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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Super Storm Sandy Causing Flooding and Damage Along East Coast

Aired October 29, 2012 - 21:00   ET

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


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Good evening. Breaking news tonight, superstorm Sandy crashing ashore in southern New Jersey in the last hour. 2.8 million people without power. The water is rising from Atlantic City to lower Manhattan. In Long Island cars are floating down the streets. An extraordinary sight.

You're looking live now at New York City's West 57th Street, just three blocks from our CNN studio, where a crane on top of a luxury skyscraper collapsed this afternoon. It's been dangling precariously over midtown ever since. And superstorm Sandy's high winds mean it could come crashing down at any moment.

The streets have been closed off around it and nearby buildings have been evacuated. Meanwhile, the facade of an apartment building in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood has collapsed tonight.

New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn will be calling in live from the scene in just a few moments.

And CNN's best people all across the storm for us tonight. Ali Velshi is in Atlantic City. Erin Burnett here in New York -- Battery Park where the water is already higher than it may have ever been before. Jason Carroll is in Lindenhurst, Long Island, where the worst of the storm is hitting right now, plus, Chad Myers is tracking the path of this dangerous storm from the CNN Severe Weather Center.

Now I want to go to Erin Burnett, who is in New York's Battery Park, where the water is at record levels.

Erin, I've been watching you all night but there's been a dramatic escalation in the depth of this water even in the last half an hour. Tell me what's going on right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": Well, I can tell you what's going on right now, Piers. We're at about 13.54 feet for the storm surge right here in lower Manhattan and that is a record. The last time that it was anywhere close to this was back in 1960 during the storm named Donna, when the water came up to just over 10 feet, 10.02 feet. So we are clearly at a record and as you can see where I am now, I'm just watching where I step because the water is really murky, it's hard to see, it's dark out.

But, you know, all the way -- we are -- as you can see, where that barrier is, Piers, that is where the Hudson River begins and where we are right now. Where we are in Battery Park was part of the city that was evacuated but I have to tell you, Piers, there are some people who are still down here, but Battery Park is completely now surrounded by water on all sides.

And you just mentioned some of the flooding across Manhattan that we're seeing. With some places further on the eastern side of the island, where you have cars that are literally floating in the street, there is also, of course, been a lot of power out across a wide swath of lower Manhattan. Although I will say here in Battery Park, again, where it was a mandatory evacuation, power is still on.

But just to give you a sense, Piers, I mean -- how I'm walking here, this has never happened before in recorded history for Manhattan. And the water is just literally lapping up here. And this is part of what you're seeing across the city and New York City subways are starting to flood now, too, some of those entrances. And that, Piers, was one of the biggest risks that there could have been.

That subway system, as you know, on a sunny day, if they don't have pumps trying to clear the water out of the system, can flood because the salt water in, it could be -- really elevate this disaster to a whole new level when it comes to New York City's transit system, the biggest of course in the country.

So we're going to continue to monitor this, Piers. We'll be back out here live at 11:00 Eastern as we keep watching this water rise. And I'll tell you, Piers, we're going to hit the peak level for the water here in lower Manhattan. That's still to come in just about 30, 29, 28 minutes from now. Back to you.

MORGAN: Yes, really quite extraordinary. Never seen anything like this in New York.

We are hearing, Erin, just quickly before you go, that there may have been fires in subways. Have you heard about that?

BURNETT: I haven't heard -- I have seen those same reports but I'm not able to confirm, you know, directly whether that has happened. But I've heard that and I can tell you, Piers, that where we are, if you look behind me, obviously you see trees with the lights behind that across the Hudson River. That's New Jersey. And we had seen lights going there as if there were some transformer explosions lower on the ground earlier tonight.

So as you continue to see all this water flow in, and hit all these electricity sources, I mean this is -- this is obviously going to be a very real risk, especially when you look at the subway, where you have that third rail with all that high voltage that rolls there. Once that water gets to that point it becomes incredibly difficult for them to deal with.

MORGAN: Yes, Erin, we'll come back to you a little bit later. Thanks very much for now.

Christine Quinn is New York City Council speaker. She's on the scene of that building collapse in the Chelsea neighborhood. She joins me on the phone now.

Christine, we saw the images of this building. It appeared to be in almost total collapse of the facade, if not the whole building itself. What can you tell me?

CHRISTINE QUINN, SPEAKER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: Yes. Basically it appears as though the front of the building just fell off. It looks like you're looking at the back of a dollhouse, actually, when you're looking in the front of it. Some of the folks in the building called 911 because debris was coming off the front. The NYPD came immediately and evacuated this building, did a terrific job.

Fire department then came while they were trying to secure the building. The front of it fell off on to Eighth Avenue. No one, first responder or people in the building, were injured, thank goodness.

It appears as though the building which looks like a residential building if you were on Eighth Avenue, may have been an illegal tourist hotel. Some 15 people in the building were Austrian tourists so we're going to need to follow up, see if there were perhaps some illegal (INAUDIBLE) of issues that may have contributed to what the storm, you know, did in that there may have been a structurally unsound situation that the storm was able to prey on.

MORGAN: And Christine --

QUINN: But thanks that we're all OK.

MORGAN: If I can jump in, do you know the latest on this crane which we actually -- we heard a huge thunder bolt go off mid-afternoon.

QUINN: Did you?

MORGAN: This crane on 57th Street. I heard it right, I was in the CNN offices. We all ran to the window. We saw that the crane had basically buckled and it's been dangling ever since then in what seems to be an ever more precarious way. In the last half hour or so, swaying dramatically from side to side, which must be loosening the way that it's being held there.

Do you have an update for us on what the plan is for this?

QUINN: I think they are -- the most recent update I have heard, and that can certainly change, is that although they were going to try to walk up the stairs of the building, that they were not particularly confident that given the high winds that they would be able to necessarily secure it in any way.

The challenge is finding a way to secure it that doesn't risk the life of the people who are trying to do the securing. So most recent update as I have, they were trying to discern by walking up as high as they could whether there was anything they could do.

The police and fire have evacuated a large ring around where the crane is, cleared all of the residences out, the few residential buildings and also a couple of hotels that were there, and moved everybody out.

MORGAN: And finally, we are getting conflicting reports of potential fatalities this evening. One was confirmed, we believe, early of a man who died apparently hit by a tree.

QUINN: Yes.

MORGAN: But there are reports of up to five more fatalities but they are unconfirmed as far as I'm aware. Are you able to confirm how many people may have lost their lives in New York tonight?

QUINN: The only confirmed fatality I have is the 30-year-old man who was hit by a tree. I have not -- I cannot confirm any of the others.

MORGAN: Christine, for now, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

QUINN: Sure. Take care.

MORGAN: The crane has been hanging from that midtown Manhattan for hours now. It's been battered by the high winds of superstorm Sandy.

Joining me now on the phone is a crane expert, Tom Barth.

Mr. Barth, thank you for joining me. You've been 40 years as an operator on cranes. I suppose the most obvious question many New Yorkers would be asking, as this crane dangles so dangerously, is why wasn't it better attached? How has this been able to happen given we had nearly a week of warning that this huge storm was coming?

THOMAS BARTH, CRANE EXPERT: Well, looking at the pictures and everything else, what I believe happened is that the crane operator and the supervision on the job did not follow the manufacturer's recommendation. When the crane operator gets out of the crane, they let it weather vane. They knew this storm was coming. They should have lowered the boom down at a low angle. That way when the wind comes in, it can blow the crane around, back and forth.

That way if the wind would have been on the back of the boom, forcing it down under what -- the boom up (INAUDIBLE). But that didn't happen. That's why it went over backwards. The strong gust of wind came back and just threw it over backwards.

MORGAN: The building is called 157, it's a pretty iconic building in New York. When it's finished it will be 90 stories high and it will be the highest residential skyscraper in the city. So clearly, a lot of interest around here. But that area is densely populated and it seems to me, I'm not an expert, you are, that there must be a very high danger of this buckled crane actually being blown off now, off its wrench there and possibly landing or being blown several blocks into any of the buildings around there. Could that happen?

BARTH: Absolutely it could happen. There are several different scenarios. You see that boom hanging down, let's say the house swings around and the boom gets into the arms that are holding the crane up that come out of the building, if it hits that, there's a possibility they could be -- they can break, then the crane's coming down.

MORGAN: Even as I'm talking to you, we're seeing live pictures of the crane swaying quite dramatically. Would that indicate to you that it is near to coming off and if so, what can anybody do about this? Is there anything to stop it now? You can't get up there presumably.

BARTH: The thing to do is get everybody out of the way. If the crane should fall, make sure nobody's in the area. You know, it's up there about 1,000 feet, right? You don't know how it's going to fall. So I would get everybody away 1,000 feet.

MORGAN: Yes. I think that's very good advice, Mr. Barth. Thank you.

BARTH: And -- yes.

MORGAN: I'm going to have to interrupt you, sir. Thank you very much for joining me. I appreciate it.

BARTH: OK. Bye-bye.

MORGAN: I'm going to go now to Jason Carroll. He's on Long Island where the worst of Sandy is battering down the town of Lindenhurst right now.

Jason, we can see the pictures of you there live. Clearly a big, big storm has hit there and a lot of water. What are you experiencing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Piers, the story here is without question, flooding. If you take a look right behind me here, this is Montauk Highway. And just about an hour ago, to give you some perspective, we could drive through here. And it was dry, at least in this one particular spot. But it has breached here, it has breached in several other sections and that's the story we're seeing here.

In this particular area of Lindenhurst, you'll see a lot of canals that are checkered throughout the area. Right down this street here, this is a street, though it doesn't look like it, it's hard to see, it is not a canal. It is completely flooded and there have been several streets like this. We've been here throughout the day, Piers.

MORGAN: Incredible pictures.

CARROLL: And just to give you just a little bit more perspective, you know, down the street is where we could have stood just a few hours ago, and again, the water just keeps continuing to rise, keeps continuing to grow here. Even earlier when I was speaking to some of the last residents who were holding out to the very last possible moment because Lindenhurst is under a mandatory evacuation, they decided they were going to hang on but the water just decided to rise too much for them to stay -- Piers.

MORGAN: Jason, keep doing a great job for us. And we'll come back to you later on. Thank you very much for now.

And now I want to bring in Ali Velshi. He's been out in the middle of the storm in Atlantic City all day.

Ali, I've been following your quite extraordinarily heroic performance reporting for us from this ever deepening sea of water that you have been standing in all afternoon. First of all, thank you for what you've been doing. You've been bringing in the most vivid and dramatic reporting to us. Everyone who is thinking of going out, I hope has watched you and not gone out which is the very service that you have been performing for the wider public.

What is it like there now? It looks absolutely horrendous.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's gotten worse over the last little while. You can see this -- this is the ocean, this is downtown Atlantic City and the ocean has washed over us. In fact, not only is this the ocean that we had earlier today, Piers, but it's full of vegetation, full of seaweed and debris from the ocean which means it's overtopped the barriers which are about three- quarters of a mile behind me.

You can see the lights of the strip of Atlantic City behind me. It's become much colder, does feel like we've got the back end of the storm now. I see what Jason is getting. We got that much earlier and for the last two hours, it's been calm. I was able to see the moon. The sky was completely clear. We were in the center of the storm.

Chad can tell you better than I can, this is the back end of the storm. The rain has now picked up. The wind has now picked up. You saw me standing here earlier today, Piers. I was standing on dry ground. There was some water around me, then the water started to come up. Now it's up to thigh level and we are still half an hour away probably, well, yes, about half an hour away from high tide.

There's the sense of it. You see a truck driving through so you can see how high that water is. The only truck driving through here are police, fire and these guys who are the boardwalk patrol, because of the fact that it's a curfew. There's a 6:00 p.m. onward curfew. This is pretty serious at this point. It's still going to get higher and, Piers, here's the thing.

Sixty miles due west here to Philadelphia. They are going to get the rain, they are going to start to get this flooding that's a flood- prone area so people in Philadelphia are now getting very, very concerned about what effect the floods are going to have there. But in this area, if you're not out, you're at home because it is under curfew and travel ban and you can't get out of most of these areas on the shore anyway at this point -- Piers.

MORGAN: And Ali, very quickly, Chris Christie has been pretty scathing about the mayor of Atlantic City, saying that he --

VELSHI: Yes.

MORGAN: -- basically went against his instructions. What can you tell me about that and how much of a problem will that be for the mayor, if indeed people do get trapped and potentially lose their lives?

VELSHI: Well, we were talking to the mayor of Atlantic City on air earlier, and I had asked him, I said look, 3:00, 4:00 in the afternoon, what do you do if you haven't left, because the roads have started to become overtopped and he said at that point, if you're not out, stay where you are, get to high ground.

Chris Christie then took exception to some of his comments and I'm not sure the situation on the ground makes the mayor wrong. I agree there should have been a great emphasis on getting people out of town. And most did. About 400 or 500 remain in shelters in Atlantic City but the mayor's concern is that some people didn't go to shelters, they are just at home and they -- there's no services to help them.

So unclear as to what -- at what point the mayor should have said don't leave, but the point at which he said it did seem to annoy Governor Christie. That's for those guys to work out. I'm not sure who was right in that one.

MORGAN: Well, certainly unprecedented scene so I can imagine a lot of chaos going on all over the region this evening.

VELSHI: Yes.

MORGAN: Ali, for now we'll definitely be back to you. Thank you very much indeed for your continued excellent reporting from that remarkable picture there that you have been standing there with the water just coming up and up and up.

We're going to go now to Chad Myers very briefly before the break. He's been tracking the path of this deadly storm in CNN's Severe Weather Center.

Chad, you have dealt with severe weather for over 20 years. Have you ever seen anything quite like this?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No. Not at all. Not even close. And that's what we were talking on Tuesday and Wednesday about this. This continues to go up. The water levels continue to go up. The surge continues to go up. Water is getting into New York City subways. That has never happened before. We'll update it for you right after this break.

MORGAN: Thanks, Chad. We're back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Breaking news looking at live pictures from Battery Park. Quite extraordinary pictures, too, where the surge of water there from superstorm Sandy is now reaching record levels and going even higher. Already way ahead of any projections.

We're going to go back to Chad Myers now, who's tracking the path of this deadly storm in CNN's Severe Weather Center.

Chad, we left it with you saying you've never seen scenes quite like it. New York has never seen scenes like it. We're now hearing reports of cars literally floating down lower Manhattan.

MYERS: That's right.

MORGAN: Possible fires breaking out now in the subway. And so on. These extraordinary pictures from Battery Park, where we saw Erin earlier. These really are unprecedented scenes.

MYERS: Absolutely. The water level now at Battery Park, 3 1/2 feet higher than ever before. Higher than any other hurricane ever. And from Ken Ortiz -- Kevin Ortiz from the MTA, he knows that that water is rolling down into the subway stations of lower Manhattan from chambers down to South Ferry, Clark Street on the two and three lines, Rutgers Street on the F line and in the vicinity of Rutgers Street. Water is now going down the steps, going through the grates and into the subway system, and that is salt water.

It is raining up in Maine and the waves coming onshore are 12 to 14 feet. It is storming through Massachusetts. Winds are still almost 80 miles per hour. Hundreds of miles from the center, which is right there, and eventually that will move over very close to Wilmington, Philadelphia, and into Harrisburg.

Trees are falling like mad in some of these areas. Those already rained about six inches and the winds are now blowing 70 miles per hour. It's snowing in West Virginia. It's sleeting in Pittsburgh. And it's raining and blowing about 60 miles per hour up here in Ontario. There's no one that is -- that is not 300 years old that has ever seen anything like this, Piers. This is just unbelievable.

MORGAN: Absolutely terrifying. We can now confirm there have been five fatalities tonight in New York City. The death toll is rising and it's hardly surprising when you see these scenes.

MYERS: Yes.

MORGAN: Got to say, the emergency services, despite this, doing an incredible job out there. I mean I was in the Time Warner Center from about 3:00 this afternoon and you could feel the building beginning to shake, rattle and roll. This has been a scary time for everyone here.

Going to go now to Newark Mayor Cory Booker on the phone.

Mr. Mayor, obviously very, very serious scenes. What is it like where you are?

MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK: You know, we're experiencing an epic, unprecedented and unpredictable storm in Newark right now. We're are seeing massive power outages all over the city. We've got flooding in low-lying areas. We've got some fires in our community due to downed power lines that are under control. So we're dealing with a lot of challenges right now. Communication issues as well.

But we've got emergency crews fanned out all over the city. Our residents on the whole are remaining safe, calm and staying put where they are. Our shelters are -- have a good number of people in them. And we're battling through this.

MORGAN: What is the advice of people who maybe are seeing the scenes on CNN, they're in the area, they don't know what to do. Is it simply just stay at home, batten down the hatches and wait?

BOOKER: That's exactly right. This is not a time for panic. It really is time for calm resolve. We're all in this together. If you are in a safe, dry place, stay there. And also use 911 in case of a serious emergency. 911 operators from New Jersey to New York are being overburdened right now by calls that frankly aren't emergency. The best thing we can do is just stay calm and work through this.

The reality is I still, unfortunately right now, I'm patrolling the streets myself, I see a lot of debris, a lot of downed power lines. But amazingly, I still see some people out and about. Everyone should be inside, staying safe and working through this crisis.

MORGAN: Very good advice. And I know you've been tweeting voraciously tonight offering people advice and help and so on. I applaud as always, Mr. Mayor. You do a terrific job there. Best of luck. Our prayers are with you and all the people down there in Newark.

BOOKER: Thank you very much. Our prayers for everybody in the region experiencing difficulty. And thanks for bringing attention to the challenges.

MORGAN: We will speak soon, I'm sure.

Joining me now is Sebastian Junger, he's the author of "The Perfect Storm." It was made into a movie starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. That 1991 storm killed 13 people and caused more than $200 million worth of damage. Tonight it looks like Sandy will be far more dangerous, far more deadly perhaps, far more costly.

Sebastian, welcome. It's nearly 21 years almost to the day since "The Perfect Storm" that you wrote about. What do you make of what we're seeing here?

SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR, "THE PERFECT STORM": Well, it's incredible. The storm that I wrote about, the hurricane that was involved actually kept going offshore and New England was hit by a low pressure system. This is a massive, massive hurricane hitting the coast directly and the southeast wind direction that's going to hit New York is obviously the very worst direction right at high tide. I mean it would be hard to construct a sort of worse series of scenarios for New York City right now, I think.

MORGAN: I think it's scary. I mean, my staff, we're used to a few storms in New York, we can get crazy weather here. Nothing like this. The Time Warner building is one of the most sophisticated buildings in the city but it's dangerous. We're looking at pictures here of -- live pictures of Cape Cod, really quite extraordinary pictures there, and all the beach areas, Sebastian, I would imagine, we're going to be seeing similar images like this.

Anyone with a beach home I'd imagine anywhere near this region has got to be very worried tonight.

JUNGER: I actually have a home on Cape Cod, not by the water, but that's really upsetting to see. And that reminds me of the storm that I wrote about in '91. Thirty-foot seas rolling into New England completely destroying houses. It was something that no one in that area, people who had fished for decades, had ever seen before.

MORGAN: There are cars floating down lower Manhattan. The subways, apparently some of them have caught fire. You are seeing these huge surges of water in Battery Park. These are -- I mean, you don't say apocalyptic, it sounds ridiculous. But they are bordering on apocalyptic scenes in terms of weather in New York.

JUNGER: Well, water causes the most damage in a hurricane and obviously salt water has a terrible effect on machinery. And I think when you get these series of coincidences -- these series of factors coinciding, very high tide, full moon, southeast wind, a huge storm that's 1,000 miles wide, the kinetic energy is enormous. It's almost at the very top of the 1 to 6 scale, you have destruction like you have never seen before.

MORGAN: I mean when you hear Chad Myers, who's been a meteorologist in the Severe Weather Center for a long, long time, saying it's the worst he's seen, I've seen other meteorologists saying the same thing, I've seen very experienced CNN reporters say they've never seen anything like it, particularly the power in the water.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, the governors of some of the states in superstorm Sandy's deadly path, what they're doing to keep their people safe tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Welcome back to breaking news of this extraordinary night with Super Storm Sandy raging across the east coast. Tom Corbett is the governor of Pennsylvania, another state that's right in the path of the storm. He joins me now live.

Welcome to you, governor. A very dramatic, very disturbing and worrying evening. How are you fairing over there?

GOV. TOM CORBETT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, we're faring pretty well. Obviously the rain is coming through, high winds are coming through. We've lost over 100,000 homes, their electricity. Actually about 120,000 are without power.

We've closed down our interstates around the city of Philadelphia to all traffic except emergency vehicles until 2:00 a.m. Bridges going from Philadelphia over to New Jersey have also been closed because of the high winds.

We had 27 counties who have opened up their emergency operations center. We have deployed the Pennsylvania National Guard. About 1,600 troops are already deployed. And we do have available for evacuation centers, 58 on standby with capacity for 31,000 people if we need it.

MORGAN: From everything you're seeing and reading and hearing tonight, do you think that generally the authorities have prepared well enough for this?

CORBETT: From what I can see, I believe so. I'm not down in the southeast part of the state, but I am here in Harrisburg, in the central part. Drove around a little bit tonight. Everybody seems to be off the highway. They seem to have taken this one very, very seriously, as we have been trying to make sure they understand that.

We -- they know that they have to worry about the falling trees and the power lines. Obviously we're losing power in different areas. It's going to take awhile to get those back up. We hope they have patience. But I think the people of Pennsylvania have paid attention to the warnings, staying inside.

As you know, we closed the offices here in Pennsylvania for the governor's office and for state government, the same thing again tomorrow, so the people will be able to stay home and take care of their homes and stay out of the way of emergency traffic that might be out on the road tonight and tomorrow.

MORGAN: Governor, continue your good work. I hope you get it all sorted there. It's going to be one hell of a mess, that's for sure. I appreciate you joining the show tonight.

CORBETT: Thank you very much. We appreciate your wishes.

MORGAN: Joining me now on the phone is another governor, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, where more than a foot of rain is expected. Governor, thank you for joining me.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: How bad are things there?

MCDONNELL: We're going into day three plus for some of our people down in southeast Virginia. Virginia Beach started raining Friday night. They've had some pretty significant flooding in and around Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The eastern shore has been hit pretty hard. We've got a lot of additional folks called up, a lot of state police, about 700 members of the National Guard.

The problems right now are primarily Northern Virginia, where they're having 40 mile an hour winds, gusts to 60, plus another three or four inches of rain expected. And in the western part of the state, right now we've got blizzard conditions in the mountains, with up to a foot or more of snow expected and wind gusts of 40 to 50 miles an hour. So it's a vast array of weather that's affected the entire state.

MORGAN: Absolutely extraordinary conglomeration of weather conditions. I wish you all the very best with it, governor. I'm sure we will talk again. Thank you.

MCDONNELL: Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: I'm back now with Sebastian Junger, who is author of "The Perfect Storm," also made into a movie staring George Clooney. The '91 storm, of course, killed 13 people, cost more than 200 million dollars worth in damage. Looks like Sandy will far eclipse that, I would imagine, Sebastian. It seems to me -- I mean, I'm looking at the way they prepared for this. Obviously when you have seen problems before with Katrina and Irene and so on, you look to se how individual governors and states and indeed, the federal level, have coped with this. From what you're seeing, from what you're hearing and picking up, are you impressed with the preparation? Are you concerned still?

JUNGER: I mean, this is the first disaster I've gone through in New York City. And I mean, just as a resident of the city, it seems pretty well run. I think there's always going to be things that happen. And you just can't keep the ocean out of your city if the ocean's determined to get in.

MORGAN: I think Mayor Bloomberg has been spot-on, actually. He's done a series of press conferences. He seems to be completely on top of the brief. He's prepared everybody. There's always going to be -- I can't believe this, still idiots who were out there today jogging next to the water. Why would you be so stupid?

Listen to what the mayors, the governors, president, everyone is telling you; get inside and be safe.

JUNGER: I think curiosity is an incredibly powerful force. And we can watch the news on TV, but sometimes it's right down the street. And it's very hard not to go see it. The crane that you have dangling outside the building, when I was watching it on CNN all afternoon, I just saw it coming in now, I couldn't believe it. I was looking at it in person. I think it's a very powerful motivator for people.

MORGAN: We are looking at live pictures of this crane. It's on West 57th street there. I have been watching it sort of hypnotized from my office. Literally, I could see through the window up at the crane. We heard this huge bang this afternoon and thought it was a thunder storm or something, but actually it was this crane buckling. And you can se when it's swinging like that, there's no way to me that that can survive much longer swinging that hard in this kind of wind.

Would you think? We spoke to a crane expert earlier. He thinks almost inevitable it will come off.

JUNGER: Well, I'll defer to him. But it does not look good. It looks like that top section is starting to bend a little bit, which could be absolutely catastrophic.

MORGAN: I know they have evacuated the Park Meridian Hotel and other -- the higher parts of other buildings in that area. But it's incredibly densely populated. And the problem is with the strengths of the winds that you have now over that part of Manhattan, should it come off, it could fly anywhere. I heard someone say it could fly three or four blocks, despite its weight.

JUNGER: That's terrifying to imagine.

MORGAN: New Yorkers are resilient people. They have been through an awful lot. They have been through a lot worse than this, 9/11 and so on. But in terms of how the city will deal with what is unprecedented here, the levels of water, this may cause chaos in New York for several weeks, possibly months.

JUNGER: I think what might be very hard -- and this did not happen on 9/11 -- is that transportation will -- the subway system will shut down. I think then people can't get into work. A lot of people live in the outer boroughs and they work in Manhattan. They keep it running.

They work in restaurants. They work in shops. They sweep the streets. They won't be able to get in. I really wonder what will happen when you can't move those people in to help run the city.

MORGAN: I mean, to put it in context, for those who are not in New York, everything is shut down, restaurants, Starbucks, everything. The subways aren't running. Cars aren't moving. Nothing.

We are going to take another break now. We'll come back and talk to Ali Velshi in Atlantic City, where the situation is deteriorating literally by the minute there. We'll be back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Looking at a quite extraordinary picture. This is Path Subway station. Look at that, the water gushing in from the Hurricane Sandy tonight. One of many subway stations now feeling the full brunt of that storm. Reports of some subways suffering fires and extensive flooding, as you can see this.

I want to go to New York's Battery Park, where the water is rising higher and higher. It broke through record levels at least two hours ago. Erin Burnett is there for us standing in the middle of it all. Erin, it's gone up even further, I can see, from when I last spoke to you. Bring me up to speed with where things are there.

BURNETT: Yes, it has. It has, Piers. And I'll just walk back into it. We're at about just shy -- we may have touched 14 feet, but 13.88 feet was the last I saw for the total height here of the storm surge. As I told you before, that is a record. The prior record, just over ten feet, set back in 1960 during Hurricane Donna.

Literally where I'm standing right now, Piers, is actually an island. Battery Park is at the lower part of Manhattan. It was mandatorally evacuated And it was built on a landfill. All of the buildings here, literally sand that was put in here.

It's now surrounded by water. So you've got the Hudson River right here behind me, and then now the highway on the other side of where all these buildings are is also completely flooded, up to eight or nine feet. It's above the doors on a lot of the stores that we can see there.

Now I wanted to just pan around a little bit, as you can see, because it's dark. And this darkness that you're looking at, as Walter pans over here to the Manhattan side of the river, power is out. That's a pretty incredible thing. Power's out in Lower Manhattan.

The street lights down here in Battery Park City, which is an island, are actually still on, although some of them have been flickering. But as you look at the completely dark part of Lower Manhattan, you will see there's just some lights that are on. And I don't know if that's where you're looking at right now. But those lights that are on just barely in the building, you're looking at the backup systems --

MORGAN: There's a few lights on there. I've got to go to Chad Myers. But stay with us, because he's got some breaking news that he wanted to tell me, which I think will interest you. So let's go to Chad. Chad, tell me about the Stock Exchange.

MYERS: According to the National Weather Service, through broadcast media, there is three feet of water on the trading floor on Wall Street.

MORGAN: Wow.

MYERS: Three feet of water on the New York Stock Exchange. And Erin has spent a lot of time on that floor.

MORGAN: Let's go back to Erin straight away. Erin, you heard that. Three feet of water on the Stock Exchange floor. What is that going to do to the ability of the floor to open again? It's been shut for the last two days, but surely they can't open tomorrow, probably not the next day, maybe for the rest of the week. What does that do to the financial system?

BURNETT: I mean, it's pretty incredible, Piers. I spent years every day on that floor. First of all, it's a wooden floor. It's an historic building. So just the damage that it's going to do is going to be incredible. But when you -- I don't know if you have pictures of that stock exchange, but basically there's a floor and then there's little hubs all over the place. Those hubs are basically just electronic systems. That's all they are.

They are these giant tubes by which all the trading -- let's just -- essentially this is still the world's financial hub -- that the trading goes through. There aren't that many people on the floor of the Stock Exchange anymore because it's all electronic. It's electronics that are going to be threatened by the floods.

By the Stock Exchange today, there were all kinds of sandbags piled up to just prevent this very thing from happening. But Piers, that is an incredible thing. It hasn't happened before. It means it is going to be closed for a long time. The last time the New York Stock Exchange was closed just by its own -- by making the choice was back on September 11th of 2001.

The last day it was closed for two days because of a natural storm is back in 1888. You're talking about, I mean, a record making moment and something I think the people around the world have got to be shocked when they hear about tonight.

MORGAN: Absolutely amazing. Erin, stay with us. We'll be back to you soon. Chad, we're hearing that, in fact, the stock exchange hasn't closed for weather reasons since the early part of the 19th Century. Quite extraordinary. So these are really unprecedented scenes for New York in all sorts of areas.

You are going to see the subway system potentially down for a very long time. The Stock Exchange closed for a very long time. Then in the middle of all this, the one word we haven't mentioned is that the general election next week, I don't know how this is all going to wash up, quite literally. But you can see that already, the ability of the two candidates to even campaign I think is going to be very, very difficult.

What do you make of it?

MYERS: Well, obviously we knew this was possible. We knew the potential was there. You had to kind of back off on the forecast a little when it was only a Category One and not really try to put the fear of everyone into this whole system. And we knew -- we told everybody you can't consider this a Cat One; you have to consider it a Cat Three because it's combining, just like Sebastian Junger wrote about in "The Perfect Storm" -- it's combing with that cold air mass behind it. And this one, unlike "The Perfect Storm" from 1991, comes on shore.

MORGAN: Chad, if I can interrupt you. Apologies. We'll get back to you in a moment. Want to go live to Ali Velshi in Atlantic City, where the situation is getting dramatically worse. Ali, what can you tell me?

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, take a look at this. You'll see it every few moments behind me, just these massive -- look at these waves coming through behind me. This is downtown Atlantic City. These -- the ocean, there's no other way to put it. There's debris washing up against my leg. I can feel it.

It's -- I'm much further in toward the camera than I was earlier, where there's less water. You can see emergency vehicles. Those are National Guard vehicles now crossing between us and the camera. That's the National Guard going out in Atlantic City. The -- a lot more wind. It's just picked up.

This is definitely now the back end of the storm. I haven't felt it like this for a few hours, Piers. It's getting substantially worse. It's getting higher. It's getting windier. I don't know what the -- what Chad would tell us about this. It's actually warmed up a little bit, Chad. It's getting warmer.

MORGAN: Ali, I will get to Chad in a moment, probably after the break. Very quickly, your reaction to news that the Stock Exchange is under three feet of water now. Have you ever known anything like that? What do you think that will do to the financial markets?

VELSHI: Well, it's very interesting, not only is this hurricane -- Super Storm Sandy stealing Halloween from some people, the end of the month is very important worldwide for traders, for fund managers, for hedge fund managers, because everyone is judged monthly on their performance. It's one thing to stay at home, not go to work and not trade stocks. A lot of earnings reports have been canceled. So this will have an influence worldwide on people's wealth, because there are stocks that just won't get traded and business that just won't get done in the course of the next few days. We have had -- this is earnings season. That's a report card for the companies you either work for or invest in. And it's quite serious. The impact will actually be felt -- all of this combined will actually have an impact on the fourth quarter gross domestic product, Piers.

MORGAN: Could it also impact the final jobs numbers before the election? And if so, what impact can this all have on the election?

VELSHI: Well, generally speaking, the measurement for the job numbers is taken in a week and it's earlier. What they would be doing this week is tabulating. And of course, federal nonessential workers in Washington have been asked to stay home from work. So there may be a delay in tabulation. We have spoken to the Labor Department a few times today. They have said that they are still aiming to get that jobs report out at 8:30 a.m. on Friday.

There is some slim chance that it may not happen. That again would be unprecedented. And of course, this jobs number is particularly important for this election. So we're keeping a very close eye on that. They know how influential it is, so they are trying very hard to get it out. But if they can't do the numbers, they're not going to let them out prematurely.

MORGAN: Ali, you have certainly given me business updates in your time, but never when you have been up to your neck in water in the middle of an Atlantic City street. I applaud your stoicism there. You are doing an incredible job telling people and showing people just how dramatic this is and why they've got to stay inside.

That's why you're there. Thank you for your hard work tonight.

And we'll be back after the break.

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MORGAN: Back with breaking news. Extraordinary pictures of a Con-Ed plant explosion. This happened on the lower east of Manhattan in New York, on the 14th and FDR cross street there. You can see a dramatic picture of a transformer exploding at that Con-Ed plant. There are reports of other fires breaking out in subways. These are unconfirmed reports.

We've seen dramatic pictures from Path Subway Station of water gushing in at high speed. All over New York now you're seeing really unprecedented scenes. You're seeing Battery Park under 12, 13 feet now of water in a surge. You've got a crane that has buckled, now dangling over 57th Street.

We're now going to go to Suzanne Walters. She is the mayor of Stone Harbor. Miss mayor, thank you for joining me.

MAYOR SUZANNE WALTERS, STONE HARBOR, NEW JERSEY: Thank you, Piers, for having me on. MORGAN: All a bit chaotic tonight, as you can imagine, but tell me how things are where you are.

WALTERS: Yes, a lot going on. As the reporter said just a few minutes ago, we're starting to pick up the north end of the storm. We are in New Jersey. We're at the very southern tip of New Jersey. We're a barrier island. And we actually fared well through most of this. We had a great deal of flooding and we had a ton of beach erosion.

But as far as our properties are concerned, we did well. Now, you can tell right now that the winds are picking up, the rain is picking up. Between now and about 2:00 a.m., we'll have some moments that will be on the edge of our chairs. As a matter of fact, I came over to my office, which is across the street from the fire company, to be a little more quiet, while I was talking to you. And since then, the fire alarm has gone off. And a truck has gone out.

So I don't know what that is. I don't know if it's just somebody's alarm that has gone off or if it actually is a fire. But these are the things we have to put up with during these storms.

MORGAN: I really appreciate you joining me. And good luck tonight. Our prayers with you and everyone down there. It looks very, very dramatic, the pictures we're seeing. I wish you all the very best with trying to deal with it.

WALTERS: Thank you. We've had severe flooding in the 9:00 tide, with -- the pictures that you're looking at were the 8:00 tide this morning. The 9:00 tide tonight was a lot higher. But we will be able to deal with it. Thankfully, to this point, we've not had a loss of life or house. We still have our power on. So we are thankful for everything that we have.

MORGAN: Well, good luck with it all. Our thoughts are with all of you. Thank you very much.

WALTERS: Thank you so much.

MORGAN: Go back to Chad Myers now in the Severe Weather Center. Chad, you have an update on the Stock Exchange situation, which is a fluid movable source, I understand.

MYERS: Certainly. The sandbags were there, things were in place. We also know that there are many subway stations right there as well. They tried to seal those subway stations. As you walk around Manhattan, you can see the grates. It's like just a big sieve. And the water is still pouring into Manhattan; 13.88 was the peak so far at Battery Park.

There it goes here, pushes it off and then pushes it back on. All this water is pouring into Manhattan. And still, the water is coming in, also, to the Long Island Sound as well.

MORGAN: Chad, do we still think that three feet of water got into the exchange? There seems to be conflicting reports now. WALTERS: Oh, is that right? I got that from the National Weather Service chat bulletin board. It was right on there, said three feet of water on the floor. I don't know if there's conflicting reports or not.

MORGAN: Yes, it's a lot of chaos out there, a lot of reports flying around.

WALTERS: Power's out. Lights are out. Phones are probably not working. I don't know. I will clear it up, though. I will figure it out, whether that happened or not.

MORGAN: Yes, we'll get to the bottom of it, Chad, after the break. Thanks very much.

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