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Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy; Dam Break in New Jersey

Aired October 30, 2012 - 05:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It is Tuesday, October 30th. Special coverage of Superstorm Sandy begins right now.

Welcome back, everybody. Lots to update you on this morning early before the sun comes up, lots of damage to talk about from last night, the walloping that New York's gotten from Superstorm Sandy.

Let's talk about the fires that are burning in Breezy point queens. We know that two dozen homes are actively on fire. Two hundred firefighters are on location there. They are trying to battle this fire.

The fire started from downed power lines. You're looking at some of the latest pictures coming in to us this morning. Downed power lines started this fire.

The big problem for those firefighters, though, the water pressure, lack of water pressure to be able to fight these fires. Fifty homes have burned to the ground. Two dozen more are in the process of burning.

We are following the story for you as the day continues. We'll have more information on that.

More to tell you about, including floods and power outages. New York City brought to its knees in a large way. Superstorm Sandy was an epic weather event, many people are calling it. Millions of lives have been disrupted now.

A transformer explosion happened at a Con Ed plant about 15 blocks from where I'm standing right now. And what that has done is put basically this neighborhood in Lower Manhattan completely in the dark. They were concerned about this transformer so they've shut it off as well. And that has plunged tens of thousands, people here but more than 600,000 people across New York and into Westchester County are without power today.

Backup generator failed at NYU Langone Medical Center, which is probably about 35 blocks from where I am, 260 patients had to be evacuated. Some of them were newborn babies. You can see these pictures here as they bring these babies out of intensive care, carried by their nurses.

In some cases, they walked down the stairs with these infants because the respirators, obviously those need electric power. When the power failed, the nurses had to take the respiration on by hand using massive pumps to get the lungs -- air into the lungs of these babies. They walked down flights of stairs to be able to get the babies out into the transport vehicles and into other hospitals as well.

Some of those patients we know were carried down 15 flights of stairs. There were 12 feet of water in the elevator shaft of that building.

City transportation shut down. It could be days, maybe four days, before the subways re-open here. I want to show you a loop of Sandy right now. For New York City, the storm has finally blown through, although the winds are high and we're seeing intermittent rain here. But that is not the case if you're looking at the loop here, for places north.

Sandy's officially a post-tropical cyclone. According to the National Weather Service, winds between 70 and 90 miles an hour still possible in the tri-state area.

Thirteen people are killed here in the United States in the aftermath of Sandy so far. Five of those fatalities took place in New York, one in Connecticut, three in New Jersey, one in West Virginia, two in Pennsylvania, and one crew member onboard that HMS Bounty. Remember that story we told you yesterday how that ship was taking on water, and 17 people onboard that ship had to make their way on to life boats and then eventually were rescued by the Coast Guard. One crew member has been pronounced death in the wake of that tragedy.

Across the northeast, 6.5 million people are without power. It's what we know. Some predictions were telling us that it might be as highs a10 million people. Lots to tell you about that as well.

Let's continue to update you on some of the things happening where I am, in Lower Manhattan. As we mentioned, lots of darkness all around us. This is area A, which means they were evacuated. This is a low- lying area. And there's lots of water behind me, roughly I'd say now 75 feet, the water has been pulling, really going back out into the river.

Not far from where I am, about a block away, we've got the FDR Drive, there's great pictures of FDR Drive under water, massive flooding there as well.

Lots to tell you about this morning in addition to where I am.

We've got Mike Galanos. He's in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Deb Feyerick this morning with us, she's on the south shore of Long Island, in Lindenhurst. John Berman is in Lower Manhattan, updating us on what's happening there. Brian Todd is covering Rehoboth Beach, which is in Delaware. And Sandra Endo is reporting for us in Ocean City in Maryland.

So let's get you updates as well from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. That is the list of what we're going to tell you about this morning.

Going to get first, though, to Deb Feyerick. As we mentioned, she's in Lindenhurst, Long Island.

Yesterday was water was in some cases waist high. How's it looking there this morning, Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's looking better. A lot of the water now receding. But, again, full moon, waiting for high tide. So, it's yet to be determined as to what will happen once daylight comes.

We can tell you, the smell of gasoline right now is very, very strong. A number of homes in this area burned to the ground. You have this dichotomy between floods and fires and people trying to fight both, trying to figure out what's going on.

A police officer walked this up road, just a short time ago, he was going to work. He said that all the homes at the end of this block, they are about three feet of water, saturating the entire area. You can see some of the boats that are here in this boat yard, they are now in the water as well.

Again, it's one of those situations that's so fluid, strong winds still, not a lot of rain. But, again, with so many people who have been mobilized, we spoke to one official earlier who said, you know, sources right now, resources are stretched to the max, that there are certain areas where they simply can't get resources there because there are not the people to mobilize.

Here in Lindenhurst, the mayor called out about a thousand members of the National Guard. We haven't seen them just yet, but we know that they are here. They're on scene. Everybody is ready to do what they need to do.

Right now, people wanting to know whether in fact we're going to see sort of a second wave of water coming up high because, again, the damage just keeps coming and coming and coming -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Deb Feyerick updating for us what Lindenhurst, Long Island, looks like where they are having major flood problems. When the sun comes up, we'll get a chance to see exactly how widespread that damage is.

I want to take you to Lower Manhattan, kind of across where I am this morning. John Berman is stationed there where the floodwaters came up very, very high.

John, good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

That's right. Where I'm standing right now, last night was really part of New York harbor, because the floodwaters came in from the Hudson River and the bay right behind me. It swept up and went about 30 feet back there. It would have been way past my waist. You can see where the water came in and flattened this garden area here, these bushes were standing up much higher before the water swamped them. The storm surge unprecedented, nearly 14 feet. That's feet higher than the record setback in 1960. Out in New York harbor, they saw waves 32 feet high if you can believe that. So, again, the storm surge unprecedented.

This area also part of zone 80 evacuation zone. Some 370,000 people told to get out of these low-lying areas specifically because of the storm surge that came. You heard Deb Feyerick mentioned it, by the way.

We're expecting another high tide after 9:00 a.m. this morning. We don't expect it to flood quite as badly but it is of concern. There is still expected to be a storm surge as you see this morning.

And, Soledad, I don't know about you but as I was driving down here, I never seen New York like this, just the power out from 29th Street, south of that completely black and on the west side highway where I came down, there was a great deal of debris, some construction materials, lots of buckets. No power lines, because in New York City, most of the power lines were underground.

We usually that during hurricanes. We were spared that this time. But New York has never seen weather damage. At least I haven't seen weather damage, like this in New York City -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, absolutely true. It's quite remarkable. You know what's interesting, they keep saying below 29th Street. But I live below 29th Street. I live on 26th Street. My block has power. I think it's 25th Street, right, when we were driving by that doesn't have power from there.

So, we'll have to check in on that. I went by to check on my house and there are lights on my street. But as soon as you go farther south, no more.

All right. I want to -- John, thank you for the update.

Let's go to Mike Galanos. He is in Atlantic City, where they have tons of damage, really devastating pictures from the afternoon before the storm made landfall and then when it did make landfall, absolutely remarkable pictures to talk about.

Mike, good morning. How's it looking now?

MIKE GALANOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Right now and, again, you mentioned intermittent rain, gusts of bitter cold wind kind of kissing me right now.

But to reset the scene, you talked about some of those pictures. I was standing in it. About a half a block behind me, Soledad, that was basically a raging river behind me. It all came together about 8:00 last night, we're talking about the storm surge, high tide.

So, that water was up to my knee. If I continue to go back, it would get up near my waist. And if a car drove by I'd get a wave of water over my waist. That's what we were dealing with here in Atlantic City.

I mentioned the storm surge, the high tide, the wind gusts practically knocked me into the water, anywhere from 70 to 90 miles an hour when it was at its worst. So, that's what we were dealing with last night.

And again, Governor Chris Christie not happy with the mayor here in Atlantic City, Lorenzo Langford. Basically in a press conference yesterday evening, he was basically intimating that he gave, we're talking about the mayor here, gave people comfort to stay. And the governor was somewhat flabbergasted that one of the shelters was a block away from the water and it was flooding out as well.

So, it's going to be an interesting back and forth today.

Now, the hotel to my last is the Sheraton. That's where I stayed last night. And that became kind of a makeshift shelter. Some families thought they could ride it out, realized they could not. So they ended up at the Sheraton here.

As I was wondering as I was walking back to the hotel last night, there were a lot of families, a lot of dogs and that's what was going on. So, as I'm walking to my room, people are hanging out in lobbies, talking, commiserating, a few dogs growling and barking at each other. That just became the new normal here in Atlantic City and I'm sure other places as well.

O'BRIEN: Mike Galanos for us this morning, watching what's happening in Atlantic City. Again, we'll be seeing what the damage is this morning when the sun comes up. Thank you, Mike. Appreciate it.

Let's get right to Zoraida Sambolin at the Time Warner Center for an update on some of the other stories, weather-related stories making news.

Hey, Z.


We're going to start with the crane here. Take a look at these live pictures. A powerful winds from Superstorm Sandy causing a partial collapse of this construction crane that is now dangling high above Midtown Manhattan. On the left is what the crane looked like before the collapse and on the right it's what it looks like now, as it dangles dangerously from a high-rise building there.

So, the fear here of course it could plunge to the ground at any time. Last night, Piers Morgan talked to a crane expert about the potential danger here.


THOMAS BARTH, CRANE EXPERT: There's several different scenarios. If you se 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 can break, then the crane's coming down. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: That's a scary proposition. Let's stay on these live pictures here of the crane this morning.

This building is called 157. It's supposed to be the tallest residential property in Manhattan once it's completed at 90 stories. It's a pretty expensive building. The penthouse there sold for over $90 million.

Here's what I can tell you about the crane itself. City records say that at that site, there's 158-foot crane. So, it includes the 108- foot boom and then the 50-foot jib at the tip of that. And typically when they secure this, it looks towards the building. But now it's dangling away from the building.

They did, take a look at this to make sure it was safe on Friday. The engineers took a look and deemed it was safe. Mayor Bloomberg is saying maybe it was a crazy gust of wind that caused it to shift that way.

They are bringing in a crew today to continue to look at this. They have evacuated people from that area. There was a hotel that was evacuated. I believe it was the one Soledad was staying at. And they have secured that area.

I went out there yesterday and took a look at it. There were a lot of gawkers on site, but they have secured the area to make sure that nobody comes by, because it is incredibly unsafe.

Soledad, back to you.

Oh, no, I have one more story. A sudden rumble and a cloud of debris when the facade of a Manhattan apartment building is ripped off.

Take a look at this. This is happening as Sandy's intense winds tore through. It left apartments completely exposed. And, unfortunately, one firefighter did have minor injuries there, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, that's remarkable. That's about 10 blocks from where I live. What a remarkable site to see, the whole front of that building sheered off. We're going to get a chance later this morning to go check that out and see how it looks when the sun comes up, to get a better look at it.

I want to introduce you to Leroy Lindsey. He was literally walking by this morning. And we were asking him what he's doing out in this weather. He said he was going to check on his mom.

Your mom should have evacuated, was told to evacuate because this is the area A. And she decided not to, why not?

LEROY LINDSEY, MOTHER WAS TOLD TO EVACUATE, BUT REFUSED: She's a little bit stubborn, you know? She's been on this neighborhood all her life. So, she didn't want to go, you know?

O'BRIEN: So, you're here because you wanted to check on her, see how she rode out the storm.

LINDSEY: She's doing good. She has candles on and everything. So, she's all right, right now. I'm trying to get us some other means to get us uptown a little further, where lights are at. Right now, we're going to wait until the sun comes up to see what's going to happen.

O'BRIEN: So let's show you the building. If you look at this building that's kind of behind me, they shut down as I mentioned because of the exploding transformer. They turned the power off down here. The building here, it's the one right behind it. Looks very similar.

So, she's inside, with no power on. She's in her 70s. Are there other people in there?

LINDSEY: No, she has her neighbors next door and actually in tune with each other. So, she's not exactly by herself. But, you know, it is what it is.

O'BRIEN: What's the plan? You said you wanted to go further uptown. It looks like the power will be out for at least a week.

LINDSEY: Yes, yes. (INAUDIBLE), we can't deal with that. So, Jen (ph), if you hear me, you see me on this news, I'm coming to the crib. So, look out for me. I know you have power and you're probably watching this right now. I'm going to get up there. You know how I do it.

O'BRIEN: You're warning your friends?

LINDSEY: Yes, yes, yes. They know, right now, they're probably going to have kind of crazy up there, but yes, and his family.

O'BRIEN: And how about your home?

LINDSEY: Yes, my daughter and my own wife, they are home right now. I'm going there right now. They are doing what they can. They know I'm out here.

A couple blocks up that way on Avenue C. You know what I'm saying? I'm doing good, though. Just trying to pass the time, you know?

O'BRIEN: Leroy Lindsey, nice to see you, sir. Thank you.

LINDSEY: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Goodluck to you. We certainly appreciate it.

We've got some other news to get to, some breaking news this morning. There has been a dam break. Authorities are now on the scene. They are rescuing people in three New Jersey towns because a dam has broken.

We're going to bring you more information on the towns where this has happened and also we'll bring you some information on the rescue efforts there right after this commercial break. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We're bringing you special coverage this morning of the aftermath here in New York City of hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy. Now, we know that authorities are conducting rescues from homes in three New Jersey towns after a dam has broken. It occurred, the dam break that is, after midnight in the town of Moonachie in Bergen County in New Jersey.

Here's what we know: rescues are under way in Moonachie, in Little Ferry and in Carlstadt, New Jersey. And we are being told that thousands of people -- thousands of people from those three towns in New Jersey, Bergen County, may need to be rescued because a dam has broken there.

Obviously, we're following this story for you as it develops. This is some breaking news that we're just getting in to CNN. We'll continue to monitor this story as it unfolds if thousands of people do require rescuing from three New Jersey towns in Bergen County, New Jersey.

Time too turn now to Chris Olert. He's with Con Edison. I want to talk to him about the power outages across New York and Westchester County, and, of course, specifically where we are.

Nice to talk with you, sir. First, why don't you tell me the numbers? We heard that hundreds of thousands of people were without power. What are the latest numbers on that?

CHRIS OLERT, CON ED SPOKESPERSON (via telephone): Soledad, right now, there are 670,000 New Yorkers in the city I in Westchester without electricity, courtesy of hurricane Sandy. This is the worst storm- related damage in Con Edison history.

O'BRIEN: So, what's the strategy now? I'm on the lower east side. I'm on Avenue D at East Houston Street. And I know that because the transformer on 14th Street, Con Ed power plant, exploded around 8:30 last night, that you've shut down this area. When can folks here and across Lower Manhattan and even those folks in Westchester, too, hope to get their power back on?

OLERT: Well, at different times, Soledad. What we have to do with underground equipment is make sure the water has receded and make sure it's safe to restore. In areas where there's salt water, we have to clean that out and then just make sure it's safe to get the electricity back there.

On the overhead systems, we have to obviously get access. There are around system, for example, 180 roads in Westchester County are closed. For your viewers who don't know the area, Westchester is directly north of the Bronx. It's a suburban community. A lot of trees but 180 roads are closed.

On Staten Island, there are more than 200 wires down. So safety is a huge issue. And unlike police and fire and emergency medical services, we can't go lights some sirens.

So, we just have to take our time, make methodical restorations for the overhead system. It could take seven days or so. Access will be a big issue.

O'BRIEN: So, if you had -- I know it's hard for you to give a number but would you say no one is going to get power on back here in this city for four days, seven days?

OLERT: No, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Two weeks. Give me a guess.

OLERT: Some people will get it back sooner than later. We will stage power back into areas. Some people could have their power back in a day or two once Sandy gets out of town.

O'BRIEN: Chris Olert from Con Edison talking about the most devastating damage they've had in this storm, hurricane and now Superstorm Sandy. Thank you for talking with us, sir, we appreciate it.

Obviously, they have lots of work to do across Westchester and New York. We're sitting here without power because they've shut down the power on the lower east side.

We've got to take a short break. When we come back in just a moment, we've got a number of breaking stories to get to.

There's a fire in Queens. Two dozen homes are on fire in Breezy Point, Queens. We're going to update you what's happening there as firefighters were struggling to get a handle on that fire. Fifty homes have already burned to the ground.

Then, we've been telling you about the dam break that's happening in Bergen County in New Jersey. Evacuation of homes there now under way. We'll update you on rescue efforts there as well. A thousand people might require rescuing from their homes.

Those stories and much more as we continue to cover hurricane, Superstorm Sandy as it makes its way further north.

We're back in just a moment.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. I'm Christine Romans. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour.

We're continuing our special coverage of the widespread effects of Superstorm Sandy.

For the first time in more than a century, the New York Stock Exchange will be closed for a second day in a row due to weather. The last time that happened was the blizzard of 1888. NASDAQ, also bond markets closed today as well. Stock futures, though, are being traded electronically until 9:15 a.m. Eastern. Right now futures for the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 are all down. But again, the markets will not be opening again today.

Economic losses from hurricane Sandy could add up to $20 billion. That's according to early estimates. And these are early estimates from the catastrophe modeling firm Eqecat. That includes up to $10 billion for insured losses for damage to residential and commercial property. If these numbers turn out to be right, Sandy would be one of the most costly hurricanes of all time, making it to the top five in terms of insured losses.

Now, a note here to homeowners affected by the storm -- because Sandy landed as a hurricane, your homeowners insurance deductibles will not be what you think they are in the Northeast. Hurricane status triggers different deductibles for homeowners that are a percentage of your house value, not the $1,000 or $5,000 deductible you think you sign up for. Please be sure to check your insurance plan here. Very, very important, because it was a hurricane, Soledad, at landfall, that makes a difference for how you will be covered for your losses -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Christine, great advice. Thank you.

Coming up this morning, we'll update you on breaking news. There has been a dam break is what we're being told. It's happening in Bergen County, New Jersey. And a thousand people could require rescuing from their homes. We'll take a closer look at that story, straight ahead after this break.

Back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. They've been calling it Superstorm Sandy and for good reason. There has been a massive amount of damage in the wake of this storm here in New York and the storm continues, of course. Want to get to breaking news that's happening in New Jersey, in Bergen County, New Jersey. We are told there's either a dam or levee break. There's been some kind of breach and people in three New Jersey towns have been affected. Apparently the break happened some point after midnight in Bergen County and authorities say they might have to rescue 1,000 people.

Here's what we know. The towns are Moonachie, also in Little Ferry and Carlstadt as well. There has been a breach. Every single street, we're told, in the town of Moonachie and Little Ferry have been affected. Four to five feet of water in the streets there now. Moonachie has a trailer park, apparently. And people in the trailer park are standing on top of their roofs in order to try to get some help, waiting for rescuers to get to them. We know that the New Jersey state police are helping in that rescue and the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management. They're using boats and high trucks to pluck some of the people off the roofs of that trailer park that has been affected. That is a dam or a levee breach. It's unclear and they believe it might be from the Hackensack River. Again, we're trying to work to confirm those details. But we do know it could be 1,000 people across those three towns that are in serious, serious trouble today.

And I want to remind everybody, it's cold. You cannot imagine -- it's also been raining intermittently. Imagine sitting on the roof of your trailer park waiting for someone to rescue you in the dark in these freezing cold temperatures with water all around you and rain. It is an absolutely devastating situation for the folks who are there this morning.

Lots to tell you about this morning. Let's continue to update you on other stories that are breaking as well. The big fire that's happening in Breezy Point, in Queens, that's in the Rockaway section of Queens. We know that 50 homes have already burned to the ground there. There are two dozen more homes that are actively on fire and 200 firefighters are on the scene. They're trying to fight that fire, very, very difficult, of course, because water pressure is a major problem. Ironically, in spite of all the flooding, it's the water pressure that's a big problem. That fire we believe started when downed power lines then sparked that fire and took out those homes.

These are our latest pictures. Look at that fire under way. It is just unbelievable to see the extent of that damage. That fire is absolutely raging out of control at this point. We'll continue to follow this story for you as well, obviously.

Transformer explosion, we saw that happen last night around 8:30 in the evening. Con Edison power plant on 14th Street in Lower Manhattan, it has knocked out power. You see that there. The sparks, many people were on Twitter asking what has happened? What are the flashing lights that I'm seeing? It was that, a transformer explosion. Well, that transformer explosion caused this them to shut down the power plant. That shut down of the power plant has then shut down power to people where I am in Lower Manhattan. We were just talking to a spokesperson from Con Edison who said it could take a while. There are areas across Manhattan and into Westchester County, in total 670,000 people are without power and they're hoping to get around some of those obstacles like downed trees, and even for the underground wires to get to them as well to be able to restore power as soon as possible.

Let's take you to NYU Langone Medical Center. Dramatic evacuation there when their power failed, then their backup generator failed as well. You can see there, they're bringing out babies, 260 patients in total, many of them newborn babies from intensive care unit. Some of the patients had to be carried down 15 flights of stairs. Keep in mind, some of the NICU babies were on respirators and s the nurses carrying the babies, working a hand respirator just to make sure they could save their lives as they brought them out of the hospital in the middle of this storm. Twelve feet of water reported in the elevator shafts at NYU Langone Medical Center. That's on 31st Street and First Avenue, so again where I am, on the east side, but about a mile and a half north of where I'm standing. Here's what we know about transportation: subway system continues to be shut down. It could be four days, maybe even more before they decide to re-open the subway system. That's because of flooding in some of the subway tunnels. The transit officials say the worst problem to ever hit the system in 108 years.

So I want to show you the satellite loop if we can. They're calling it not a hurricane anymore. It's called a post-tropical cyclone. National Weather Service is warning that the winds, though, still high, 70 to 90 miles an hour gusts, still possible in the Tri-State area. Sandy's already killed 15 people in the U.S., 6 1/2 million people across the number of states that Sandy has hit are without power and insurers are estimating at this point the damage at $10 billion. Obviously that number could be adjusted upward dramatically as the sun comes up. We're expecting to see much more damage.

Areas like Atlantic City damaged significantly as well. It's where Mike Galanos is reporting for us this morning. Mike, good morning.

GALANOS: Good morning, Soledad. And again to set the scene here in Atlantic City, behind me last night was basically a raging river. And again these are the streets of Atlantic City. It all came together when this storm was at its full roughly 8:00, 9:00 last night. We're talking about the storm surge, high tide, the water up to my knee. If a car drove by it would splash above my waist. You throw in that with the rain, gusting winds, 70, 90 miles an hour that could have knocked me into that water. That's what people were dealing with.

And that's why Governor Chris Christie wanted mandatory evacuations. And he does not seem with Atlantic City mayor, Lorenzo Langford, because in his press conference early last evening Chris Christie said that the governor gave people comfort to stay. Governor Christie wanted mandatory evacuations, but there were some that did try and ride it out. Some ended up in shelters, some in a makeshift shelter. The hotel I'm staying in is right next to me, it's the Sheridan. All of a sudden I'm noticing families and people with dogs. These were families who thought they could ride it out. Luckily for them they were able to get here and they were able commiserate with each other. There were dogs and kids and families in hallways as they were trying to make the best of the new normal now, at least for the next few days, here in Atlantic City, Soledad.

And like you, you know, we're waiting to see what it's going to look like as day breaks. Again, back to that flooding. When it was at its worse, high tide, storm surge, there were reports that 70 percent to 80 percent of Atlantic City was under water to some degree. Back to you.

O'BRIEN: We're told here, Mike, that the cars behind me on the street, this is East Houston Street, the cars behind me are submerged as you head down toward the FDR Drive that runs up the east side of New York City. Obviously because of the light, we can't really see it. But as soon as we get some light, we'll have a chance to get down there a little further and take a look.

Thank you, Mike, for that update. We certainly appreciate it. I got an update as well from a friend of mine who unfortunately is at NYU Langone Medical Center. Want to tell you that as well. We showed you the pictures as they brought the babies out of the NICU, out of intensive care, and had to evacuate them quickly because the respirators which are obviously are attached and need the power grid, the power failed, so they took the babies and had to hand respirate them and get them out of the building.

Here's what we know now, for everybody who's in that hospital. She says the backup generator kicked with limited power, but it didn't last long. The IV machines started failing. She said suction machines have started failing as well. So many of the nurses are doing it manually. There's not much information being given to the patients but they started evacuating several hours ago by the stairwell. Her section has not been moved yet or told we're they're going and the staff is working hard under very difficult conditions.

So that is the situation at NYU Medical Center where it looks like they will be evacuating every person in that hospital at NYU Langone Medical Center. We saw some pictures of babies being taken out and also people in intensive care as well.

Let's take you across the other side of Lower Manhattan from where I'm standing. John Berman was stationed there yesterday as the storm surge and the tide waters were a big concern. Those big concerns really didn't even go far enough. The water much higher than expected, right, John?

BERMAN: Unprecedented levels of water, Soledad. You said that some of the cars near you were under water. Well, this area where I'm standing right now was really part of New York Harbor overnight. The storm surge was 14 feet. Fourteen feet, which is 4 feet higher than had ever been recorded before. That record set back in 1960 before. And the waves in New York harbor were 32 feet high. The water levels here simply much higher than anyone anticipated, which caused this massive, massive flooding in a part where I'm standing, of course, over where you are, Soledad, on the other part of the island. Seven of the subway tunnels that go underneath the East River from Manhattan to Queens and also to Brooklyn, those have been flooded. It could take a week to pump that out. They simply don't know. They have never seen anything like this with the water here before. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: John Berman, updating us on what was a big concern in the city and rightfully so. The storm surge, the floodwaters, obviously wind also a big problem. Debris was a problem. You saw pictures of that crane that we talked about yesterday morning, eventually that crane did partially collapse. Very precarious. They've had to evacuate some of the buildings around that crane. So the expectations from the storm, very, very tough and they were certainly met.

We've got to take a short break. When we come back in just a moment, we'll continue to update you on breaking news we're following. We talked about that dam or levee break in Bergen County, New Jersey. We're trying to get information on that story. We now have crews heading that direction as well. A thousand people may have to be rescued from their homes. We're monitoring that. And then those dramatic pictures of that massive fire in Breezy Point in Queens, the Rockaway section. We know 50 homes, 50, have burned to the ground. There are another two dozen homes that are actively on fire. These are the very latest pictures coming in to us at CNN. We'll monitor both of these breaking news stories and also update you in the aftermath of this region of what is Superstorm Sandy and tell you where Sandy's going next. That's all ahead, stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching live coverage. Lots of breaking news happening in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy that's rolled through New York. It's now rolled out but the winds picked up; we've had intermittent rain. It's very cold as well.

Lots to talk about. Let's start with the fire in Breezy Point, Queens, in the Rockaway section. Some very dramatic pictures to show you. This fire burning completely out of control. We're told that 50 homes have burned to the ground. And what you're seeing there now is an active fire of two dozen other homes that are in the process of burning to the ground. Look at this massive fire. The firefighters that you see in the foreground, they're among the 200 that are trying to battle that blaze. But the problem is the water pressure, because of the flooding and the storm, the water pressure is not effective in fighting this fire. They're having a severe problem in even getting access to the fire. Fire we are told started in the Breezy Point section of Queens when a downed power line sparked the fire. So we continue to monitor what is happening with this fire as it is clearly burning out of control in Breezy Point section of Queens.

We got to take a short break. On the other side of this break, we'll bring you more information about our other breaking news story, the levee break happening in Bergen County, New Jersey. An update on what's happening there. We're back in just a moment.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Some breaking news to get to. We've been talking about this levee break that has happened in Bergen County, New Jersey. Let's get right to Jeanne Baratta, she's with the Bergen County police chief of staff. Thank you for talking with us. We appreciate it. I know this is taking place in three New Jersey towns. Can you walk me through which towns and what's happened?

VOICE OF JEANNE BARATTA, BERGEN COUNTY POLICE CHIEF OF STAFF: It's taking place in three towns in southern Bergen County. Moonachie, Carlstadt and Little Ferry with most the damage being down in the down of Moonachie. Moonachie has been devastated. Every street in Moonachie has 4 to 5 feet of water on it. Right now we're in a rescue mode.

O'BRIEN: So you're rescuing the folks in Moonachie. We heard first it was a dam that broke and maybe it was a levee that broke. Do you have more information on that? Is it a levee that broke? And is it the Hackensack River?

BARATTA: We don't have confirmation of that right now. Something happened, because within 30 minutes those towns were under 4 and 5 feet of water. So we're not sure if it was a levee compromised. Something was compromised there. We don't know what it is and we're not fixated on that right now. Right now, it's a rescue operation and we're trying to get boats in there, high vehicles that can go through the high water that's there, to get those people to safety.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about that rescue effort. So my understanding is that there is a trailer park in Moonachie and that folks there in order to literally keep their heads above water have now climbed on the roofs of their trailer park homes waiting to be rescued, is that correct? And how many people are we talking about?

BARATTA: Yes, that is correct. I don't know how many people are there. When all is said and done, we're talking about hundreds, possibly a thousand people that we may have to go and rescue. Yes, there's a trailer park in Moonachie and the people are on the roofs of those buildings. In other areas, there's people we've told to go to the second floors of their homes and await rescue there because the first floor has 4 to 5 feet of water. We're hoping that water's going to recede but right now we have cooperation from the Bergen County Police Department, Bergen County Office of Emergency Management. The state police are here. All the local OEMs who have asked to help us, both large vehicles, even dump trucks that we can get into flooded areas and get these people out.

We're bringing them to the BoTech school on Route 46 in Teterboro. It's our staging area for emergency management personnel and it's also where we're bringing the people that we're rescuing to so that we can evaluate them. It's a school, so we're able to use the gymnasium to evaluate these people, get them the help they need. We've got adults here, the elderly, children. We're having them bring their pets with them. You know people don't like to leave their homes without their pets, so we're accommodating that as well.

O'BRIEN: Right, right, right. So how many people have you been able to pull -- I know this thing happened at midnight, I believe, that the breach happened at midnight. Have you been able to rescue people already or has it just been time spent trying to gather all the resources to make what is going to be a very challenging rescue?

BARATTA: We started doing rescues about 2:30 this morning and they're just ongoing. We're going in and out of there. We're bringing more assets in, we're getting more help from the state, more help from the municipalities, the local rescue squads. It's a wonderful effort with a lot of people coming together to rescue these people in Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt.

O'BRIEN: Oh my goodness, I bet. Thankfully for those rescuers getting their boats out and getting into the water to help out with their boats.

BARATTA: Absolutely. O'BRIEN: Final question for you, Jeanne. It's brutally cold out there and I cannot imagine what it's been like for folks who have been wading through water, sitting on top of the roof of a home in these cold temperatures waiting for a rescue. It just has to be horrible conditions.

BARATTA: It absolutely is. We're asking other people to please be careful. Only essential travel on the roads. People shouldn't be going out into those areas. It's extremely dangerous and people go out there, they're just hampering the rescue efforts. We're begging people to stay off the roads. It's very dangerous and there's a lot of high water out there. That will surprise you. We don't want to have to be rescuing more people out there.

O'BRIEN: Jeanne Barrata with the Bergen County Police Chief of Staff. Jeanne, thank you for your time this morning. We appreciate the update.

Obviously we'll continue to follow this story, this breaking news out of the southern part of Bergen County as Ms. Baratta was telling us, it looks like rescue efforts have been under way since 2:30 in the morning. They are pulling people off the roofs of their homes, very reminiscent of what we saw in Hurricane Katrina back seven plus years ago. They have those rescue efforts now underway and looking for more people with boats to help out in that.

We've got to take a short break. When we come back in just a moment, we'll continue to update you on the breaking stories that we're following in the wake of this severe storm and also tell you where Sandy is headed next and assessing the damage left in her wake. We're back right after this.