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President Signs Disaster Declaration As City Assesses Storm Damage

NY 1 - October 30, 2012

President Barack Obama signed a declaration early Tuesday that declared New York City and Long Island a major disaster area as residents continue to reel from Sandy, a torrential storm that has left at least seven people dead, stranded hundreds of thousands without power and crippled much of the city's transportation system. Police are reporting seven confirmed deaths caused by the storm.

Fire officials say one man in Queens was struck and killed by a tree just before 7:30 p.m. Monday night. NY1 Sandy Updates View NY1's latest Twitter updates on Sandy.

Read entries from NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's running blog on Sandy from his home in the Rockaways.

View viewer photos taken as Sandy passes through our area.

Send NY1 your stories and questions about Sandy by writing TheCall@ny1.com.

As of Tuesday morning, Sandy was located 90 miles west of Philadelphia. The massive storm's effects are still being felt in the city including several lines of showers which meteorologists say will slowly dissipate. Sustained winds around 30 miles per hour are likely to stick around with higher gusts possible. The most severe damage from the storm is being reported in and around the city's low-lying areas, especially the Rockaways and on Staten Island.

Some fire officials said they rescued people trapped in a flooded house in Dongan Hills.

There were also unconfirmed reports one Staten Island resident was swept away by rushing waters.

In Rockaway Beach, large sections of boardwalk were ripped away and landed nearly a block away.

Meanwhile, Consolidated Edison says that more than 500,000 customers are without power throughout the five boroughs, including portions of Manhattan from the southern tip up to 39th Street.

According to Consolidated Edison, as of approximately 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, there were approximately 231,756 customers in Manhattan without power, as well as about 74,423 customers without power in Brooklyn, about 86,206 customers in Queens, about 82,905 customers in Staten Island and about 42,518 customers in the Bronx.

"This will be one for the record books," said John Miksad, Con Ed's senior vice president of electric operations. "This will be the largest storm-related outage in our history."

Miksad said that there was an explosion at a Con Ed substation at East 14th Street and the FDR Drive.

According to Miksad, the explosion affected approximately 310,000 customers total.

There were no injuries in the explosion and no workers were trapped, according to Miksad, and the cause of the incident is still under investigation.

Miksad said it was too early to give a firm timetable for restoring power to customers affected by the damaged substation, saying "We are in a bit of uncharted territory."

Miksad also said those affected by an outage of this magnitude should not expect backup generators from Con Ed.

Before the explosion at the Con Ed substation, Miksad said Con Ed preemptively shut off three networks, two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, in anticipation of high tides, which Miksad said reached peak levels of as high as 14 feet.

Miksad estimated that it would take three to four days to restore power to the three networks preemptively shut off once Con Ed could get access to them.

According to Miksad, the pre-planned outages affected approximately 34,000 customers.

Miksad said there was also a separate, significant outage in Staten Island.

According to Miksad, customer counts could continue to rise. Estimates for restoration could also change as Con Ed workers assess the damage, according to Miksad.

Con Ed officials continue to request that residents avoid downed power lines in their area.

To report a power outage, call 1-800-75-ConEd or log on to coned.com.

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota released a statement early Tuesday morning that said that seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded.

According to Lhota, Metro-North lost power from 59th Street to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson line and to New Haven on the New Haven line.

In addition, Lhota said in the statement that the Long Island Railroad suffered flooding in its East River tunnel and evacuated its West Side Yards.

Lhota said that six bus garages were disabled by high water.

An MTA spokesperson said that water has entered tunnels on the 1 line between Chambers Street to South Ferry in Lower Manhattan, subway tunnels under the East River, and the subway yard at 148th Street in Harlem.

The agency expects water in all subway lines in Lower Manhattan, but MTA crews say they will wait until the high tide and flood waters recede on Tuesday before they can pump out the water.

"In 108 years, our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now," Lhota said in his statement. "All of us at the MTA are committed to restoring the system as quickly as we can to help bring New York back to normal."

Rising flood waters forced the Port Authority to close LaGuardia, Newark and John F. Kennedy Airports at 8 p.m. Monday. Those airports remain closed as of 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Port Authority.

The Port Authority says that the Lincoln Tunnel is the only one of their crossings open as of 6 a.m. Tuesday. The Holland Tunnel, the George Washington Bridge, the Goethals Bridge, the Bayonne Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing are closed until further notice.

All PATH train service and bus service out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal is suspended until further notice, according to the Port Authority.

During the storm, storm surge levels peaked at 13.88 feet at the Battery, which was a new record. North shore flooding levels were at 13.4 feet at 11:20 p.m. Monday.

"The storm has met our expectations," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters at a Monday night press conference.

Among the storm's effects, Bloomberg said that the backup power at NYU Langone Medical center had failed and that 215 patients were in the process of being moved to nearby facilities.

New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation officials said that Coney Island Hospital had no power as of 1:30 a.m. Tuesday but was not evacuating because critical patients were moved out before the storm.

On Tuesday, President Obama declared a major disaster exists in New York and ordered federal aid to help supplement state and local recovery efforts.

The president's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Richmond, Suffolk, and Queens.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security will help oversee recovery operations in affected areas.

FEMA says residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA or 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired.

The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week until further notice.