Former residents ride out the East Coast storm

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– By Travis Svihovec –

Former Mobridge residents toughing out Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast say the storm has shut down all forms of transportation and brought a busy area to its knees.

Lauran Rothstein, daughter of John and Vicki Rothstein of Mobridge and a 1997 Mobridge High School graduate, lives in the Williamsburg community in Brooklyn, N.Y., about five blocks from the East River. She’s safe in her apartment but she hasn’t been able to get to her job at an art studio all week.

“The studio is in West Chelsea on the Hudson River,” she said. “With the rising tide I’m sure it’s flooding.”

An estimated 16 million people were without power at one point. The storm has been blamed for more than 60 deaths. The storm tracked up the East Coast before it turned west on Monday. Storm surge flooding, heavy rains and high winds were present before the storm made landfall.

“All of lower Manhattan is dark,” Rothstein said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “They shut down all the streets. There are no cabs or delivery drivers. The city was quiet.”

Her neighborhood is elevated enough that it avoided flooding. The high winds were evident on Monday night, estimated at 50 mph. She said the winds didn’t feel that strong to her.

“Maybe you’re used to the wind if you’re from South Dakota,” she said.

She was able to walk her dog Tuesday morning and saw a few people out then and had seen a few out on Monday night. There was some damage to trees and construction areas but in her neighborhood damage was minimal. There is no air traffic and the subway, one of the most-used forms of transportation in the city, was closed.

“We’re safe and fine. We were definitely prepared for it,” Rothstein said. It’s rare for there to be two such storms in successive years, she said, and the city hasn’t completely recovered from Hurricane Irene last year.

“Irene was not as bad as this one,” she said.

Getting the subway going again will be the thing that gets the city back on its feet, said Shawn Gill, a 1983 MHS graduate. He lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side but said the worst damage has been in Lower Manhattan.

“It’s the main way to get around,” Gill, son of Darrell and Kay Gill of Mobridge said. “It’s electric track and the tunnels are flooded. And it’s seawater. Seawater and electrical equipment aren’t good together.”

Gill is a steel trader and travels extensively. Not this week, though, and maybe not for a while. His office was closed Monday and Tuesday and will stay closed until services resume.

“They’re calling this the worst disruption to transportation since 9/11,” he said. His son, Ryhaan, is a student at Hofstra University on Long Island.

“They lost power at 8 p.m. Monday,” he said. “Ninety percent of Long Island is without power today (Tuesday).” The university was prepared for the storm, Gill said, but guessed it was a long night on the campus as everything had to be done by flashlight.

A storm surge of 14 feet set a new record. Once the storm has passed and winds subside, people will be able to cross the Hudson River by ferry. The mayor has signed an order requiring cabs to carry multiple passengers. Bus service was expected to resume as soon as Tuesday night. Many workers in restaurants, stores and offices in Manhattan live in other areas and rely on the subway to get to work. It will be at least a week before the subway is running, and the entire supply chain has been disrupted.

“It will be a couple weeks before I eat seafood in a restaurant,” Gill said. There was a 45-minute wait to get into the grocery store in his building. Orange cones were put up to keep people in a double line outside the store. Once inside, “it was a three-hour endeavor to get what’s left on the shelf.”

It took about a week to restore power after Irene. Far more people are without power now.

“This is a much bigger effort,” he said. He compared the storm to the recent winds in South Dakota. It was similar because neither came with snow, but the damage to infrastructure in his area will be much higher. Signs that the storm was passing became evident Tuesday, with breaks in the clouds allowing the sun to peek through from time to time.

“You can really tell the swirling nature of a hurricane,” Gill said. “It will be calm, the sun breaks out and then there is horizontal rain five minutes later.”

The eye of the storm made landfall over New Jersey but its effects are far-reaching. It is expected to turn north and northeast but stay over land and weaken, according to the National Weather Service. It is at least partly to blame for a variety of severe weather in many eastern states.

 

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