NEW YORK — Defiant New Yorkers jogged, pushed strollers and took snapshots of churning New York Harbor on Monday, trying to salvage normal routines in a city with no trains, schools and an approaching mammoth storm.
“The worst is still coming,” warned Gov. Andrew Cuomo as officials shut tunnels, Broadway, mass transit and the stock exchange, saying Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge could inundate downtown with up to 11 feet of water. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers living on the waterfront or low-lying areas were ordered to leave.
On New York’s Long Island, floodwaters had begun to deluge some low-lying towns and more than 100,000 customers had lost power. And high winds picked up during the day in the city, apparently tipping over a construction crane at a 65-story condominium under construction in midtown Manhattan.
Waters swelled over esplanades at the southern tip of Manhattan and parts of a highway that snakes along Manhattan’s East Side were flooded. About 16,000 New Yorkers lost power, mostly in the boroughs of Queens and Staten Island.
Elsewhere in the Northeast, Hurricane Sandy flooded shore towns and washed away a section of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. By midday, the storm was picking up speed and was expected to blow ashore in New Jersey early in the evening, hours sooner than previously expected.
Forecasters warned it would combine with two other weather systems — a wintry storm from the west and cold air rushing in from the Arctic — to create an epic superstorm.
Sheila Gladden evacuated her home in Philadelphia’s flood-prone Eastwick neighborhood and headed to a hotel.
“I’m not going through this again,” said Gladden, who had 5 1/2 feet of water in her home after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
By early afternoon, the storm was 110 miles southeast of Atlantic City, its winds at 90 mph. It had speeded up to 28 mph and had begun the turn toward the coast that forecasters had feared.
As the storm closed in, it washed away an old section of the world-famous Atlantic City Boardwalk and left most of the city’s emptied-out streets under water. All 12 casinos in the city were closed, and some 30,000 people were under orders to evacuate.
“When I think about how much water is already in the streets, and how much more is going to come with high tide tonight, this is going to be devastating. I think this is going to be a really bad situation tonight,” said Bob McDevitt, president of the main Atlantic City casino workers union.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, addressing those who were told to evacuate the state’s barrier islands, said in his usual blunt way: “This is not a time to be a show-off. This is not a time to be stupid. This is the time to save yourself and your family.”
Despite the dire forecasts, many New Yorkers chose to embrace what was coming. Doorman Ozzie Pomales showed up at work at his lower Manhattan high-rise with binoculars around his neck. “I really wanted to see some big waves,” he said.
In Battery Park City, an area that was ordered evacuated, Keith Reilly climbed up on a rail next to the rising waters of New York Harbor so his friend Eli Rowe could snap a photo of him in an Irish soccer jersey with the Statue of Liberty in the background.
“This is not so bad right now,” said the 25-year-old Mr. Reilly. “We’ll see later.”
The worst of the storm was expected to hit the city under a full moon at about 8 p.m. Surging waters of from 6 to 11 feet could flood subway tunnels, knocking out the underground network of power, phone and high-speed Internet lines that are the lifeblood of America’s financial capital.
It marked the second time in 14 months that New York City has faced a scenario forecasters have long feared: a big hurricane hitting the city or a bit south, with counterclockwise winds driving water into miles of densely populated shoreline.
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