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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

In the Aftermath of Sandy; What Remains After the Queens Fire; People Still Trapped by Floodwaters; Blizzard in West Virginia; Crane Continues to Dangle Over Manhattan; The Effect of Sandy on the Elections

Aired October 30, 2012 - 23:00   ET

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


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ANDERSOON COOPER, CNN HOST: Earlier this afternoon, President Obama said that in the darkness of the storm, we saw the brightness of the American people. Those are good words to ends our coverage on tonight. We'll, of course, be on the streets tomorrow, for all day long covering the aftermath of this storm as we will for the next several days.

That does it for this edition of 360 tonight. Thank you very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks, Anderson.

It's 11:00 on the East Coast and we're live tonight. OUTFRONT next: stories of incredible devastation in Sandy's aftermath. Here in New York City, a truly heartbreaking scene. A fierce and violent fire wiped out rows and rows of homes.

Plus, the threat that remains. People trapped in their homes, waiting for rescue, surrounded by floodwaters, waiting and hoping someone will come. And right now that crane dangling over the Manhattan skyline, threatening to crash down.

And the other side of the storm, a blizzard. We take you where an incredible amount of snow is causing huge problems late tonight.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

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BURNETT: I'm Erin Burnett and I want to welcome our viewers around the world tonight. OUTFRONT tonight, the wrath of Sandy. Devastation as far as the eye can see in the hardest hit communities, and the death toll at this moment still rising. At least 33 people in 8 states in this country have lost their lives. More than 6.5 million people in the northeast and Mid-Atlantic are without power tonight. And the estimated cost of the storm is truly stunning. Right now, this is a very preliminary estimate, it's going to go higher, it could be as high as $20 billion and only for lost business and property damage.

And to give you a sense of the storm's power, we want to show you this video.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

That is a tree being uprooted from a backyard on Long Island, New York. These images are a testament to what officials are calling one of the most powerful storms in history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) NEW YORK CITY: Make no mistake about it, this was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: The level of devastation at the Jersey shore is unthinkable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Unthinkable. And the destruction isn't over yet.

We want to show you some new pictures in tonight from Long Beach, New Jersey. These boats literally tossed into each other. We saw some of this driving out along the bay. I mean, boats just tossed into the roads.

In Little Ferry, New Jersey, floodwaters have turned neighborhoods into islands. And for many people, the only way out is by boat. Rescues of stranded residents is happening on live television. It's been happening all day. But many people tonight, when the rescue had to stop, are sitting and hoping and waiting.

In Queens, New York, a storm-related fire burned through an entire neighborhood, destroying 80 homes and as we drove out to that neighborhood to see the destruction for ourselves, I saw emergency vehicles everywhere. And at one point on the way to Breezy Point, Queens, we passed a convoy of 19 ambulances -- 19. All heading in to help that tight-knit community which was hit by flooding and then fire.

Deb Feyerick is in Breezy Point, Queens, tonight.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Erin, it really looks like a bomb simply hit this place. The entire area, 80 to 100 homes, completely incinerated. Nothing is left. Homes burned down to their very foundations, cars completely incinerated. This is a Land Rover. This is a Honda.

Folks thought they were going to experience some flooding. It was much worse than that. Because once that either transformer ignited, or a downed powerline hit a home, the rest caught fire because they're so close to one another, they're side by side by side. Firefighters simply couldn't get there because the water was so that -- the water pressure so low, they simply could not combat the blazes that were burning.

One man who lives here, he really summed it up pretty well, Erin. He said, you know, fighting a fire in a hurricane is a lesson in futility. We spoke to one man, Paul Joyce (ph), walking around and to get a scope of the damage, he was able to pick out different homes. He said, well, my sister lives in this one. Her father in law lives in this one. Three sisters, elderly sisters, they live side by side by side. And he was able to see really what was gone, what was missing.

That's only the homes there that caught fire. You've got others along the bay. Those also completely destroyed. Some of them have been knocked off foundations. Others are sinking into the sand. There are those where the fronts have completely sheared off. All of that's going to have to be rebuilt.

We did speak to some folks and they said, you know, it's a community and they're going to get it done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The exterior of the house is destroyed, and not only from the fire melts, but also from the surge, the tidal surge that happened here, like the exterior things are just thrown around. And as we walked around, we could see that it was not just devastation from the fire that's here. It's from the tidal surge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so devastating to be here, to see this because it's like a war zone to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Now, there are a couple of people who live here year-round. There was one firefighter who actually helped, he says, though it sounds more like he rescued about 14 people who were here and had to get out. He was able to bring them to safer ground. He said when the wave hit, he thought to himself he would put on his life vest, float up to higher ground. But when he heard those people basically crying for help, he was able to bring them to higher ground as well. Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to Deb. A heartwarming story there.

In Hoboken, New Jersey, where the mayor says thousands could be trapped in their homes. Floodwaters have not yet receded. The National Guard has been called in because parts of the town are still underwater.

You can see some of the flooding in this video, it's an iReport video, and you can see it sort of starts at the beginning of street and then you start having some parts where it's much more submerged than that. And in this picture, which we want to see you, which was sent to us by New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, just to show you how the streets are there.

OUTFRONT tonight in Hoboken, our own Gary Tuchman. And Gary, when you look at Hoboken, I mean, some of the scene there behind you, I mean that water doesn't seem to have receded at all. How bad is it?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really bad, Erin. Hoboken is right across the river from New York City. It's not a small town. There are 50,000 people live here. Almost all of it is the dark. But 50 percent of it is in the dark and under four to five feet of water.

And worst yet, the mayor of Hoboken does say that behind me, there are thousands of people still in these houses and apartments. They can't get out, not only because of the water, but because it is believed there are live electrical wires in the water. It's not safe for them to leave.

Now some people are being rescued in emergency cases with a front loader. Not a boat. A front loader going through the watery streets of Hoboken. I actually went for a ride in the front loader with the mayor of Hoboken to get a look at what's going on.

And one of the first things we noticed, first of all, is how much it felt like Katrina to us. There is obviously a big difference -- there are no casualties reported here and that's very good news. We hope it stays that way. Obviously it was much different in New Orleans in 2005. But it felt like we were in New Orleans going down the watery streets and then looking in the window and seeing men, women, and children waving at us. Most of them were smiling. The reason of them are smiling is because the water has receded a little bit. The feeling is that it will continue to recede and they will be able perhaps as early as tomorrow to start walking out of their houses. But it's not guaranteed just yet.

In all these windows, we saw scores of people who were waving at us, waiting to get out of their home. Now, we did see a case of some people trying to leave on their own. They seemed a little confused. Two people were driving their vehicles through the four feet of water. Their vehicles got stuck. They then started pushing their cars. That obviously wasn't going to work. A police officer who was on the front loader with us got out, went to rescue the people, took the woman, put the woman on his shoulder, brought her to the shuttle we were sitting in. And then the mayor and I helped pull the woman in, the two other people in, but that's the situation. It's incredible. Right behind me right now, there are people in the dark, in the cold, waiting to be able to come out of their homes safely.

BURNETT: It's just amazing as you tell it. And, Gary, a question. Were some of the people stuck in their homes in this horrible situation now, did they have any idea this could happened? Were they given evacuation notices or not?

TUCHMAN: What's interesting about this town -- there is a portion of this town right behind me that does flood when there are storms, but never anything like this. So people are used to it. They were that perhaps it would be prudent to evacuate. Some of them did but most of them stayed, although it's fair to say that most of them had food and water, just in case it was bad. And as it turns out, it was very bad.

BURNETT: All right, Gary Tuchman, thank you very much. Reporting from Hoboken there. A pretty hard to imagine scene for those families tonight.

And just a couple of miles to the north, the Coast Guard has been busy all day rescuing people trapped by floodwaters. Our Maggie Lake is in Teterboro tonight. And Maggie, what did you see? I know you were in Little Ferry today. What did you see?

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. We saw a community in shock basically and underwater. They sometimes get some very low-level flooding, but they were not expecting anything like this. As we walked around, the water waist deep, and that was at low tide. Cars floating in the middle of the road.

We met up with a family that has their own military vehicle that they refurbished. They heard about this on the news, they came down to see if they could help, and, boy, were they needed. They are working with the National Guard. We rode along with them from house to house. You just cannot get there even walking; it's only boats and these very large trucks.

And as we drove around, we kept picking up elderly people who were stuck in their homes, they thought they could ride it out. They did not expect anything like this for all the years they lived there. One man had a pacemaker; his wife is very concerned as they lifted him in. They were very scared, very shaken up, still had their humor about them.

But this is what we saw over and over again. Neighbors helping out. We stopped to get one family, ten people in a house, and they told us to move on. Come back and get them the next round. They wanted to make sure their elderly neighbors were out. This is a tight-knit community.

And that's the one thing that helped today, Erin. There wasn't a lot of communication. When we were walking around, people were asking us what's happening? Are we getting power back tomorrow? And we were saying, no, you need to get in these vehicles and get out. They didn't have any cell phones, no power, they weren't getting signals, so they were literally in the dark. So they were getting together their things to try to flag down the vehicles to come get them. One man had a 1-month-old baby he was very concerned about.

The only thing that helped was the neighbors looking out for each other, directing EMS where to go, who to get. That certainly helped out the officials here, Erin.

BURNETT: And Maggie, you tell these stories. How many people do you get a feeling are still there, are still trapped? Either that rescuers are aware of and haven't yet been able to get to or may not be aware of because of the communication issues that you just talked about?

LAKE: Definitely. There are definitely still people, Erin. Erin, the extraordinary thing is, they were doing this in the middle of night. We got here about 7:00. All day long, thousands of people, truck after military truck came through with these people. It's not -- they are not big towns, but when you can only fit so many people in a truck, it takes a while to ferry them out.

Some people are still there. We talked to a couple who said, listen, they are going to stay again, we'll see what happens tomorrow. They did not have water in their house; they had enough supplies. Again, concentrating on getting the young and the elderly out. They will go back for them again tomorrow -- rescue operations suspended today -- to try to get them out. It's going to be days before they have power so I imagine as of tomorrow, there will be few people left there, probably only maybe in the hundreds today, Erin. Hard to say, though.

BURNETT: All right, well, Maggie Lake, thank you very much for your reporting there. And for those people we hope still tonight who are trapped that that ordeal ends very, very soon.

And still OUTFRONT: left hanging. Crumpled metal dangling 1,000 feet above New York City right now. It has forced evacuations. It has stopped traffic.

And Sandy's effect on the presidential election. Who benefits?

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BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT: Sandy devastates Staten Island. That borough of New York City has seen some of the worst damage in New York. Six people were killed there. Two residents died in the Tottenville section when two homes were completely ripped from their foundations. Shelters and hospitals lost power at the height of the storm. Large areas are still in the dark there tonight.

Congressman Michael Grimm, a part of his district is in Staten Island, and he's on the phone from the Brooklyn part of that district tonight. Good to talk to you, Congressman, certainly not under these circumstances, though. Obviously, I know you've been on the ground much of the day visiting your district and talking to residents. How are things?

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM, (R) NEW YORK (via telephone): People are devastated. Obviously, we've had significant loss of life which, you know, it devastates a community. And of course the damage is much greater than anyone anticipated. It really is a surreal scene to see very large boats in the middle of your block, in front of your house, cars displaced and on people's lawns that just came in with the waves and homes literally being ripped right out from the foundation. There is nothing. They look like -- they look like lots with debris all over them. Again, something would you expect in a movie scene.

BURNETT: One of the stories last night that shocked us and many of our viewers was when a hospital in Manhattan, the New York University Langone Medical Center, lost its backup power and had to evacuate patients. I know the Richmond University Medical Center in your district, you were there until about 2:00 in the morning. I know that there were questions there about power because they've been running on generator now for nearly a day. Are they going to be all right?

GRIMM: Yes, I believe the Richmond University Medical Center - ConEd, by the way, they've been unbelievable. They're incredibly responsive and just wonderful, wonderful people that are working nonstop. They've done everything they can to get Richmond University back online. I believe it's at least 3/4 of the hospital is back on Con Edison's power.

We're still working I think for Staten Island University across the street where they do all of the dialysis. We're waiting to get that back online because that's extremely important. There's a lot of dialysis patients. In all, four different dialysis centers. They're all down, out of power, so there's going to be a lot of patients that need to have their dialysis tonight and tomorrow and that's going to be pretty much mandatory medically. That's not something they can elect to wait another day or two; a lot of them have been waiting two or three days already.

BURNETT: In terms of shelters, I know a shelter out where you are has already lost power. Is it possible that things could get worse than they are? I know a lot of people say, well, the destruction is terrible. Now people have to build their way out. But there's still people missing; there's still people who don't have water; there's still people who are in shelters without power. I mean, what is the risk from here?

GRIMM: Well, there's no question. One of the things we have to do is there's some people just unaccounted for and that means they could be at a shelter somewhere and their family is still looking for them. So we're looking at that. Midland Beach was one of the areas that got hit the hardest and as of several hours ago, they were still doing rescues from Midland Beach.

Curtis High School, I was just at Curtis, they do need some food. We're trying to get them an electrician to help hook up their generator, because they're in the dark, working off flashlights. So I just picked up some food. I'm going to be delivering that to them. Within about a half an hour, they'll have some hot food.

But we really -- I'm working the phone. The problem, biggest problem I'm having? Communication. It's one of the reasons I'm in Brooklyn right now. The cell phone towers, some of them must have went down, because we're having trouble getting anyone on their cell phones and obviously the home phones without power are not on. So it's a big communications issue and that's why we've been having some trouble getting an electrician to hook up their generator.

BURNETT: All right, Representative Grimm, thank you very much for taking the time.

And you know, we experienced that today going out to Breezy Point, where Deb Feyerick was. Cell phone service in and out and intermittent, as well as just what you all can imagine. The life on city streets when there's no power, it's impossible for traffic to move, and things become incredibly snarled, making it even more difficult even for emergency responders to get to some of these neighborhoods in dire need.

OUTFRONT next, the other side of the storm: a winter blast that is covering residents in feet of snow. And the subway in New York City becomes a swamp. This is the first time ever.

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BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT: Sandy also spawning a blizzard. The high winds coming off the storm have the potential to blanket parts of West Virginia with as much as three feet of snow. Flood and blizzard warnings are all still in effect.

Martin Savidge is in West Virginia. I mean, these scenes are pretty hard, Martin, to imagine, not just as part of a hurricane, but that much snow at one time. How much more is expected?

MICHAEL SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's a very good question, Erin. You take a look as we walk here. This is very heavy stuff. I'm walking on top of snow. There's probably got to be a good two feet or so. How much snow? We don't really know. They are projecting in some areas of the state maybe two feet, maybe three feet. Another nine inches here perhaps.

They've just extended the blizzard warnings for this area; they were to expire at 6:00, now they're going all the way until 6:00 tomorrow evening. Snow continuing to come in, the wind continuing to blow, the snowdrifts continuing to build. And the power also continues to be a problem.

You see the tree behind us here, you can see it's coated. Well, imagine all of the trees absolutely packed and loaded down with all of that snow, very heavy, wet snow. The trees coming down, the power lines coming down and that's what's causing the circumstance to be so dire as we head into the nighttime hours.

Good news. In Kingwood, they've turned the lights back on. But in many other areas, over 250,000 without electricity in this state. So far only one fatality. There is some good news: they talk about opening the ski resorts, which is the only bright spot I think.

BURNETT: I guess then obviously that could, once things are better, have a little bit of an economic boost. But, Martin, have they accounted for everybody? I know they weren't expecting anything like this, and a lot of people weren't. So just like we're seeing with floodwater, you may be seeing with snow. A lot of people who haven't been accounted for yet.

SAVIDGE: Well, and that's one of the reasons the National Guard has been called out in certain areas to assist local law enforcement. In some cases they're literally going door to door, they're checking on the welfare. They've also brought out some of the heavy equipment to help with the removal of snow because it's so heavy it isn't just a plow that can move it anymore; you need earth moving equipment.

So far, they are hoping people are just staying put. As far as trying to account for everybody, they don't have anybody known to be missing and they don't have any rescue operations underway, but they will admit it's going to get worse tonight before it will get better. BURNETT: All right, Martin Savidge, thank you very much. Reporting for us from West Virginia.

Up next, a 250,000-pound crane. It is still tonight dangling 90 stories above midtown Manhattan. The question is can it be brought down safely? We have someone who knows that answer.

And floating cars and flooded subways have brought a large part of New York City to a standstill. One of the greatest subway systems in the world and relied upon by millions to make the city function -- it's shut down.

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BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start the second half of our show with stories we are focusing on, where we're doing our reporting from the front lines. We start with the stock market, which was closed today due to Sandy, but it didn't stop Ford from coming out with quarterly numbers, and they were better than anyone was looking for. In fact, the company earned $1.6 billion in the quarter and the bright spot was North America. This was pretty incredible as a piece of good news, because Ford said North American results were the best they've reported since they started breaking it out as a region in 2000. Good news for recovery in the U.S., not so much in Europe though. Last week, Ford said it could lose more than 1.5 billion on that continent this year.

The European Union is considering sending troops to Mali to train soldiers. According to reports, an estimated 200 troops could be sent in. They would provide training to Mali's army but they're not going to actually fight. The move comes on the heels of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to Algeria, where the crisis in Mali was the main focus. She is trying to secure Algerian support for any international military action that might eventually be needed to out the al Qaeda-linked rebels which have taken over the northern part of the country.

The U.S. intelligence community has managed to trim its budget a bit. According to the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, the budget for intelligence programs in fiscal 2012 was $53.9 billion. It sounds like a lot and it is, but it's the first time the intelligence budget has fallen since the attacks of September, 11 2001. The drop was small, only a percent, but it's going to get bigger. The 2013 budget is projected to have a drop of 2.4 percent.

And NASA's rover Curiosity is hard at work on Mars. NASA announced today that Curiosity has finished its initial examination of Martian soil, and the results were actually similar to volcanic soil found in Hawaii. Curiosity used a chemistry and mineralogy instrument to get the result. And to determine what it's made of, the instrument beamed x-rays of the soil in a process very similar to that that geologists use right here at home.

It has been 453 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What we doing to get it back? Well, Ford's numbers will help. We've also got a housing report to day. It was the Kay Schiller index, and it showed that home prices in August rose two percent from a year ago.

And now, a 250,000-pound crane is dangling 90 stories above midtown Manhattan, just a few blocks from here. It's threatening to wreak further havoc on a city already under siege. This is the actual moment. I want to show it to you all again when the crane broke loose yesterday. You can see it upright and then just literally bent over backward, slams into the side of the apartment building that it sits alongside.

That apartment building is an ultra luxury apartment building right in the center of Manhattan. 57th Street in the center of the Island. And it is the tallest residential building under construction in the city right now. That crane has stayed that way for the rest of the day and the night, swaying back and forth in 60 mile an hour winds, just dangling there, prompting police to evacuate the surrounding buildings, including hotels, offices, and apartments.

That hasn't stopped crowds though gathering outside the evacuation area to get a look. Everybody wants to see it.

Alina Cho is OUT FRONT on this story. Alina, do authorities have any sense on when they're going to be able to fox this?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, good evening. That is the $64,000 question, isn't it? And everyone wants to know the answer. Tonight, Mayor Michael Bloomberg did offer a glimmer of hope. He did say that that crane dangling 1,000 feet above the ground behind me, they are hoping they will be able to secure it by tomorrow.

Now, the plan according to the Mayor, is to somehow try to get a hold of that boom and either tie it or cable it to the building. The problem is, Erin, according to one crane expert we spoke to today, is that he believes that this crane may actually be more damaged than we think. Meaning that he believes that what he calls the climbing mechanism, may be damaged, and that's the way to get up to the top. If that is the case, his estimation, listen to this. They will actually have to build a second crane in order to fix the one that is damaged.

Of course, everyone is hoping that that won't have to happen, especially the hundreds of residents and hotel guest who's were evacuated from the seven-block zone. Many of them, all of them, in fact, are displaced tonight and Erin, in fact, I did receive a text message from one of those residents, Matt Mazer is his name, who was displaced a couple of blocks away at a private New York club with his family. He told me that he just got word he doesn't believe he will be able to get back to his apartment until Thursday. That family is incredibly concerned, especially since they have a 12-year-old daughter who has a pet parrot who is inside their apartment and they are really concerned that parrot might not survive.

BURNETT: Alina, let me just ask you a question . As so many people say, who's to blame here? How could this have happened? And we have the largest crane company in the world coming on after you, but this isn't the first time that this particular crane has had problems. Obviously falling in 60 to 80 or even more mile an hour winds is a different thing. This crane has had problems.

CHO: That's absolutely right. That's what is so startling to us, Erin, when we started looking into this story this morning. Consider, you mentioned this already. Keep in mind, we're talking about a trophy building. When completed, it will be the tallest building in New York City, 90 floors. Top floor apartments going for $90 million. $90 million.

CNN learned, according to the New York City Buildings Department, there were actually at least two stop work orders issued on this construction site. One for leaking hydraulic fluid. The other for detective wire rope and an improper runway platform. We should mention, those stop work orders were fully rescinded, but in each case it took about a week for that to happen.

BURNETT: Alina Cho, thank you very much reporting there on that crane story.

Frank Bardonaro is the President of Maxim Crane Works, it is the largest crane company in North America and he's OUT FRONT tonight. Frank, thanks very much for taking the time. I appreciate it.

Given what Alina is reporting, when do you think this will be resolved? I know that you just heard her say they might have to bring a second crane up to get this crane down. When do you think will be resolved?

FRANK BARDONARO, PRESIDENT, MAXIM CRANE WORKS: Hi, Erin. Thanks for having me. I think the issues on this site will be handled very well from the local contractor. The building has been erected safely, all of the issues you just mentioned from a mechanical standpoint really have no bearing whatsoever on this incident. It was purely an act of God.

As you mentioned, wind speeds in the 60 mile an hour range, probably in excess of 100 up here with the updraft. When you watch the video, it's clear. The video clearly shows it goes over backward. I believe that these guys are experts in what they do, and as soon as they can get access to the machine, when the weather calms down a bit, they will have it secured within a few days I believe.

BURNETT: But, what I don't understand, everyone knew the storm was coming, they didn't know for sure it would hit New York, right, and I know it takes days it might even take longer than that to disassemble a crane like this. But, if you knew that a storm might we coming, shouldn't they have taken it down? I mean, I'm getting at this question of liability, you have entire blocks of people not being able to go to their homes, stores that can't go open, traffic diversion. This crane is causing a lot of problems.

BARDONARO: Right, I mean obviously the storm coming, they did know about it, and from what I understand, the city was going through their precautions to ensure all cranes were secured by the manufacturer's specifications. To take the crane down at 1, 100 feet in the air would be similar to taking the 90th floor of off the building, it's not really something you can do in that short time-frame even with a week's notice.

I think the bigger question that we're going to have here as an industry, is what else can we do to prevent this, even with the high winds? The crane is built to withstand 90-mile-an-hour winds I believe. When we work in coastal areas at times, we do design the lift to be made and withstand up to 140 mile an hour gusts, that might be something that the city take as a look at down the road.

BURNETT: And a final question. Let's say it's dangling there and it falls. What happens?

BARDONARO: The good news here is, nobody is hurt and it hasn't fallen. The bad news, it's still dangling. So if we take that and say it's safe at this point where it hasn't fallen, that doesn't mean it's secure, but it did fall over backward and withstood the rest of the storm. That's the positive news. Now we have to hope that the winds die down and crews can get up to dismantle it at a safe manner to prevent, at this point we've only seen some minor property damage on the crane, and if everything goes as planned, they can get it down without further property damage or injuries.

BURNETT: All right. Well thank you very much, we appreciate your taking the time.

The New York City subways ground to a halt at 7:00 on Sunday that was by choice out of safety, but they haven't run since. Stranding 5 million people who ride those trains every day, and frankly shutting down one of the most vibrant cities in the world. The Starbucks today still not open. Lots of restaurants open, but lots of other places not open, because the people who work in them can't get to work.

Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it would be another four or five days before service resumes again. Downtown Manhattan saw some of the worst flooding, including this parking garage where cars are literally floating in the water. That's an amazing scene. Not one you expect to see in Manhattan.

David Mattingly is at a subway station near that parking garage in Lower Manhattan. And David, I know you been today, evaluating the subways, going in, going out. What do you see?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're seeing is a lot like what you saw in that parking deck. You look around outside, right now things look pretty dry. Cars moving around, almost back to normal. But the problems are all down below. There are seven tunnels that cross the East River for the subway. All seven of those tunnels took on water and when you pump the water out, that's just one big job. Then you have to dry everything out.

This is saltwater. There's untold damage being done to the equipment that's been inundated down there. At this point, there's been no actual date set on when they think that might be repaired, and everything back up and running way it was before the storm.

But there are millions of people who depend on this system and there really aren't a lot of good options until the subway gets back up and running. Mayor Bloomberg was talking today about how busses will start running tonight and into tomorrow for tomorrow's rush hour, but they will be on a limited schedule. They can't carry everybody, and also about 4,000 taxis still in the city. They hope that number will go up. Those taxis have been allowed to carry more than one fare at a time. All of the car pooling in the world is not going to take care of those millions of people, again, that depend on those subways and these stations like the one behind me, that is dark tonight, everyone wondering when they will be able to get back on the trains.

BURNETT: All right, well David Mattingly, thank you very much. Something perhaps that could be the most important thing, everyone, to determine when New York City, the financial capital of the world is actually able to be that again.

Up next, we did get a new CNN poll of polls today, and it shows a very tight race. The question, now when you see two men on the screen, could Sandy tip it one way or the other?

Plus a resident of a barrier island in New Jersey, one of the very last to evacuate. Parts of his neighborhood now completely underwater.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our fifth story OUT FRONT: the politics of Sandy. Just one week until Election Day. The storm could wreak havoc on the neck and neck presidential race. So day, you may be forgiven if you didn't know there was a new poll of polls, and it shows a dead heat. President Obama at 47 percent, Mitt Romney at 48 percent. Again, that's a national poll and it may come down to state by state. But today, a key Romney surrogate, in fact one of the first to come out and endorse him, way before everyone else did. The man who delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention back in August, said this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: The President has been all over this and deserves great credit. I've been on the phone with him, like I said yesterday, personally three times. He gave me his number at the White House, told me to call him if I needed anything and he absolutely means it, it's been very good working with the President and his administration, have been coordinating us with great. It's been wonderful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So could Chris Christie's kind words, "it's been wonderful" for the other side, do anything to tip the balance in a tight race?

Mo Elleithee served as senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008. Reihan Salam is a writer at "The National Review" and John Avlon is a senior political columnist at "Newsweek", "The Daily Beast." He's in Niles, Ohio, aboard the CNN Election Express. OK, thanks to all of you.

Let me start with you, John. Some of the latest polls that were included in the poll of polls, we take the major ones and take the average. That's why there is no margin of error. But you look at the Pew Research Center, 47-47. American Research Group, 48-48, and all continue along that vein. With numbers like that, John, could a small thing like Chris Christie coming out with a very serious and significant endorsement of the President's handling of the storm tip the race?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Listen, Erin, with a race like this, this tight, everything little matters. This is a game of inches right now. This is a war of attrition. We're seeing this in Ohio here, both campaigns focusing heavily on the ground game. So every little thing matters. And when a highly respected Republican governor like Chris Christie, in a time of crisis, has kind words to say, being honest, not doing partisan talking points, but just saying you know what, it been good to work with the President, we're working effectively, that reminds people that President Obama is the Commander in Chief. So, every little thing matters and Chris Christie speaking honestly this morning probably helped the President a little bit.

BURNETT: All right, then let me ask you, Mo, President Obama is headed to New Jersey tomorrow. He will tour the destroyed zones with the governor. He did last year during the storm as well. Not as if this is a new thing to do. This is what presidents often do. The timing could be helpful for him. But do you think there is anything political in his choice to do it?

MO ELLEITHEE, FORMER SENIOR SPOKESMAN, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: No, I don't think it's anything political. I think it's completely presidential. What he should be doing in a time of a national crisis like this hurricane. And, you know, you hear Chris Christie, mayors, governors, from other affected states, all singing off the same song sheet, that the President is doing what he needs to do. I think it speaks a lot to his Commander in Chiefness, so to speak ,and it also does one really important thing politically: it takes Mitt Romney out of conversation.

Here we are, one week out, and Mitt Romney is -- is in this very difficult position, trying to figure out how he stays relevant in the 24-hour news cycle without going too far and that's a very tricky place for him to be in.

BURNETT: Reihan, it's a very difficult place for him to be in. You have to applaud someone like Chris Christie who will come out, and you know the man says what he thinks. He said what he thought at an important moment.

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We also know that Chris Christie is running for re-election in 2013, and we also know that New Jersey is a state with a lot more Democrats than Republicans, and it's really important Chris Christie project he's a bipartisan compromiser, a guy who's --

BURNETT: To work with those people.

SALAM: Right, willing to work with a Democratic President and not going to shoot the guy down in the middle of something as big of a crisis as this. So I think that Chris Christie is very shrewd, he was telling the truth, and I also think he needs to project he's more than just a partisan figure in a state like New Jersey.

BURNETT: That's an interesting point. Let me ask you this, though. During the GOP primary debate, FEMA had come up. Obviously FEMA now front and center and so far appearing to do fine and getting fine reviews. Today, is he going to get rid of FEMA today he avoided questions when someone followed up on that. I just want to play that Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, what should FEMA's role be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, would you eliminate FEMA if you were president?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I'm sorry, let me make it clear. He has said states should be responsible for disaster relief, and so the federal government, i.e. FEMA, is what he said during the primary.

SALAM: In the debate it's actually very tricky. He did not say there should not be a FEMA. He was asked about whether -- he suggested states and the private sector should generally be taking on more responsibility from the federal government. His campaign explicitly said on Monday, is that he wouldn't abolish FEMA.

But one thing to keep in mind about FEMA is this: FEMA takes care of a lot of disasters well below the level of Hurricane Sandy, including local floods, what have you. So the thing is, if FEMA could focus on big-ticket events like this one, it's possible it would be able to do its job better and if you handed states responsibility for lower level minor disasters that could be handled exclusively by states, that's a legitimate question. But I certainly think that Mitt Romney wouldn't want to abolish FEMA, and he made that explicitly clear.

BURNETT: A model that might be interesting for health care, but obviously a totally different conversation. Mo, let me ask you this, and I want John to weigh in as well. A lot of key swing states have been hit by this storm, but also in states that aren't hit, early voting is going on, and the news cycle has changed somewhat. So when you look at who this may help, the storm, in terms of early voting what is your verdict?

ELLEITHEE: Well, you look at a state like Virginia, where several key jurisdictions just today announced they would be extending hours for early absentee voting, that's a good thing, because there are going to be a lot of disaffected people that aren't going to have the chance, as a result of the storm, to get in there early.

But this is the million dollar question. John said earlier, we're in the game of inches and the early vote, is going to be critically important as the number of undecideds dwindle. This is where the Obama -- the vaunted Obama ground game is really going to prove its mettle, not only by having secured all the votes they put in the bank up till this point, but how they now transition their ground game to deal with this in the affected swing states.

BURNETT: All right, well thanks very much to all three of you. We appreciate your time. Up next, a resident of New Jersey's barrier island who got out just in time. He's next.

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BURNETT: Sandy hit New Jersey hard. New Jersey was in the center of the storm, no matter how you look at it, and the barrier island of Seaside Heights was overrun during the surge. Our next guest witnessed it firsthand. Keith Paul was one of the last to evacuate before the storm hit. He joins us on the phone from Toms River, New Jersey. I know also there flooded as well. And the National Guard has been involved as well in evacuating people.

So Keith, can tell me how evacuations are going?

KEITH PAUL, LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER, NEW JERSEY (via telephone): They seem to be going pretty well. The problem is, the main highway, route 37, that brings you over the bridge into Seaside Heights is flooded. There are boats in the middle of the highway in front of the bridge, so it's very difficult to get over there.

BURNETT: I know, it's a bridge I go over many times. Let me ask you your sense now. Everything overrun with water? Has anything survived? I know obviously houses along the beach are completely gone, ripped of their foundations. What about beyond that?

PAUL: Right now, you see there are some houses completely destroyed down into the water. When I was over there, I was over with the chief of police from Seaside Heights, Tommy Boyd, and a couple business owners up until about 4:00 p.m. yesterday, watching the hurricane come in, taking out Fun Town Pier. We left. We came over about 4:00. We were one of the last ones to be able to make it across the bridge. At that point, the water just kept coming up with high tide last night. The Barnegat Bay and then the ocean, and right in between is Seaside Heights, and the Barnegat Bay pushed into Toms River. So far, people are being evacuated out of second floor windows.

BURNETT: Oh, my goodness. And are there still people stranded in Seaside Heights. The people I know there made sure they evacuated earlier and were out. But I would imagine as in so many places, there were people tried to wait it out.

PAUL: Yes, there were. That's why you'll see in the footage I put up, all of the ambulances lined up, National Guard going in trying to get those people who did stay over there. When I left yesterday about 4:00 p.m., the chief, he was 95 percent evacuated. I do know there were a few people. I know a friend of mine who did stay over there, and I haven't heard from him yet today.

BURNETT: And a quick question. On the bay side, lower than the ocean side, is it any worse? PAUL: Oh, yes. On the bay side is where live in Toms River in a section called Silverton. One street away from me, houses have water coming in them. If you go down to the end right on the bay, I mean, it's just -- boats washed up in the middle of the highway, Fisher Boulevard, can't drive down. Boats -- just devastation everywhere.

BURNETT: Well Keith, thank you very much. Glad you're out safe.

Thank you for sharing the story with us. New Jersey certainly hit the hardest by Sandy. Here's "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT".