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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Frustration, Desperation Set In After Sandy; Sandy Turns New Jersey Barrier Islands Into Wasteland; Thousands Trapped In Hoboken

Aired October 31, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the devastating view. President Obama gets an up close view of the devastation across the state of New Jersey.

And I spent the day today in Hoboken, New Jersey, which is just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Tonight, National Guard troops are still going through the floodwaters trying to rescue people trapped in their homes.

And at this moment, one of the largest hospitals in New York is being evacuated. It's the second hospital forced to be evacuated after losing power and relying on backup generators. The president of the hospital will join us live. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, search and rescue, two days after one of the most devastating storms to ever hit the east coast of the United States, there's frustration, there's desperation, there's fear.

People are cold, people are tired and people are hungry. Dramatic scenes like this are playing out in New Jersey and New York. Watch this rescuer from the New York Police Department lowering himself onto a home in Staten Island, New York and a resident pulled through the roof and back to safety.

Police say just this one helicopter rescued five adults and one child yesterday and on the ground, there are frantic searches among the most heartbreaking a search for two children ripped from their mother's arms during the storm two nights ago. That one is hard to even talk about. They are still unaccounted for.

Search and rescue teams spent the day double checking the 110 homes that went up in flames in Breezy Point, a part of Queens in New York, trying to make sure no one else died in the fire and flood.

And in Hoboken, New Jersey, where I was today, the National Guard is working around the clock to help those who have been holed up in their homes for three days now. Most people were cold and there were makeshift waves they were trying to get through the water.

The mayor estimates that in Hoboken 20,000 people could be trapped tonight. The death toll from Sandy is now up to at least 48 people in eight states, and nearly 6 million people in 15 states and the nation's capital are still without power tonight. Also today, President Obama got a firsthand look of the Jersey Shore, one of the areas hardest hit by Sandy. He was accompanied by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Here they are in a photo just released by the White House within the past hour on Marine One. The president said he will help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We are here for you and we will not forget. We will follow up to make sure that you get all the help that you need until you've rebuilt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The iconic boardwalk and Seaside Heights, New Jersey, is just one of the places the president saw today. It's a landmark made famous by Bruce Springsteen, MTV and "The Sopranos."

This is before and after, to give you a sense of what's happened. I mean, it's not even all there. You can see the rides including the roller coaster have been washed away sitting in the ocean.

OUTFRONT tonight, Michael Holmes, he is just across the bay in Toms River, New Jersey. Michael, let me just ask you. I know you were in Seaside Heights. You toured it, what did you see?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we went right up and down a number of towns there, Ocean Beach, Normandy, and we spent a couple of hours there with the local police chief and I can tell you, it was absolutely extraordinary, the amount of damage that was done by Hurricane Sandy, Erin.

You know, there are gas leaks there that have continued to be a problem. We've seen a stream of gas trucks go across the bridge onto those islands to try to shut off the gas.

There was one particular area up there in the area of Brick where about three or four football fields' worth of houses had been burnt to the ground by fire started by gas leaks so it's a big problem. You can smell it in the air.

This was the first opportunity we've had to get over there with our cameras. We were among the first to do so, and there were houses literally in the middle of the street that had been picked up by the force of the ocean and dumped in the middle of the road, still intact.

We saw sink holes, one of them had huge full size pickup truck up to its windows in this sink hole. The sand, the dunes used to be about 12 feet tall, if you like. They are now nothing. They have gone, and houses have been exposed, they've been toppled over.

The force of the water just blew through those dunes and raced through the ground, five-feet tall in some places and the damage is extraordinary. We actually saw the president's helicopter fly past us while we were standing on the beach.

We were, Erin, in the surf club there the day that the hurricane rolled in. We went back there today, it is absolutely destroyed.

BURNETT: I mean, it is hard to imagine, Michael, what it will take for people to rebuild. We're going to be joined by the mayor of Seaside Heights in just a moment.

But Michael, let me ask you one more question because I know that you had a chance to speak to some of the people there, who had have the opportunity to be evacuated, and chosen not to. How do they feel now? It's been several days and a lot of them are still awaiting rescue.

HOLMES: You know, it's a mix of things, Erin. We spoke to some of those people before the hurricane, and today going back and seeing some of them, they are ruing that decision. They didn't think it was going to be like this, even though they were told it was a mandatory evacuation, they thought they could ride it out.

A lot of them were feeling foolish feeling today and thinking they made the wrong decision. There was also a touching one that we saw, an elderly man and his wife, she had Alzheimer's and he chose to ride it out because she felt more comfortable in familiar surroundings of the home.

He said if he had it over again he'd have packed up and left. About 300 people were pulled off today. Interestingly, the police say no one will be allowed back on there for several days until it's made safe.

There are still a few people in their houses refusing to leave. The police have said if you come outside, we'll take you into custody and take you off the island. But if you stay indoors, we'll leave you alone.

BURNETT: And you mentioned the sand. I just want to ask. This is an area, you know, I've spent a lot of time coming back and forth, family lived there. And when you talk about the sand, is it literally blocking the roads? I mean, just give everyone a sense of how overwhelming it is, like it's all beach now, right?

HOLMES: It's extraordinary. The beach, if you like, if we equate that to sand, the beach goes about three or four blocks inland. All the sand was picked up, dumped down the road. Yes, it is an obstacle on many of those streets you can't drive on because the sand is so deep.

And they've said, we've seen at least 20 or 30 front-end loaders go over today and we saw them actually begin to start to pick that sand up and dump it off the roadways. You imagine a 12-foot dune that is just not there anymore, that sand is all on the roadways in these little interconnected towns and communities.

BURNETT: Michael, thank you very much in giving us a real sense of the devastation there.

Bill Akers is the mayor of Seaside Heights and that's obviously where Michael was today, just a few miles from where he was standing. I spoke to him just a couple moments ago and asked him what the most crucial issue that he is facing tonight is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAYOR BILL AKERS, SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY (via telephone): The most crucial issues right now is making sure that we can get all the gas leaks stopped, that we have to get that done before we can start thinking about restoring any kind of power.

We don't want to have any explosions because we still don't have all of our response equipment over here, yet, fire trucks, things like that, if something was to happen with the fire, we would need to handle that.

As far as there are people, the second part of the question, there are definitely people we evacuated probably as much as 98 percent, but we have people here. We have the state police, all of us going door to door 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, everyone that is here, that is remaining will be asked to leave.

BURNETT: We're looking at some of the scenes here, it's hard to watch and I know for you it must just break your heart to see these pictures. How long do you think before this town will be back?

AKERS: I couldn't even venture a guess. It's an overwhelming task. I know there's going to be brighter minds than mine that are going to have to be involved in this with the process of planning and implementing it and getting everything going.

I guess, the silver lining to all this is that the buildings, the structures and things like that, that have been destroyed, we have a lot of very, very good people around us, and that's what we're going to need to get this thing done.

BURNETT: I know some of the people there, they say they're going back in and they're rebuilding and that's their attitude and it's wonderful to hear, but hard to think about when you see those pictures.

I know you had said, sir, that the damage could be severe, up to $1 billion, that would be more than the entire damage in the state of New Jersey with the big hurricane. I mean, that's just to give people a sense of the scale, do you still think that's the kind of cost you're looking at to rebuild?

AKERS: As a layman that doesn't do that for a living, I absolutely do because what you're seeing in the overhead pictures, nobody's seen the structure damage, the foundations. The pilings are gone up at the boardwalk.

We lost two complete piers. I mean, once they can get in and see these. I think you're going to see condemnation on a lot of these properties. It's just -- it's absolutely for the owners of these places because there's generation of generation of families that go back at Seaside Heights. It's going to be heartbreaking when they go to realize what has happened to their properties.

BURNETT: And some people watching may see these pictures and say isn't that the town that became famous in "Jersey Shore" and it is for those of you watching. This is that town.

And obviously it's a light-hearted show and now hard to sort of fit these images with that. Mayor, do you think this is going to help in terms of the attention that you may get and people understanding the situation and helping?

AKERS: I would welcome any and all help and if that's what it takes to get some people interested in helping Seaside Heights, I welcome it. It can never be a bad thing to shed light on a serious situation, and this is about as serious as it gets.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Amid all the destruction, there are signs things are slightly returning to normal in some places. The stock exchange opened after being shut for two days and we want to show you this.

This is the scene right now outside our building, traffic and I mean incredible traffic, gridlock like I have never experienced in my life in New York City. It's something that has been missing on the streets of New York during the storm.

They were empty, but today with public transportation shut down, and the crane disruption, commuters sat for hours and hours and hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We ran into a lot of trouble ourselves as we tried to get to Hoboken.

It took us a half hour to move two blocks and another two plus hours to get to Hoboken, which is five miles away. Hopefully this will make the commute easier for some because tomorrow parts of the New York City subway will reopen, which is pretty miraculous because the pictures you're seeing, that's still the case in some parts of the system, but they've managed to open other parts.

It's a pretty incredible testament to New York. Still to come, coming to the rescue, I was telling you I spent the day with the National Guard in Hoboken, New Jersey, going door to door helping people from their homes.

Plus Governor Cuomo today of New York visited what's left of a Queens neighborhood scorched by a massive fire. Residents of that neighborhood also tried to come home for the first time and for some they found nothing.

And the politics of Sandy, John King has a map to show you of pretty incredible, actually two, one shows areas of the power out and the other, how those residents voted in the last election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Sifting through the wreckage of Sandy, 110 homes in the Breezy Point beachfront community of New York were destroyed by fire in Sandy's wake.

Deb Feyerick toured the damage today and she spoke with residents of this incredibly battered community.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They searched through the ashes and took the few things that survived hurricane Sandy's unexpected inferno.

ELENA TASSO, LOST HOME: I have the cross from my rosary beads when I made my holy communion.

FEYERICK (on camera): How many years ago was that?

TASSO: It's got to be about 70 years ago.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Katy Gallagher raised five kids and grandkids over four decades, she found nothing.

KATY GALLAGHER, LOST HOME: Pictures, memories, my husband died a few years ago, his favorite desk that he absolutely loved and everything I have of him, just all gone.

FEYERICK: As families searched for belongings, fire, search and rescue teams that made sure no one had disappeared in the fire.

BATTALION CHIEF RICHARD BLATUS, FDNY: Although we have no reports of people missing, we can't take anything for granted so we're going through all of the structurally compromised buildings, the remains of the fire damaged areas and we're searching for any victims, anyone who possibly could be trapped.

FEYERICK: The Breezy Point community that includes firefighters, police and first responders, lost many people on 9/11 as they did then, they came together now.

CLARE MORAN, LOST HOME: This is his only house. We're all so close here.

FEYERICK (on camera): So one loss is a loss for everyone.

MORAN: Absolutely.

FEYERICK (voice-over): New York's governor made a brief appearance to see the devastation up close.

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK: To see the families coming in and coming out, and how you can have your life overturned in 24 hours and they were in their home, they had their belongings. And now their lives are gone, their lives are shattered, they're looking for places to stay, and coming back, to literally pick up the pieces of their lives. FEYERICK: Pieces which neighbors and friends will use to rebuild.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Well, Sandy has thrown the presidential candidates off track in the last crucial days of the campaign. Now there is concern the power outages caused by the storm could actually affect voting.

OUTFRONT tonight, John King, and John, what have you been finding on that question? We've been hearing that question from more and more people. I know you've got some answers.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, let's hope with six days to go, five full days to work that utility officials and state and local officials get most of this fixed.

If you look at the map here, you see the areas that are not green, well, they have been impacted by superstorm Sandy when it comes to power outages.

Now you just mentioned, you have Deb Feyerick, was just talking about the New York City area, of course. Let me show you the darker the color that means the higher number of people without power.

New York you move down obviously to the state of New Jersey, incredibly hard hit especially along the shoreline. We know New York. We know New Jersey likely to go Democratic. So maybe this drives turnout that a little bit.

Not likely to be if the problems persist in any way election changing. But let's walk over to the state of Pennsylvania here and look at this, you see this down here, let me help you understand this chart a little bit.

I'm going to pop it out here so people can see the chart and this explains as I said the darker the color the higher the number of people without power so as we come back to the state of Pennsylvania I want to show you something.

If you look it's pretty obvious to the naked eye in this area here is where you see more people without power, Scranton, Allentown, Retting, especially down here in Philadelphia and the suburbs, about 100,000, maybe a little more than that out of power in Philadelphia and Montgomery and Bucks County alone.

Let's just go back in time, Erin, and look at how those people voted in the last presidential election. So if the problems persist right there that tells you more of a problem for the president and if there's no power at polling stations, no power in houses, if people decide too much hassle I can't vote.

Now that Pennsylvania is an absentee ballot state, but not a big early voting state. They don't allow open early voting so it's not as much a question now. The question is can they fix this and get the power restored come Election Day. Let's move over to another battleground state here in the state of Ohio. This is a place where the Obama campaign has worked very hard in early voting in the African-American community especially in the Cleveland area.

That's right here, Cuyahoga County up here. I'll draw a big line across here, you see Cleveland, the Cleveland suburbs and to a lesser degree down here to the south in the Akron area people without power, put it to the same test, how did they vote back in 2008, how they tend to vote in presidential poll.

You see some Republicans down here in the more rural counties, but across the top of the state, the northern part of the state heavy Democratic areas, our producer called out to Cuyahoga today early voting down a bit today than it was four years ago.

So you do see some obvious immediate impact. The question is again, with the few more days to go, five more days can they get this fixed come Election Day. I'll just give you one more quick example in the Northern Virginia suburbs and again to the naked eye it tells the story.

Still a lot of people out right on the northern Washington D.C. area, right there, Fairfax County, Arlington, go back four years, you see all that blue. This is the area most critical to President Obama.

He has to win the state of Virginia, has to be a high turnout there. Again, Erin, when you call into these communities they think they'll get it fixed in time for Tuesday, but something to keep an eye on.

BURNETT: And John, let me just ask you when you talked to the two campaigns, I know they don't want to talk about it this way, but does either of them see this benefiting them, when push comes to shove at the end of the day?

KING: It's fascinating that they actually give you the same answer and how rare is it the Romney, Obama campaigns would give you the same answer to a question. You're absolutely right. They say we're not going to talk about that in any public way.

It would be insensitive. It would impolitic. It would be wrong, but then privately they say, for the most part, they think it's a wash especially if the power comes back on. The Obama campaign is a little worried about that early voting.

The Romney campaign says they think it freezes the race. Remember the ads have not come down. The candidates have not been as active in the affected states. They've canceled events and like, but the ads have not come down.

So they're still slugging it out on the air waves. Privately both campaigns do think if there's any benefit it would be a slight benefit to the guy who is president of the United States. There have been no huge complaints about the federal response, actually a lot of compliments including Republican Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey.

So if there's a slight advantage here, it would go to the president, but both sides think if it is, it's pretty slight.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to John King.

Coming up next, I was in Hoboken today with the National Guard. We're going to show you the pictures and tell you about the people that we met who are stranded in their own homes on a night where the temperatures are now starting to rapidly drop.

And the monumental task of getting the lights back on, when crews can't get through the debris. Residents resort to other means of transportation just to get -- those stories still to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Just across the Hudson River from New York City, Hoboken, New Jersey, is nearly at a breaking point. Nearly 20,000 people could be trapped in their homes tonight, at one point three- quarters of that entire city was under water.

Ninety percent of the people there are still without power. We were there today some of the power lines are literally dropping down onto the road. It's getting cold tonight and we just returned from Hoboken where I went out with National Guard troops trying to reach stranded residents. And it looks like we don't have -- and here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT (voice-over): This is the staging area for the National Guard. Dozens of guards are here to evacuate anywhere from 15 to 20,000 people who are still trapped by surging floodwaters.

As we rolled out the scene quickly degrades from dry roads to waist-high water, cars abandoned in the middle of the street, not a sidewalk in sight.

Water full of oil, debris and sewage, up to 25 percent of the city is still submerged in water and less than a mile into our trip a man walking with his belongings in a large garbage bag.

(on camera): How bad was it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dad. All of my clothes are all messed up. The whole door is caved in there.

BURNETT (voice-over): Hector Santiago is the superintendent of this flooded building. Water is receding but images like this car bring home the magnitude of the storm's wrath here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a guy having chest problems they want to get him out.

BURNETT: A couple of their friends brought their boats here to help with the rescues. At times the water is so deep our Humvee can't get through so we went looking for a larger truck. We found one nearby in the middle of a rescue.

Even the National Guard are relying on cell phones with service spotty to nonexistent so we had to drive through the neighborhood to find yet another. That one had finally reached the man having chest pains in this building.

Instead of being evacuated, he chose to stay to ride it out like he rode out the storm. Many residents here want to stay, despite the fumes, the water, the lack of power, and tonight, conditions will be even worse.

Temperatures have been dropping all day and there's no heat, but that isn't stopping the National Guard.

(on camera): How many people do you think you've been able to get?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. We're not really keeping track. We're just trying to get as many as we can. It's about helping our neighbor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: It is about helping our neighbors and that's -- there were all young men trying to save people and help people. It was pretty humbling and inspiring.

Brian Todd is also out in Hoboken today and he's OUTFRONT tonight. Brian, I know, you know, where you are, I know the floodwaters have come down a little bit today when we were there. What are you seeing tonight?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, they have receded a little bit today, but they're still lingering and the mayor says they're going to be around for at least another 24 hours. I'm at the corner of Park Avenue and Newark Street here, water coming up to almost my knees at this point.

It does get a little shallower as you make your way toward the middle. This is a corner where a storm drain is. That tends to be where the worst areas of flooding are. These two cars have been stranded for a couple of days.

I think as you mentioned in your piece, a big concern here is kind of a health concern, this water is absolutely filthy, sewage, chemicals all over the place, a lot of other matter that is really almost unthinkable when you think of what's floating around here, very unhealthy.

And the mayor has expressed her concern about how unhealthy it is and why people should not necessarily do what we're doing in walking around in it or near it.

Two National Guard vehicles went through here, Erin, you were just reporting on that so they are going around picking people up. That is ongoing so this city is certainly not out of the woods yet as far as some of the danger and some of the flooding.

BURNETT: You talk about the water, I mean, some of it was flying up in our face it looks oily and gross. I know there was raw sewage in it. I mean, as you mentioned, it's a horrible health risk for the people that are there.

And everyone is wading through it. You've got on boots even though you shouldn't be in it. Lot of people have makeshift plastic bags and things like that.

TODD: Right.

BURNETT: I know the city has pumps, but do you think how long are you hearing it's going to be before they can actually clear it out?

TODD: You know, we're hearing projections of at least a couple of days. When you see kind of what's going on around the streets then you understand why. We have not seen a lot of high volume pumping going on at least in this area.

What we've seen is volunteers, community volunteers coming on their own with like hose and picks and things like that to clear out the storm drains. There is actually a storm drain right here, right below where I'm standing, gets kind of deep here.

These guys are coming out in their own in hip waders and boots like that, clearing out storm drains on their own. These are local citizens volunteering and through there (ph), there's actually an intersection about a block away got completely cleared of water today, Erin, took them a couple hours, like three or four guys just working consistently trying to clear the debris from the storm drains did it. If they have to rely on that, it's going to take longer than a couple of days.

BURNETT: All right. Brian Todd, thank you so much reporting from Hoboken. And we're going to keep an eye out on that story.

The health danger with that water, with 20,000 people who are sitting in apartments with the water sitting in front of them is a big problem, never mind the cold and the lack of power and as you saw in our piece, people who have health problems who are still afraid to leave.

Later in the show, we're going to show you the Hoboken hospital and I think that's going to leave some of you very concerned.

Tonight, Sandy is forcing another New York City hospital to evacuate. This time due to damage and loss of power, Bellevue Hospital is the oldest hospital in the United States of America and it's moving nearly 700 patients from the facility.

The hospital had been operating on a generator since losing power during the storm. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: They didn't think the damage was that bad, and we did have a generator going and the National Guard helped carry fuel up to the roof because that's where the fuel tank was and they were running out. But the bottom line is when they got into the basement, they realized there was more damage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Alan Aviles is the president and chief executive officer of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation which operates Bellevue.

And thank you very much, sir, for taking the time.

You just heard Mayor Bloomberg say, you know, that you hadn't realized how bad the situation was until now. You know, what happened and how could it have been that they didn't realize?

ALAN AVILES, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK CITY HEALTH & HOSPITALS CORPORATION: Well, it was very clear that we had a serious situation with the cavernous basement completely inundated with water, about a million square feet of space down there. It's a huge campus complex and we estimate about 17 million gallons of water eventually was sitting in there. So we wanted to pump out enough so that we could assess whether it would be at all possible to repair some of the distribution grid that would allow us to power up some of the other essential systems in the building, the emergency generators, so just not enough to keep this hospital operating for a longer term.

BURNETT: And are you able to get all of the people in critical care, you can imagine all of the situations, with the life-saving equipment, are all those people going to be OK?

AVILES: Yes, thankfully they are. We had 725 patients in this hospital when the storm hit. There are now 260 patients awaiting transfer. We started actually yesterday moving the critical care patients even before it was clear to us that it would be impossible to maintain operations at this hospital for a longer term.

So the most vulnerable patients have been transferred and there are still 260 patients to be moved, most of them were moved tonight, will be fully done by tomorrow.

BURNETT: And this isn't the only New York City Hospital forced to evacuate. You know, I remember Monday night when New York Medical Langone Center had to evacuate patients. So, I guess the first question is do you have enough hospital beds for all these people. But secondly, was it that you didn't foresee the magnitude of this storm, that the hospitals weren't prepared or that the hospitals could never be prepared for this sort of event and this is what's going to happen if a storm like this comes again?

AVILES: Well, this was an unprecedented event. We weathered hurricane Irene 14 or 15 months ago with the same emergency preparations, and it didn't come close to endangering the hospital. This hospital sits 20 feet above sea level. We're actually 15 feet higher than NYU hospital next door because the terrain just rises slightly here.

So it was obviously not anticipated that we would get a storm surge of this magnitude, the National Hurricane Center was predicting even at its highest 11-foot storm surge. So, clearly, here out of the East River, just because of the way the waters were being pushed and the level of the wind speeds, we wound up getting a lot of water here. We've never seen anything like this at Bellevue Hospital.

BURNETT: Well, thank you very much. We appreciate your taking the time tonight.

And the monumental task of removing debris and getting the lights turned back on is under way on Long Island, New York. Complicating matter this is evening, roadways are still blocked by floodwaters and preventing about 5,000 utility workers from even starting to restore power to parts of that island.

Republican Congressman Peter King from Long Island is OUTFRONT tonight. He's the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Chairman, good to talk to you.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: I wish it weren't under these circumstances.

KING: Yes.

BURNETT: How long do you think before things start to get back to normal at all? So many people are at home and as bad as things are at home they want to try to have normalcy in their life. They want to try to go to work and they can't.

KING: Right now, I'm at the emergency command center in Nassau County with county executive Mangano, state police here, FEMA, fire departments, basically everyone who could possibly be involved, and that is the goal to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.

The reality is, though, that there's 1.1 million customers for the Long Island Power Authority, over 900,000 are without power. So it's almost 90 percent of the people on Long Island are without power. You're right. There's hundreds and hundreds of trees down, still hundreds of traffic lights out there and there is flooding.

Every effort is being made, there is progress being made and some power has already been restored but it's brutal. This is really our version of Katrina. I'm not saying any two tragedies are alike, but I've been touring the south shore today in my district and Massapequa, Lindenhurst, the devastation were just enormous. What you're showing is typical of many areas of Long Island.

Having said, there is power being restored. FEMA, in fact, right now, the county executives are meeting with FEMA to set up the exact plans as to how that recovery will take place. There are workers coming in from all over the country to work with LIPA, to restore the power.

But it's a tough haul. I don't want to give anyone any false hope. But I can tell them everything that can be done is being done. I think over the next several days, you will see more power being restored but this could go on for another 10 days to two weeks.

BURNETT: And are there people still missing? I mean, I know what we saw in Hoboken, New Jersey, 20,000 people are still there. Now, they are stuck with water beneath their apartments and their homes but there are a lot of people who chose to ride this storm out, a lot of people who weren't in areas that were supposed to be at high risk and they're still there.

KING: Yes, for instance Long Beach, which is an island probably 34,000 people on the island, many of them stayed, and I was talking to several people today, just anecdotal but friends of theirs who cannot find their wife or their daughters or their sons, cousins, people in homes who made frantic phone calls at 11:00, 12:00 on Sunday night, and the phone went dead and the people haven't been seen since.

Now, they could well be in shelters, there's virtually no communication with long beach island right now. Police are out there. They're going door-to-door but again there is a concern there are people who are missing and who may not be accounted for. But as of now, there are no known fatalities in these areas. But again, there are people who are still missing, yes.

BURNETT: And, Chairman, we keep hearing everyone say, look, we did everything we could, we were ready for this storm and I don't mean to say that that's not true, it's certainly what I've experienced. I've never seen New York City shut down the way it did and put out the warnings that it did.

There's no question authorities took this seriously. But do you think people didn't -- you know, authorities didn't understand how severe this storm was, that perhaps some of what we're seeing right now in terms of people who are trapped and missing could have been prevented?

KING: Not really. I guess anything could be done better. But the fact is, in this case, the people who are trapped, people were trapped and could be missing right now are people who chose to stay there. I mean, county executives from both counties urged people, ordered people to leave, they refused to leave and this is what's happening as a result of that.

But all of these people who are missing, all of these people who were trapped all came from areas where they were ordered to evacuate, they did not evacuate and this is one of the consequences of that.

BURNETT: Let me ask you one final question about New York City. You spoke with the homeland security secretary today, Janet Napolitano.

KING: Yes.

BURNETT: Are you worried about New York given in a sense it's vulnerable right now.

KING: Yes. Listen, I have great faith in New York, great faith in Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Cassano. But no, I mean, we have to be concerned. This is the most devastating hit that's ever -- natural disaster ever to hit New York, the subway system is shut down, bridges and tunnels being shut down.

But, Erin, one thing, never ever under -- I was born and raised in New York City, my father was a city cop for over 30 years -- never underestimate the spirit and vitality of New York. New York will come back stronger than ever.

BURNETT: It sure will, I have to say. I believe that and I think everyone around the world is rooting for that, too.

Chairman King, thank you for your time.

And still to come, we showed you the president touring the damage caused by Sandy with New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie. The Republican governor had a lot of praise for the president. Could the president's response affect Election Day?

And the loss of power created a very strange sight around our trucks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Christie and Obama, perfect together, to paraphrase the old New Jersey motto. The president did tour the Garden State's battered coastline today with New Jersey's Republican governor and, again, Governor Christie, who has been a key and very early Romney supporter was, he said what he thought was true, he said that the president had done a good job on the storm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Bay Buchanan, senior adviser to the Romney campaign.

And, Bay, thank you so much for taking the time.

BAY BUCHANAN, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Delighted.

BURNETT: So, first of all, let's start with the comment. I mean, do you think the president's done a good job?

BUCHANAN: As the president of the United States, no. On the storm, you know, I don't think anybody would know better than Governor Christie and he's obviously worked closely with those governors and stayed on top of it. So I see no reason why not to believe what Governor Christie has to say.

BURNETT: Is it hard to see a key Romney surrogate heaping praise on the president, whether it's fair, merited or not. Chris Christie is one of the main guys out there fighting for Romney.

BUCHANAN: You know I think, what I think you're seeing here is Republicans have a tendency to be honest if somebody's doing a good job and be honest if they're not. They're just going to lay it out there.

Governor Romney has made a very strong case against Barack Obama, his failed policies and now it's done an enormous amount of damage to Americans across the country. So, that's the case we're making because of the big decisions next week and Governor Christie is with Mitt Romney, has supported Mitt Romney, understands the failed policies of Barack Obama.

But he's working with them on this storm and feels he's working very well with him. So, be it.

BURNETT: It is, though, an image that sticks in some people's minds.

And I just want to ask you, you know, "The Wall Street Journal" wrote a headline about the storm and underneath the headline about the storm which is the top story around the country is "Race is back on after storm hiatus." But as you can see, much smaller font but it made the front page.

Look, I mean, I guess that's something. It is the presidential election, but barely making the front page. Has the hiatus, though, slowed Mitt Romney's momentum? I mean, are you just hoping whatever people thought before the storm, they froze whatever they're going to do and still going to do it, and they're not going to swing back to the president because of the storm?

BUCHANAN: You know, that will have to be seen. There's no question we have five days left that the momentum is with us, has been now for a long time. Obviously, you stop campaigning for a few days, you have to come back, see what happens out there.

But the key is, we've been living under Barack Obama for four years. Americans know exactly the impact his policies have had on him, enormously challenging, and what Mitt Romney is offering them is a break from the status quo, not four more years. But four years of promises of new jobs and a fresh start for millions of Americans, a brighter future for their children.

It's a clear choice here, Erin, and I don't think three days of us being worried and praying for the victims of this storm are going to change four years of Barack Obama.

BURNETT: What about, though, then just the bottom line here, which is the path to 270 without Ohio is difficult but not impossible. Ohio the polls haven't changed at all. I mean, you talk about momentum, but I'm looking here at Florida, Ohio and Virginia. But look at Ohio, 50 for the president, 45 for Mitt Romney. That's outside the margin of error.

BUCHANAN: That's one poll. There's other polls showing it very, very close, within the margin of error. In fact, I saw a poll right before the storm that had a tie there.

I'll tell you what's key, Erin, to look at now just a few days left and that is Barack Obama has not broken 50 percent. He's down in the 47 percent, 48 percent, has been for what the better part of two months now. He can't break that number whether it's Ohio or Florida or Virginia, Colorado.

And on Election Day there's a couple things that are going to matter. If you're undecided, those undecideds will break for the challengers, that's what's historically known, that's four years they'd already know if they're going to be with the president or not. So, they'll break with the challengers, in addition it's your ground game. We have an amazing ground game, we're going to have our votes out there, the intensity is with us.

All the fundamentals of this campaign are with Mitt Romney and that's because he's the best candidate out there with a great, great deal to offer the American voters.

BURNETT: OK. Well, thank you very much. We appreciate your time, and next as much as the nation focuses on Sandy, the candidates are increasing that focus on Ohio. Without it, it's almost impossible to become president, not impossible, I said almost. John Avlon is going to look at the ground game after this.

And the Sandy cell phone phenomenon, just -- if you look at this, we'll hold it up for a second, what you're looking at here is -- well, it's a charging station. When we drive our satellite trucks to some of these places, people flock, we're going to show you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Well, as everyone focuses on the storm and it's effect on the election, let's talk about that, because the storm -- the election could come down to Ohio. That has not changed.

And our new CNN poll shows, poll of polls on the Buckeye State, which means no margin of error, shows 49 to 46 in favor of the president.

John Avlon is senior political columnist with "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast." He is in Youngstown, Ohio, traveling with the Election Express of CNN.

And, John, let me start by asking you this, if it's this tight in Ohio, is it possible we will not know who won the election on election night?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Erin, that is what county officials here called the nightmare scenario. When we spoke on a number of them in this key swing state, key swing district, and it really is the nightmare scenario.

Here is what it could look like. Right now, 1.4 million Ohioans have requested an early ballot, an absentee ballot, but only half roughly have returned them. Now, to the folks who haven't returned that go to the polls on Election Day, they won't be eligible to vote unless they cast what's called a provisional ballot.

Now, there's where it gets interesting. Those votes won't be counted until up to 10 days after the election. So, if Ohio is close and the polls show that they are, and it's within that margin of error and they need to count provisional votes, it won't be November 6th, it could be November 16th before we know who won Ohio and possibly the presidency.

BURNETT: Oh, wow, that is a nightmare scenario I think for everyone in this country.

AVLON: It is Halloween, Erin.

BURNETT: Something for Halloween. And I know the focus there is on early voting, as you mentioned, and I know you have spoken to some very important people in Ohio this week, U.S. senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman. Here they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: The other side has so much more money. And we win why grassroots politics and that means people going to the polls early voting. It means getting organized. It means people talking to their friends.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: If you haven't already really voted, and go ahead and bank that vote, or you can go down tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. It's really important because this enables us to be free on Election Day.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BURNETT: So who has the upper hand on early voting, John?

AVLON: Well, right now, according to county officials we've spoken to, Democrats have a narrow edge. A couple of thousand votes on these key districts.

But Democrats tend to vote early, that's where the emphasis of the Obama campaign has been. And that's one of the reasons you saw Rob Portman say to the volunteers in his campaign headquarters, vote early so you can help get people to the polls on Election Day. Republicans tend to vote on Election Day. Democrats invest in huge effort in those early votes because it's money in the bank. That's where they're looking to pull this out in the Buckeye State.

BURNETT: Thanks so much to John Avlon with the CNN Election Express. And OUTFRONT next, something I saw while I was in Hoboken today: neighbors helping neighbors.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: In Hoboken, New Jersey, today, we saw a community in distress. I mean, take a look at this. This is a hospital in Hoboken, closed. The doors were open. There was a homemade sign indicating call 911, we can't help.

And while there were reports of looting at a store there, what I want to focus on tonight are the images of hope that we saw. People in total silence and darkness shopping at the only local grocery store. They were waiting patiently. I mean, it was an eerie silence, to buy food and supplies.

We showed you the Good Samaritans who brought their own boats to try to rescue people there and help the National Guard. All of those young me and women are heroes. Two of them told me they haven't slept since the storm. But they are not sleeping now. They're still out there tonight trying to help people as temperatures drop.

But not everything was that dramatic. Hobokeners were clustered around any tower, sharing to try to charge their cell phones. And that's' something happened across New Jersey, Good Samaritans setting up charging stations so people can charge and then go on their way, whether they're helping rescue people or just trying to get on with their lives.

Moments like that were inspiring. It is going to be a long, painful recovery for millions of people. But those moments of helps, strangers helping out are something that can leave us inspired tonight.

Anderson Cooper starts now.