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THE SITUATION ROOM
Hurricane Relief Efforts Continue; President Obama Tours New Jersey
Aired October 31, 2012 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A mass evacuation at a major New York City hospital right now; 700 patients are forced to leave.
And we're continually learning new information about the extent of the damage, the homes, and the lives devastated by Sandy.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin this hour with a cost in human life from superstorm Sandy. The death toll in the United States now stands at, at least 54, and as rescue and recovery efforts continue, we're getting a clearer picture of the massive devastation. It now appears the New York borough of Staten Island may have suffered the single greatest loss of life, at least 14 people were killed there and several are still missing.
Our own Kate Bolduan is working this part of the story for us.
Kate, let me walk over to you. Tell us what you're learning because it's devastating.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's devastating. You just heard that at least 14 people dead in Staten Island. We're seeing some very devastating images coming out of Staten Island as well.
Take a look at this, and this is video from the NYPD showing an aerial rescue of people trapped in their flooded-out homes there. Five adults and one child rescued. Amazing video still coming into us.
I was able to actually catch up with the Staten Island borough president, Jim Molinaro, as he was surveying more of the damage this afternoon.
BOLDUAN: Can you describe the scene for us? I know you're out going to tour some of the devastated areas.
JIM MOLINARO, STATEN ISLAND BOROUGH PRESIDENT: What I describe the scene, it's like a tsunami hit us and this is the aftermath.
It's something that it's tough to describe. It's just horrible, houses that collapsed. Water came in. At one point, there was a surf came in at 13.5 feet that crashed into a wall. The coastal line, just dozens and dozens of homes just destroyed beyond repair. And the public beach, where $60 million or $70 million was put into in the last 10 years is completely gone.
BOLDUAN: What is the situation in terms of power and electricity?
MOLINARO: The power, there is 114,000 customers out of electric out of 164,000 total for the whole borough. So there's two-thirds of the people of Staten Island have none.
BOLDUAN: What are you telling residents at this point? Because clearly it's near impossible to get off of Staten Island, right?
MOLINARO: You got to realize that for three days, you could not get off Staten Island no matter what you did because the simple reason that the bridges were closed, the ferries were closed, so you were landlocked, and that has created a tremendous shortage of gasoline.
There's lines that two and three blocks long, but no gasoline available. Most of our traffic lights are out because of the lack of electricity to them. And I'm looking at a line now which is approximately three, four, maybe five blocks long waiting for gasoline.
BOLDUAN: My understanding is you have lived on Staten Island a very long time, and have you ever seen anything like this before?
MOLINARO: Never. Never. Not only I, but there are people that are victims of this storm that have been living here 75 years, believe it or not, and their families before them. They say this could be a 100-year storm. I think this is a 300-year storm. It's just something beyond anybody's belief.
BOLDUAN: I know you have never seen anything like this before, but how long do you think it will take to clean all of this up and start rebuilding for residents in the borough?
MOLINARO: I would say before you could even put some time into this, where you get back to normal, where you before, it will take at least a month, a month-and-a-half. To bring it back to where it was will cost you billions of dollars, not millions, but billions of dollars.
This is the worst tragedy to ever happen to Staten Island, number one, and it's the worst tragedy to happen to the city of New York since 9/11.
BOLDUAN: Do you expect from what you see the death toll to rise even higher in Staten Island and in New York?
MOLINARO: It definitely will be higher, there's no question. Hopefully not, hopefully not, but I think by the amount of homes that have collapsed, I think it's only inevitable we will get some additional deaths. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BALDWIN: That's Jim Molinaro, the Staten Island borough president.
You heard right there he said it's the worst tragedy to ever hit Staten Island. He said right now -- I asked what are your basic most needs? He said, number one they need to get power on, of course. They're in desperate need of blood donations, he said. He said they have six shelters, all of them he said they are packed full. One of the shelters even called him last night and said that they were out of food.
So it's a tough situation.
BLITZER: And he said the death toll will rise too.
BLITZER: We're watching this.
Leonid Kovaci is a Staten Island resident himself. He's been seeing all of this firsthand. He's joining us on the phone right now.
Leonid, you're in Staten Island, on Staten Island, and we just got some new fresh video from the last hour when the president toured that area, shows lots of damage. What are you seeing there? Give us an eyewitness account.
LEONID KOVACI, RESIDENT OF NEW YORK: Well, I have been out since the night of the storm, and I was just checking around on my friends because I'm on the higher ground in Staten Island, so I was not affected by the storm.
I do have electricity. But I was watching TV all day, all night, and I didn't see until today anything showing on TV for Staten Island. Staten Island has been pretty damaged. There's been a lot of flooding. I'm on the part of the island right in the beginning once you get from Brooklyn when pass the Verrazano Bridge.
And this area, there is a main street, Highland Boulevard, right from the Sea View Hospital, and all the way passing to Midland Beach, everything was flooded. I have been hearing the rumors there's been over 20-something victims found already. Nothing is confirmed. These are the photos around my neighborhood. These are the photos in Dongan Hills and New Dorp .
BLITZER: These are pictures that you shared with us. We're showing our viewers right now, Leonid. The water, you have been up close, is it really filthy?
KOVACI:: The water is pretty deep, and it stinks because it's mixed with the sewage. These are the troops. I don't know whether they are Marines or what are they, but they are the army troops that were trying to help people around.
BLITZER: What are your neighbors saying to you?
KOVACI:: Well, everybody is trying to help each other. Everybody is just talking about their own family members, how some of the people -- I'm sorry -- in this picture that you just showed, there were two people trying to get ahold of their relatives.
A few houses, they were still in the water that was from yesterday. My neighbors are -- everybody is just trying to help each other. All of the basements are filled up with the water. Some people's first floor as well is filled up with the water. Today, I have been to my cousin's house, his house is full of water and it stinks with gas, and we were trying to put some generator and some water pumps so we can drain the water out.
BLITZER: When Hurricane Sandy, Leonid, was heading your way and authorities said get ready for an awful, awful storm, did you have any notion of the devastation that would develop?
KOVACI:: Can you repeat that question?
BLITZER: I said when you were told in advance this hurricane was on the way to New York, did you ever comprehend, did you ever have any sense of how bad it would be?
KOVACI:: Well, I guess because of what happened with the Irene, that it was like a big thing that was going to happen or it's going to be a big devastation for the Irene, and nothing really happened, I guess that's where all of us, we got tricked with that. So we did not really believe that it is going to be this strong.
BLITZER: It's a sad, sad story.
So, what's next for you, Leonid, for you and your family? What are you guys going to do?
KOVACI:: Well, in particular, nothing right now. I'm just trying to help my friends and my relatives around here. I did -- I go some people coming over in here because they don't have no power. They have kids, so trying to help each other, nothing in particular.
BLITZER: Leonid KOVACI:, good luck to you and your family, all of your friends over there on Staten Island. This is one part of the story that has not yet received a whole lot of attention, Kate, but we will show our viewers more, a sad, sad story indeed.
And a mass evacuation is under way right now at a major New York City hospital. Ambulances are lined up to move hundreds of patients, and our own doctor Sanjay Gupta is on the scene at the hospital.
BLITZER: We're following developments in Hoboken, New Jersey, right now as well. The National Guard has been rescuing some of the thousands of people who were trapped by floodwaters.
Brian Todd is there for us.
Brian, tell our viewers what's going on.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the mayor of this city just said they expect floodwaters to linger here for at least another 24 hours. You can see right now where I am here at this street corner floodwaters coming up maybe almost to my knees here and believe it or not these waters have recede din the last few hours. It was much worse earlier.
It gets a little bit shallower over here toward the middle, but I'm walking past two cars that have been stranded here for at least the last 24 hours. It gets shallower here in the middle, but then when you get over again toward the street corners near the storm drains are, it does get deeper and the water is extremely deep over that way, down this street, past this street corner.
One big worry here, Wolf, sewage, garbage, and the filth of this water is a real concern. The mayor says it's a health concern. There are chemicals in the water. The is garbage all over the water here, other material that you don't necessarily want to think about. But people are advised to stay away from this.
The National Guard has done 350 rescues from this town, and a lot of them are in places like this, in these apartments and brownstones. They have had to come and pull people out of them. We have had several cars just come down here, give up and turn around. Again, several intersections still like this in Hoboken, Wolf.
BLITZER: Any sign of people, of first-responders or cleanup crews, anything along those lines? National Guard, have you seen any evidence of that in Hoboken on the streets where you are?
TODD: A lot of National Guardsmen, Wolf, they are coming in these kind of high clearance vehicles to take people away from flooded areas like this.
Here comes some kind of vehicle here, not sure quite what it is. No, that is a National Guard vehicle too. This is an example of it. They're coming around in these vehicles, just looking for people that need to be evacuated, who want to get out of their homes. This is a prime area for it. They will be loading up people on that vehicle probably pretty soon, so they have been in evidence all day and all night last night starting at midnight.
Other city workers, we have not seen so much in this section. What we have seen are a lot of community volunteers coming out here in hip waders and in boots like mine, clearing storm drains, risking their own health because it is dirty around here, it is filthy. They're coming around here clearing storm drains. And at one intersection down this way, they really cleared the whole intersection. It's now dry because of their efforts.
BLITZER: Are people in Hoboken staying put? Have they basically abandoned that community?
TODD: Well, what we're told is they're not abandoning the city entirely, they're just going to higher ground. There are some shelters around here, they're going to those places and they're staying with friends.
A lot of them are staying in place. Some of these people who live in the higher floors are staying in their apartments. I have talked to a lot of them who say I live on the third or the fourth floor, I'm not going anywhere, I'm going to ride it out, and they have been able to do that. I guess they have stocked up or just otherwise made provisions. But a lot of people are also staying in place, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us in Hoboken, right across the river from New York City.
Kate, Hoboken was making a major comeback over the last several years. A lot commuters from New York moving to Hoboken, a little bit cheaper than living...
BOLDUAN: I have friends who live in Hoboken.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of young people moving there, and it's obviously a tough, tough situation.
BOLDUAN: Amazing, the problems that they're seeing and still will be for days and weeks to come.
Still ahead, new details of the inferno that wiped out an entire New York neighborhood at the height of the storm. Fire officials say 110 homes were destroyed.
BLITZER: People are going home now, Kate, and they're seeing their homes for the first time, or at least what's left of their homes.
BLITZER: This is a White House picture that's been just released, the president of the United States, the governor of New Jersey, President Obama, Governor Christie about Marine One, the helicopter, flying over the New Jersey shore, touring some of the devastated area.
We heard the president warmly praise Governor Christie as being responsive to that people of New Jersey. He's put his heart and soul into making sure everyone bounces back. That was the president speaking of Governor Christie.
Governor Christie in turn said that the president has been incredibly, incredibly diligent in what he's been doing helping everybody in New Jersey. They have a great working relationship, Governor Christie said, and he can't thank the president enough for what he has done.
Earlier, we spoke with a congressman whose home is among the 110 homes that burned to the ground in that Breezy Point neighborhood of New York City's borough of Queens.
BOLDUAN: The state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, visited the burned- out area today.
And CNN national correspondent Deborah Feyerick caught up with him, as well as some of the residents who are hoping to find anything left of their belongings.
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, SURVIVOR: I have the cross from my rosary beads when I was -- 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, SURVIVOR: Pictures, memories. My husband died a few years ago. His favorite desk that he absolutely loved and everything I have of him and it's just all gone.
FEYERICK: As families searched for belongings, fire search-and- rescue teams had made sure no one had disappeared in the fire.
RICHARD BLATUS, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: Although we have no reports of people missing, we can't take anything for granted. So, we're going through all the structurally compromised buildings, the remains of the fire-damaged areas. And we're searching for any victims, anyone that 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, SURVIVOR: This is only a house. And we're all so close here.
FEYERICK (on camera): So one loss is a loss for everyone.
FEYERICK (voice-over): New York's governor made a brief appearance to see the devastation up close. GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), 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 and their lives are shattered. They're looking for places to day, and coming back to literally pick up the pieces of their lives.
FEYERICK: Pieces which neighbors and friends will use to rebuild.
Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Breezy Point, Queens.
BLITZER: Beach resort towns that now look like a war zone. We're surveying the incredible damage along the Jersey Shore.
BOLDUAN: A huge swathe of America's largest city plunged into darkness by Hurricane Sandy. Just take a look at this picture sent in by CNN iReporter Jordan Shapiro. He took this stark picture of a pitch black Lower Manhattan from the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, where he lives. His description was eerie and surreal. I would say so.
BLITZER: Power outages also having very serious consequences. A mass evacuation is happening right now at New York City's Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the United States. Some 700 patients are being moved because of a power failure caused by flooding.
Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is there and he's got the very latest.
Sanjay, what's going on?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just had a press briefing from the leadership of the hospital here at Bellevue.
It's the first time we heard from them directly. And they revealed some important facts here. Wolf, over the last couple of days, it's been a chaotic situation at this very large hospital here behind me. What they found out is earlier today they were able to pump a lot of water out of the basement areas that contain these very important fuel pumps, these fuel pumps which provide oil to the generators that are up at a higher level in the hospital.
After pumping the water out, they realized there was just irreparable damage to these fuel pumps. And it's at that point that they decided that a massive full evacuation of Bellevue Hospital needed to take place.
It's a pretty significant amount of damage, and they say they really have no hopes of being able to repair that any time soon, and that's why that evacuation is taking place. This hospital typically has around close to 900 patients. There were 700 here this morning.
We learned that about half the patients have now been evacuated. And they expect these evacuations you can see here behind me to continue through the night and into tomorrow. It could take at least another probably 12 to 24 hours they say to complete those evacuations.
Something else, Wolf. I think I mentioned this earlier, that the National Guard has been a part of these efforts. They described something quite extraordinary. While they were waiting to determine whether these fuel pumps would work, they still needed to get oil to the 12th and 13th story of this building where the emergency generators are located.
The National Guard essentially created a bucket brigade, moving buckets of oil up to those generators over and over again for many hours to keep those generators working. Quite an extraordinary sight he was describing inside the hospital, just several flights of stairs, a bucket brigade getting that oil upstairs to keep the lights on, Wolf.
BLITZER: The other hospitals in New York, I assume with the exception of that NYU Medical Center where they had to evacuate some patients as well, the other hospitals as far as you know, Sanjay, seem to be OK, at least for now?
GUPTA: They seem to be.
And the real common denominator between Langone, which I can see from here, Wolf -- it's just up the road -- and Bellevue is that they're both along the East River. And that's relevant, as you know, because you know the East River, when it overflowed and it caused the flooding into these hospitals here on the banks of the East River. That's what's so dramatically affected their emergency power sources. And specifically those oil pumps.
So the ones that are further inland, like Mt. Sinai, for example, where we were yesterday, accepted many of the patients, is further inland and is much more protected from -- from the surge.
BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta on the scene for us over at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Sanjay, thanks very much.
Let's get a little bit more now on the destruction underway in New Jersey. The Newark mayor, Cory Booker, is joining us on the phone.
And Mayor, thanks very much for joining us. I know you're incredibly busy. Your constituents on Twitter, they've been asking you some serious questions. I guess most serious, when is the power going to be back on? What do you tell them?
CORY BOOKER, MAYOR OF NEWARK (via phone): I'm getting those details myself, so now I'm asking them to be strong. It's a really, really difficult situation, in some ways, not having power for -- to refrigerate medication or operate medical devices. It can even be life-threatening.
So we're asking for people that are in critical need to let us know that, to call 911 if there's an emergency. And others we'll try to let them know that we're going to be doing everything we can to cooperate with PSE&G to get the city going. But I'm finding out right now the sobering news that one of our substations is seriously damaged and it could be another couple days or more until we get power to a significant part of our city.
BLITZER: The pictures we're showing right now, not necessarily from Newark. But you can see the extent of the damage elsewhere in New Jersey right now.
You know, I know you're very active on Twitter. You had one exchange earlier today. Someone tweeted to you saying, "Really mad you got lights and not me. We live on the same block." To which you responded, "Seriously, go over while I'm working. Someone should enjoy my lights."
Did that constituent take you up on your offer?
BOOKER: No, I've been scanning my DMs especially for that one, because I would have let the person come into my home, which is now warmer, probably, than theirs. We've all got to help each other out. We've all got to look out for each other. To the extent that I can, I'm willing to do it. My staff has loaded me up. I've got a rolling bodega here with everything from diapers and baby food, to even some candy for folks that might have had to skip their trick or treat today.
But sure, we've got major problems. I just left the senior citizen senator with a lot of medically dependent people. Their generator went down. Now we're working on an evacuation plan or getting another generator up there.
So this is still a crisis. We're still in a state of emergency. There are a lot of challenges facing my community. Anything and everything that we can do for each other, we're going to do it. Because this storm is very strong. This community continues to pull together. We will show that we are absolutely stronger.
BOLDUAN: And Mayor Booker, one of the things that, of course, people are wondering about is the Newark airport. We know that it's open for some flights. But what's the status of that? When will it be fully functional?
BOOKER: Well, fully functional, you know, we have a lot of work to do out there. The Port Authority, our partner, is addressing it and very rapidly, frankly. We're supporting them, because as we're coming in today, we were seeing some inbound passengers stranded, because as both of us know, New York City, a greater area, a lot of the transit has been shut down. A lot of buses have been shut down. NJ Transit's shut down. So, you know, we were able to get some local city cabs up there to get those passengers out of there.
So it's a very difficult time. Most of our calls are being made day to day. We're going to continue to do that, because we're in a heightened state of emergency still.
Our Port Authority folks are doing the best they can, but they've got monumental infrastructure challenges. You know, like PATH lines leading into the old World Trade Center site are deeply flooded. They have Port Authority on the Marine (ph) terminal still without power.
So we have folks who are doing heroic things around the clock, trying to deal with the crises as it goes on and it's affecting, from the youngest child to the greatest institutions in our area. But I still believe we have a lot of strength, and we're tapping into reservoirs of community spirit and energy that's going to help us meet this crisis.
BLITZER: Are people going to be able to vote on Tuesday?
BOOKER: You know, that's not my immediate concern. My immediate concern is everything from getting senior citizens that are medically dependent power; dealing with a lot of the flooding.
I have a feeling, though, by this weekend, the resiliency of this democracy that has dealt with challenges for two -- over two centuries, we will find a way to get people to the polls so that the basic functions of a democracy continue. So I'm very confident that we'll pull together and find a way to make sure that voters can vote.
But right now the urgency, the focus, the determination is dealing with the now.
BLITZER: Good point and good luck, Mayor. Thanks very much for joining us.
BOOKER: Thank you, and you guys at CNN have done a really good job keeping the attention on the problem and getting information out to people who critically need it, so I thank you, as well.
BOLDUAN: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
BLITZER: Thank you, we're doing our best. Appreciate it.
With widespread power outages, the disaster could impact the presidential election just six days from now. We're going to take a closer look at that. Plus, we're getting new pictures coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now of this enormous devastation.
BOLDUAN: Let's take a quick look at some of the powerful photos coming in from across the East Coast today.
In New Jersey, a young girl and her 2-month-old sister evacuated their home and went to a Red Cross shelter.
Also, in New York, a torn American flag still waves, surviving the harsh winds of Hurricane Sandy.
And in New Jersey, workers try to push mountains of sand off the road that washed in during the storm. That's amazing.
And in West Virginia, a resort pummeled with snow after a blizzard. Just some of the memorable images of the Superstorm Sandy. She really left an impression.
BLITZER: Those photos are really powerful when you see them and study them.
BLITZER: The superstorm which slammed much of the country, including key battleground states forced the presidential candidates to take some time out from their campaigning, but are the gloves already starting to come off?
Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now from Jacksonville, Florida, with the latest. What are you seeing, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Romney campaign said the GOP nominee wanted to strike a positive tone today, but the brief pause in the super-heated rhetoric appears to be passing. One flash point for the remaining six days of this campaign is a radio ad Romney is running in the state of Ohio, an ad the vice president calls an outrageous lie.
ACOSTA (voice-over): At his first rally in the aftermath of Sandy, Mitt Romney steered clear of any direct attacks on the president. But it was clear the political winds were picking back up again, as Romney tried to tie the nation's storm response to election day.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now people coming together is what's also going to happen, I believe, on November 7.
ACOSTA: Then he made a segue back to his campaign's closing argument.
ROMNEY: I don't just talk about change. I actually have a plan to execute change and to make it happen.
ACOSTA: For Romney, it's a delicate balancing act as one of his top surrogates, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tours storm damage with President Obama, after praising the administration's response.
In a three-stop swing through Florida, Romney had other big-name supporters at his side, namely the state's former governor, Jeb Bush who appeared to take a dig at all of the attention paid to the president's handling of Sandy.
JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: My experience in this emergency response business is that it's the local level and the state level that really matters. That if they do their job right, the federal government part works out pretty good. ACOSTA: With less than one week to go, the Romney campaign is trying to expand the battleground map from the eight states both sides agree are in play to opportunities where Republicans now see in Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.
KEVIN MADDEN, ROMNEY ADVISOR: You're defending territory while we're on offense.
ACOSTA: On an Obama campaign conference call, the president's top advisors coined a new term for that.
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR (via phone): This professed momentum of the Romney campaign is really faux-mentum.
ACOSTA: In Ohio, the Romney campaign is running a radio ad that claims the president is allowing U.S. auto makers to shift jobs to China.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry, but for who? Ohio or China? Now comes word that Chrysler plans to start making Jeeps in -- you guessed it -- China.
ACOSTA: The ad builds on a story Romney told last week in Ohio.
ROMNEY: I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China.
ACOSTA: After Jeep's owner, Chrysler, came out to say the story is false and that the company is actually adding jobs in Ohio, the Obama campaign has seized on the moment as an act of desperation.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's what the ad says. It's an outrageous lie.
ACOSTA: Now, a senior Romney advisor is defending their advertising on that auto bailout, but Wolf, that same advisor is not saying whether or not the GOP nominee agrees with Chris Christie's praise of the president's handling of Hurricane Sandy.
But the Romney campaign did hold a conference call earlier today to sort of match the conference call that the Obama campaign put on. No surprise, the Romney campaign says it will prevail on Tuesday, but they said hopefully -- they used the word "hopefully" -- the outcome will be known as, I guess, addressing some of the uncertainty as this race is so very tight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: As you point out, the gloves are beginning to come off. Once again, thanks very much, Jim Acosta.
BOLDUAN: And there's concern about the power outages caused by Superstorm Sandy and voting. The election is just six days away now. CNN chief national correspondent John King has been looking into that.
John, what are you finding?
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, important that we mention that six days because it gives officials time. It gives authorities time. You just heard Mayor Booker, Newark, New Jersey, a few moments ago, saying he's confident by the time Tuesday comes they will have most of this worked out.
But if you look at the map here, you see this -- any time you see these different colors, the non-green, that's things that have been impacted during the storm.
Now, I'm just going to tap into Kentucky here and pull out this chart so you can see. Here's the overall national number. About 15 states, about 6 million people still without power. In some cases, that could take ten days or more. That means past the election. The death toll about 50 now in the United States from Superstorm Sandy.
Let's come back to this map, and I'll explain to you in detail what it means.
First, we'll pull the guide out here. We'll put it out to the side, and we'll go through some of the impact in states that are critical in the election season.
Now let's start with the state of Ohio. As I bring it out, you see this chart here. If you have a darker orange, 5,000 plus households in that area, and you see the lighter the color, the fewer people impacted. Well, look up here. Let's just look up here. And I'll draw a line, and you see Cleveland and Lake County right here. Cleveland, the Cleveland suburbs. And this top area, the state of Ohio. This is the most heavily hit area here.
I'm just going to change the map a little bit and go back in time. Here's why this could matter. This is how these areas voted in the 2008 presidential election. You see especially in the Cleveland area, down here in Akron, again I'll come back and show you the impact of the storm so far. These are people who are without power right now. Six days to go.
But one thing this has done, our producer, Tasha Diakita (ph) has called into Cuyahoga County. It is about 124,000 people still without power. Early voting today is down. Early voting a top priority in the African-American community from the Obama campaign. So there could be an impact there.
We assume by Tuesday things will be better on election day, but in terms of the early voting operation, you do see some impact here.
Let's move over to the state of Pennsylvania. Again, I'm going to draw a line just through the areas most impacted. The darker areas are those who have more people without power.
Now let's go back in time and look at Pennsylvania, 2008. Most of those areas, again, are Democratic, especially the critical Philadelphia area and the Philadelphia suburbs. This is where most people in the state of Pennsylvania, more people here, in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks county. They have more people here without power than anywhere else. Somewhere in the ballpark of 100,000, maybe a little more in that area.
Now, they have a much. It's only absentee voting there. You don't have aggressive early voting like you do in some other states. So you don't see the impact necessarily today. The question is can they be up and running by the time election day comes around?
Just one more I want to show you. Pop the map back out nationally. We're a little bit closer here in the state of Virginia, and again, here's how this area voted in 2008. We talked about this last week. The Northern Virginia suburbs. This is a state mitt Romney needs to win. This is the battleground area closest to us here in Washington.
And if you want to take a look at the impact in terms of power outages of the storm, you see it right here. So in urban areas, suburban areas, critical more for the president than Governor Romney. That's a bit of a generalization. But generally more critical in urban areas and the close-in suburbs to the Obama campaign. That is where, at the moment, you see more people without power.
I would make this argument, though, Kate and Wolf, is as you get further away from this and closer to election day, it is often the urban and the suburban areas that come back first. Many of those rural communities still without power more important to Governor Romney. They might be waiting a little longer.
BLITZER: I know you've been speaking with both campaigns, John. Do -- do they see one side benefiting politically, come next Tuesday, more than the other?
KING: Both campaigns insist they don't really talk about it that way, Wolf. In the Romney campaign, when you press them, they say they're overall impression is that this froze the race.
Now, I was just up in Massachusetts. TV ads up there going into the New Hampshire market, battleground New Hampshire. They didn't take the ads down as the storm was hitting. They may have stopped campaigning. They may have stopped the more partisan speeches. But they didn't take the ads down in any of these battlegrounds states.
So that is largely how the campaign is waged in the final days. The Romney campaign thinks it froze a little bit. They insist that's to their advantage. But let's be honest, they've also seen the pictures of the president being president, the president at the FEMA briefing, the president coming into the briefing room and the president today with a very prominent outspoken Republican governor, Chris Christie of New Jersey. So some Republicans will privately wince a bit at that photo-op, and tell you that maybe, if there is any advantage, it could be a slight advantage for the president.
BLITZER: Yes. That's my sense, as well. All right, John. Thank you very much.
It's total gridlock in New York City as the people in the nation's largest city trying to get around without the subway. You're looking at live pictures from New York right now. This is Columbus Circle, traffic at a crawl.
BOLDUAN: New York City sub -- New York City subways are still shut down, and right now the city is in the middle of a traffic and commuter nightmare, as people are trying to make their way around the city in probably pitch black in many places.
CNN's national correspondent, Jason Carroll, is in New York with details.
Jason, how does it look?
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been a trying day for commuters. Just take a look behind me. I'm on the Manhattan side of the Queensboro Bridge. I hope you can make your way and see through all that darkness. Those are -- that's foot traffic. That's the thousands of people we've been seeing throughout the day who have been trying to get into the city, get out of the city. Their only mode of transportation their two front feet, simply because no subway service, no trains. Once again a trying day for New York City commuters.
CARROLL (voice-over): It's gridlock on the streets and foot traffic on bridges as commuters struggle to get into and out of Manhattan. Thousands crossing bridges like the Queensboro throughout the day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's insane. It's like we knew it was going to be bad coming in this morning, but we didn't know it was going to be this much of a standstill.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Didn't even try. The line was around the block, so I said forget it and I started walking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's crazy but everyone is doing what they have to do. That's what we do in New York City.
CARROLL: Subways not running, some still flooded, limited train service, power in Lower Manhattan out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing available.
CARROLL: These two searched for nearly an hour, hoping to share a taxi with someone else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of like soggy sog world.
CARROLL: The competition too tough or too expensive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty dollars?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to Brooklyn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. We just wanted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, which is literally right there.
CARROLL: Like so many, they decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't see any cabs. No one will take you to Brooklyn. Everybody doesn't really have a choice and they have to walk.
CARROLL: New York's mayor taking steps to ease congestion, announcing starting tomorrow, commuters driving into Manhattan must have at least three occupants over some crossings.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: I know it is inconvenient for a lot of people, but the bottom line is the streets can only handle so much.
CARROLL: Limited subway service will resume tomorrow and later today on some train service. The Army Corps of Engineers has already pumped three of the seven East River tunnels free of water.
But the reality is, it will be a while before New York is fully up and running again. For now, walking will have to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn your light on.
CARROLL: And I want you to take another look at this, Kate. This right here is a picture of a line for people who have been waiting for buses. Some of them have been telling us they've been waiting some four or five hours just to get a bus to try to get them where they need to go. Then they're going to begin their walk.
So it's been, once again, a long day for New York City's commuters. But I think, Kate, one woman said it best. She said, "Yes, I had to walk four hours in order to get to work and in order to get home, but at least, after all this, I have a home to go -- to come home to" -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: That's a very good perspective, but when you see that line, it is amazing that they're going -- definitely going to be several trying days ahead for many New Yorkers.
BLITZER: Look at this.
BOLDUAN: We're taking a live picture of Columbus Circle where you can absolutely see the gridlock this evening. Jason Carroll in New York. Thanks so much, Jason.
BLITZER: And it's right outside the Time Warner Center in New York, Columbus Circle, traffic barely moving.
Meanwhile, docks ripped to shreds, boats thrown into homes. Up and down the Jersey coast, residents are struggling to clean up in trails of destruction. Here's CNN's Sandra Endo.
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm here in a bayside community. You can see the waterfront right here. Take a look at how destructive Superstorm Sandy was.
This was a dock that completely demolished. That shows you how strong the wind and the waves were in this area.
There was a mandatory evacuation order for this area, but clearly some residents say they wanted to ride out the storm, and this homeowner stayed inside during the entire time. And they say they watched the waves come up and bang into their home. They saw parts of the dock bang into their porch right here, as well as a house boat basically collide, causing this trail of destruction.
You can see pieces of their home on their lawn, and obviously just a trail of debris here. This is a scene a lot of residents are coming back to as they try to pick up the pieces.
Now if you look across the street, that's where the dock ended up or at least a portion of it, in somebody's driveway. You could also see an uprooted tree, downed power lines.
And if you take a look at the end of the street, that is where a houseboat ended up, and washed ashore. So clearly, a very devastating scene here for a lot of residents, very difficult to come back and try to pick up the pieces. Obviously, a lot of cleanup work left to do. We've seen FEMA officials here trying to survey the damage, as well.
BLITZER: Sandy Endo, thanks for the report. Much more on what Hurricane Sandy left behind when we come back.
BLITZER: Here's what's left in the wake of the storm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look at that tree, and I mean, the main thing is that we weren't there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is traffic coming over the 59th Street Bridge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is almost a ghost town now. There is something silent and even dreadful about this place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody just sitting there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's so sad. I mean, this could have been their -- there are so many longtime Jersey shore folks who just, this is what they live, they breathe. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's just so emotionally overwhelming to watch this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police say Glenda Moore was literally...
BLITZER: Awful, awful pictures. That's all the time we have. We'll continue our coverage. Stay with CNN throughout the night for late breaking developments.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.