whole north end of my town has been breached, so the water has gone through the board walk and now is joining the bay. So, the whole north side of my town is totally under water.

BURNETT: And do you expect it to get significantly worse?

BOYD: We're waiting, yes, with the high tides, we're working now, I'm driving with my head of OEM Sam Semoreli (ph) and we have two of these Army trucks and that's the only thing that you can actually drive right now at Seaside Heights or you'd be in deep trouble. We just pulled one guy out that tried to get out in his truck and didn't make it.

So we're just trying to stick up whoever we can, if there's anybody that's not quite able to get to the fire house, but just trying to pick up any stranglers that we can find.

BURNETT: Trying to save as many people as you can and can you tell us a little bit the damage that you see in terms of the homes, and obviously for so many of the viewers who aren't familiar with that area -- I mean, you are going to be completely being inundated with water. BOYD: Yes, the whole north side of the town is up to the front doors, midway to the front doors, and six to eight foot of water and we've just had a piece of board walk with a fence and that was located down by the bay. So, approximately a 50-foot piece of board walk with a fence still in tact was floating all the way down to the bay.

BURNETT: All right, Chief Boyd, thank you very much.

Again, I just want to pan down here again. I want to show everyone how quick this is. A moment ago, I was standing by the barrier there on the promenade and now, it's completely flooded all the way here and the water is just kind of lapping over as we said, rise, we don't know.

You heard Chad Myers how much more it will rise here as high tide comes through.

I want to get to -- I want to get to Brian Todd now who's in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

And, Brian, what's happening there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, a very strong burst from the storm here on the board walk of Rehoboth Beach. We can take you up and down the board walk a little bit. The rain has been pounding all day.

But right now, at about high tide, this is the time when they're really concerned here because this is when the boardwalk could get compromised. The surf is getting more and more violent out there. Our photojournalist Chris Turner, you can take you out to the surf there. You can see the waves pounding, they are really getting big, very, very violent surge right here, from the storm surge and high tide, which is hitting just about now.

Some beach erosion has already come on to the boardwalk over here. That is really the area to worry about because they built back this beach earlier this year. They replenished the beach, built it out about 300 feet towards the ocean, but they're worried they're going to lose some of that now.

And if some of the beach does not hold, with some of the businesses, hotels, residences in this section of Rehoboth Beach could be compromised. That's what they're really keeping an eye on. So far, it's held, but they are really worried this beach is going to erode further.

Some other stuff to tell you about -- 38,000 customers in Delaware right now without power. That number is growing, supposed to grow overnight as the storm gets more intense here. And about 25 state roads are impassable.

We were on several of them earlier today. We couldn't get around too much. There's a lot of roads in Delaware, especially along the coast, Erin, that is under water right now. BURNETT: All right, Brian, thanks very much to you. And I want to go to Rob Marciano now who's in Asbury Park -- sorry? Oh, OK, we're trying to get his shot up there, I have a little trouble hearing, too, as I'm trying to talk to our line producer.

All right. We got it back?

OK, Rob, can you hear me? Rob is in Asbury Park.

And, Rob, I know it's really tough there because your shot's been up and down. So tell me about what you're seeing.

And as you can tell, obviously, as the storm comes through, we just lost his signal again. As we try to get that back up, I just want to again show you what's behind me, while we have a little bit of a break in the wind. Just to show you this water. It is now, I'd say -- inches above my boots and it's, you know, this has been coming in quickly.

We've risen just over the past hour as I said, maybe hour and 10 minutes. We've risen about I'm trying to think here and talk to my camera man, I don't know, about a foot. Maybe 14 inches? Just in that amount of time. And as you can see, it's completely breached all the way down.

Again, where I'm standing is on a landfill area, but also in one of the parts in New York City that had been evacuated. There are some people there, no question. You've seen some people out here on the promenade who shouldn't be here and some who appear to be in the buildings.

But as we continue to watch this rise, the question is, whether it will rise another foot or two -- sorry? All right, I think we have Rob Marciano now. Let's try it again, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Let's do it, Erin.

Boy, I tell you what? Whatever reports you've gotten from Asbury Park in the last hour or two, you can just throw them out the window because everything has completely changed. The winds are ferocious right now and unlike most --

BURNETT: And we just lost it again?

All right. And we just lost that shot again, but as he said, everything is just -- all right, we're going take a quick break. But as you heard what Rob said, everything has just changed and it has changed rather dramatically as the front of the storm starts to move through right now.

We're going to take a break. On the other side, we're going to be back with the governor of one of the states that's going to be hardest hit by this storm, the governor Rhode Island is going to be with us after the break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: All right. Welcome back, everyone. I'm standing here, as you literally can see, things really have changed here.

We're in Battery Park in Manhattan and the water is now coming completely over. It has breached. This is the storm surge that you're seeing right now.

It is up about four inches on my ankles right now and we anticipate it's going to go, we're not totally sure, it could be another foot, it could be as much as two feet.

And another thing just to let you know as we watch this storm surge is that behind me, where you see all those lights, that's New Jersey. And as the storm surge has risen we are, we have seen sort of blue lights and sparks on the ground. Perhaps some transformers or things like that that we're seeing. But we had seen several of those on the other side of the river here.

As you can see, it's like waves, as we continue to watch this water rise. It is a record level of water in Battery Park. Last time we had anything close to this was back in 1960 in the Manhattan area when we had about 10 1/2 feet for the total surge. And, again, the surge we're looking at here tonight could be somewhere, right now, it's one foot higher than that and it could go even higher than that.

So we're going to continue to watch this over the next hour, but minute by minute, it's rising very quickly where I'm standing right now. And if just step back about three feet right here on the other side of the barrier, of course, is the actual Hudson River.

Now, the other things we've seen in Manhattan, we told you about earlier when we talked to New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly about that building in the neighborhood of Chelsea, which we reported as collapsed. We have a picture of that now that we can show you.

The facade of the building as he told you was actually what came down. And so, we have pictures (INAUDIBLE) as we continue to see how bad the damage would be. Over the next couple of hours, not just the flooding, although that's the biggest concern here, is going to get worse and worse. It's also going to be the wind, as you heard from me and from all of our reporters across the region affected by the storm right now.

And one of the places affected by the storm, of course, is going to be the state of Rhode Island and I want to bring in Governor Lincoln Chaffey right now.

Governor, thanks so much for taking the time. And I know as the water is coming up where here, it's also coming up where you are. People have talked about this being the storm of a lifetime, storm of the generation. You know, Ray Kelly had said it's the worst storm in modern times.

How would you describe it where you are?

GOV. LINCOLN CHAFEE, RHODE ISLAND (via telephone): It's a massive storm. Fortunately, Rhode Island is on the edge and we're seeing our winds now diminish from our peak of the '80s. Now, the winds are starting to diminish. Let's hope that trend continues. We're still worried about the storm surge and we're lucky we do have a hurricane barrier we build in the '60s after downtown Providence flooded in the '54 hurricane, about 12 feet of water coming through downtown of our capital city.

The hurricane barrier is holding well, and we're still concerned though that when the storm surge hits that hurricane barrier where those floodwaters go. So, we still have great concerns here.

BURNETT: And when you talk about that being built back in the '60s, I think if I heard you right --

CHAFEE: That's right.

BURNETT: It sort of makes me think about a lot of the infrastructure here in Manhattan. I mean, some of the pumps in the New York City subways are much older than that even. It's just a sign of our -- I mean, obviously, you hope it's going to hold and that it's good, but that we are in dire need of infrastructure updates.

CHAFEE: Yes. Well, fortunately, we really invested in the maintenance of our barrier. We just knew we had to do that or else have the threat of losing billions of dollars worth of flood damage in our capital city of Providence. So, we've invested in the maintenance, the pumps are working. The gates are working and Providence is safe, now. We just worry about those downstream communities that are going to be affected by the storm surge.

BURNETT: And one final question for you. I know you talked about the winds probably dying down a little bit from that peek of 80, but what is the peak storm surge that you're anticipating there?

CHAFEE: It could be seven feet, worst case, nine feet. The barrier can hold well beyond that. So downtown Providence is safe. It's the other communities that could be affected, low lying communities. Rhode Island is the ocean state and we have many low-lying areas that could be affected by this storm surge.

BURNETT: All right. Governor Chafee, thanks very much. I appreciate you're taking the time.

I want to bring in Joseph Bruno now with New York OEM.

And let me ask you first, Joseph, what -- as we start to see this hit the worst, when do you anticipate the worst of this storm hitting the New York Metropolitan area?

JOSEPH BRUNO, NEW YORK OEM (via telephone): Well, as far as surge, we expect by around 8:30, which is about 45 minutes to an hour from now. We expect that the high surge will come in and we also see that winds will start dying down at that time as well.

The latest forecast, the latest numbers I've seen from the National Weather Service, show a bigger drop on the other of this whole incident. So when we reach that point and start going into the downside of wind and surge, it's drops pretty much. That's good news, but we are clearly in the middle of a very, very major storm.

BURNETT: And in terms of the some other things we've been talking about. We talked a little bit about that crane that we've shown our viewers that hanging there over midtown Manhattan right in the center, dangling. We talked about the building in Chelsea where the facade had fallen down the building. It was crumbling.

Do you think we're going to hear about more incidents like that?

BRUNO: Those are kind of unique incidents. The crane clearly was either by something related to its structure and mechanics, I don't know. Very early. It seems to be unique issue.

In regards to the facade, don't know if there was work being done. We don't know of shoddy workmanship. And we don't discount that maybe a rain incident. So, oftentimes water will cause that damage. They don't seem to have any real standing water there, so it could be the wind, it could be shoddy workmanship. There's a lot more that has to be done to look at that particular spot.

BURNETT: As we try to explain to everyone just how unprecedented this is for the region, you know, the tri-borough bridge, which is another major bridge in the broader New York area. Of course, we're talking about lots of water in an island where I'm standing now has just closed. When you look at the subways and you look at the bridges and you look at the tunnels, all completely shut down. Has -- when's the last time that you had to do all of those things, that you had a storm or event of this magnitude here in the nation's biggest city?

BRUNO: Well, you know, when we had Irene come through last year, it was -- we were preparing for a category 1 plus storm. We ordered mandatory evacuation. We shut down the subway system. The bridges were -- some of them were shut down when the winds kicked up.

That was a hurricane and that storm came through very quickly and we were able to get through it quickly. This has now turned into a nor'easter. It was a hurricane, went to a tropical storm, now has gone down to a nor'easter, even though it's still huge in size.

These are things that we're seeing. There's a lot more -- lot of what we're seeing is more violent. We are seeing more tornadoes.

It's unusual but it's the second time we ordered mandatory evacuation, probably only two times in the history of the city that's been done since I've been here. (INAUDIBLE) may have an influence on that, I don't know. But overall, I think we got to do the things that are necessary to tell the public that this is a serious matter. We want them to be safe.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Joseph Bruno.

I'll just add to that, you know, I have never seen Manhattan like this, everyone. As I said, I mean, all the neighborhood stores are closed and the Starbucks are closed. Everything really has been shut down partially because public transit was shut but also because of how seriously this city took this storm.

The New York Stock Exchange and this of course is the world's financial capital, the New York Stock Exchange closed by choice for two days. First time that that has happened since September 11th, 2001, when we're talking about that event.

Right now, as we go to break, I will walk back to tell you exactly how deep the water is here. We are now at about, I would say, six to eight inches. I told you about five minutes ago we were at four.

So, it is rising quickly as we get to peak levels with high tide and storm surge. This is a record you are looking at right here for Lower Manhattan.

We're going to take a break. When we come back, Anderson Cooper is on location along the New Jersey shore. And we're going to check with Chad Myers at the severe weather center just to see exactly how much worse it will get.

We'll be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: I just want to give everyone an update of where we are right now in terms of the record books. This is one for the record books. In terms of the storm surge here in Manhattan, Lower Manhattan where I am right now, almost a three-foot record, three feet. We're at 12.75 feet, as you can see, it's above my ankles now and obviously well over the promenade in lower Manhattan.

The previous record set back in 1960 of just over q10 feet. So it's almost certain at this point that we will break that by about three full feet as the water continues to rise here. High tide is breaking now or just in a few minutes. We're going to see in the next 45 minutes exactly what that record will be.

I will bring in Chad Myers from the severe weather center.

Chad, it's kind of neat, we're breaking the record here by almost three full feet right now and I guess it seems certain it's probably going to be that much within the next 45 minutes when we hit the peak of high tide.

MYERS: Yes. You know that 12.75 was four minutes ago and now we're at 12.93 so that's another three inches just literally in four minutes. It's going up, it's the south part of Manhattan right there. There's the little peg. Here's Manhattan Island here.

The threat at this level is -- are the subway entrances secure enough to protect the salt water from going down into the subway? And they're everywhere. They're all over Manhattan. The tunnels are all connected as well.

They tried to protect those openings to stop the water from going in. Once you have salt water in that system, there are pumps, but it could take a very long time to get it out. Erin, it is raining in Massachusetts and Maine. Waves here are 12 to 18 feet offshore and pounding onshore. The water is pouring into New York harbor and also into Long Island sound. We will se the continuation of this surge for many more hours.

It is snowing in West Virginia, Kentucky, parts of Virginia itself, and these very bright spots right through here, Pittsburgh, eastern Ohio, even not that far west of Washington, DS.C., those bright spots are not thunderstorms. That's sleet. It's called bright banding. It's when the sleet falls through the sky, the radar finds it much easier than it finds a raindrop and it looks like a severe thunderstorm -- all kinds of things including that, of course, that 94 mile per hour wind gust that was just recorded on Long Island in Suffolk County -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Chad, thank you very much. As we wrap it up here, I just again, Chad said within four minutes, we had risen already another few inches. And we're now -- I mean, I'm just walking kind of ballparking it, obviously I don't have access to the record books now, but it's up another two or three inches right now as it continues to come through.

We expect high tide to come in the next 45 minutes right here in Lower Manhattan. But as Chad said, this storm is of epic proportions. I think that is what shocked so many in the United States and around the world.

You're looking at up to 20 percent of the United States population affected by this, 60 million people, 1,000 miles. A storm many say that is the biggest storm that's ever been seen in the Atlantic basin. It is incredible and for the record books in so many ways.

We will be here all night tonight as we watch this come to high tide. We'll give you a record of exactly what happens, whether the New York City subways are safe. Thanks for watching.

I'm going to pass it off to Anderson Cooper right now who is in Asbury Park, New Jersey.