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THE SITUATION ROOM
Sandy about to Make Landfall; Current Condition of the Storm
Aired October 29, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, tens of millions of people bracing for the worst from a record-setting storm. Hurricane Sandy has already battered vast stretches of the east coast and now it's about to slam ashore. Just in, the latest forecast. What to expect from what authorities are calling a catastrophic event.
And for the crew of a tall ship used in adventure movies, a terrifying real-life drama and a very dangerous rescue operation.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The worst is yet to come from Hurricane Sandy. Here's what we know at this moment. The center of this monstrous storm which has brutally pounded much of the eastern seaboard of the United States could come ashore this hour. New Jersey is bearing the brunt of that attack right now. The governor, Chris Christie, will hold a news conference in 30 minutes. We'll bring it to you live.
The powerful winds, the torrential rain, the storm surges, they are wreaking havoc from North Carolina all the way to Maine, the area of tropical storm force winds extends almost, get this, 1,000 miles.
Many coastal towns have been evacuated, major cities are completely shut down. New York City alone could face catastrophic flooding. More than 765,000 customers already are without power in seven states. Tens of millions could face blackouts lasting for days.
Our reporters are standing by throughout the disaster area to bring you the story the way only CNN can.
Let's go to Atlantic City, New Jersey, right now, which is bearing so much of the brunt of the storm at this hour. Parts of the city already under water, barely visible, forcing authorities to evacuate hundreds of people from areas where flooding is said to be dangerously high.
Casinos are cleared out and less than an hour from now the entire city will be under curfew, a mandatory curfew, bracing for the worst.
Let's go straight to the streets of Atlantic City. Ali Velshi is standing by. Ali, it could make landfall within minutes right now. Give us a little flavor of what you're seeing. It looks awful.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we talked a few minutes ago. It's actually -- I think we're catching a break in one of the bands before the -- this is probably the calm before the storm because, as you know, the last time I talked to you, it was hard to actually stand up.
Seeing a dramatically increased police presence around here making sure nobody's on the streets because at 6:00 Eastern, one hour from now, they want everybody who doesn't have a reason to be outside inside their homes.
You heard from the mayor who said a number of people haven't left. That worries them. But at this point, if you haven't left, don't go out. You probably can't get out of Atlantic City anyway because the roads have become over washed. That's the ocean behind me. You've actually got -- what you guys are playing around here. And as you can see, not the ocean. That's the intersection.
The ocean is about three-quarters of a mile behind that. These guys are -- these guys are enjoying themselves. They've got about 55 minutes left to enjoy themselves because the police are going to come and clear everybody out.
But the fact is, Wolf, this tells you a bit of a story because less than an hour ago, you couldn't be outside here having a good time. It was really severe. So maybe Chad knows more about this than I do. But something is definitely broken here because we're expecting that it's going to get much worse before it gets better.
We're going to walk over water in the streets as you can see. They're at seven feet, we're expecting a 9 1/2-foot storm surge. So most of Atlantic City will be covered in water in the next couple of hours -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And Ali, stand by. Chad Myers, our severe weather -- meteorologist, is joining us. You've got the latest report from the National Hurricane Center, Chad?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I do. It's still 35 miles from the coast or 30 miles from the coast around Cape May. Now that would be south of where Ali is, which would put Ali right on the north side which would be the most dangerous part of the eye. It would be the eyewall making landfall. And you have to add in the forward motion of the storm. So 90 plus 28. The good news is for Atlantic City, there's no eyewall there.
The convection, the rainfall, the storms have stopped. So that's why the winds have died down. And I will show you on the next map, there's not much rainfall on that side of the storm. The storm has just about come onshore. Let's say half of it's onshore, half of it's off. But the part that's still off doesn't have any storm on it. Doesn't have -- doesn't have convection. Doesn't have weather there. So there's not as much wind with that part. That's good. Now that the wind is beginning to die off, it will continue to die off in most places. We always knew that this storm wasn't going to be a huge wind-maker as it moves onshore. It's going to be a wind-maker inland when you start to add in the cold air that's already here.
Look, Wolf, it's already raining here all the way through Virginia. But it's snowing back into West Virginia. There's parts of Virginia and also even into Kentucky. This is the cold part of the storm that will wrap its way into the warm part of the storm where Ali is. And that's going to turns into the winter event.
I just got a report off Twitter from a couple of guys north of Washington, D.C. They feel sleet in the air in the rain that's coming down. That's how cold and dry the air is that's wrapping into this storm right now.
BLITZER: You have a question, Chad, for Ali who's on the streets of Atlantic City right now?
MYERS: Where did those three guys come from that were dancing behind him? Because they should be off the streets into a house somewhere. That is certainly not the place to be.
Ali, are you going to be OK tonight?
VELSHI: Yes. I've got to tell you, the flavor of this thing has changed. I mean, look, I just got a gust a moment ago. But the flavor has been changed in the last hour. An hour ago, this felt -- Chad, you were keeping a tab on what it felt like. But I felt like the gusts were above 90 miles an hour. It was really blowing me. I'm about 185, 190 pounds. And I really felt like I couldn't keep my footing.
We had a gust coming through right now. And then it stops. And then I can stand here and talk to you peacefully. And the rain feels more like a heavy rain as opposed to what it felt like. So the flavor of this has changed. I'm telling you, an hour ago, those three guys wouldn't have ventured out into the street behind me. You saw that wind blowing up, all that water, these streets are all full of water, by the way. For the mile up to the ocean now. It's all water everywhere you go.
And it was whipping up. So there's something that has definitely changed here. And thank you, Chad, for your inquiries.
And, Wolf, we have to remind our viewers that we've done this before, we know how to keep safe. And it's important to show people how serious this is because we know people haven't left their homes. In many cases, you have to treat this seriously.
BLITZER: All right.
VELSHI: But we are keeping an eye out. Yes, it looks like we'll be OK out here. BLITZER: Ali, stand by.
MYERS: And Wolf?
BLITZER: Sandy Endo is joining us from Ocean City, Maryland, right now.
Tell us what's going on, Sandy, where you are.
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're certainly feeling severe wind gusts here in Ocean City. And as Chad mentioned, the rain does feel a little different. It is feeling like heavier pelting, like almost sleet hitting me in the face. But I want to show you what we're also experiencing here, Wolf, is we're actually seeing damage from all the effects of Hurricane Sandy already.
Take a look at the debris over there. The black tar is actually a rooftop that was blown over by that white building which is right across the street from the hotel that we are hunkering down in through this storm. We just want to give you a perspective of what is actually going on out here and how severe the storm is right now. This has been more than 24 hours of this condition. Rain, the wind --
BLITZER: It looks we've --
ENDO: The rough waves.
BLITZER: Sandy, I don't know if we've lost connection with you. But go ahead if you can still hear me.
ENDO: Yes, Wolf, the waves, as I was mentioning, because this is a coastal waterfront town, if you can see, high tide is going to be hitting in about an hour or so. And these waves have been fierce, eroding this beach all day long. We've seen the sand dunes being toppled over by waves and flooding in this area. So the situation could worsen as evening progresses. But right now, this is severe in terms of the wind and some of the damage we're seeing, flying debris as well.
So we are certainly going to get out of harm's way. I'm using this tree as a little safe haven here to protect me and the crew. We're certainly trying to stay safe out here. But, again, echoing Chad and Ali, the characteristic of this storm is certainly changing. And Hurricane Sandy is definitely being felt.
BLITZER: Yes. Sandy Endo's in Ocean City, Maryland, the left part of the screen. Ali Velshi is in Atlantic City, New Jersey, just north of Ocean City, on the right part of the screen.
You see it's obviously a lot more windy in Ocean City right now than it is in Atlantic City.
Chad Myers is still with us as well.
Chad, the landfall, the area where this Hurricane Sandy makes landfall, that's not necessarily going to be the area where the worst disaster is going to take place. It could take place other parts of the Atlantic seaboard, right?
MYERS: Certainly. We have had 81-mile-per-hour winds in Massachusetts, many trees down already. That's 250 miles from where the storm is. And let me describe what's about to happen to our two reporters as the eye makes landfall. I'll draw it out here for you. There's the eye itself right right about there. All day long, the winds have been out of the north and we've been protecting our crews, our trucks, our photographers from that north wind.
As this eye now moves farther inland, I'm going to draw it a little bit farther than it really is. But you'll get an idea. What's going to start to happen is that the winds aren't going to be north like this anymore. They're going to be from the east and then from the southeast. So we may actually lose those live shots as the trucks have to be repositioned. You've got an eight-foot satellite dish pointed at a satellite. All of a sudden it's moving with a 90-mile- per-hour wind. Those signals go out rather quickly.
BLITZER: All right. Chad, don't go too far away. We're going to be speaking with the director of the National Hurricane Center. I want you to join in that conversation. You're looking at live pictures from Atlantic City right now. Much more of our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM when we come back.
BLITZER: Hurricane Sandy is a catastrophic storm of epic proportions. It's about to make landfall, we believe, this hour. Its reach and destructive power extend far beyond the New Jersey coast.
CNN's Ali Velshi is joining us once again from Atlantic City right now.
Ali, we're getting ready to speak to James Franklin from the National Hurricane Center. Is there a specific question, Ali, you want me to ask him?
VELSHI: Yes, the issue is here, you know, people are worried about the wind. They know about the utilities. The trees coming down, the utility lines coming down. The problem is -- and here we go. That wind's picking up here a little bit. That's I think the wind I told you had passed us by, Wolf.
The issue here is this flooding. It's sort of -- it's insidious. You can't tell. As I'm standing here the water is getting higher and higher. It's not -- the best people are going to be is concerned about how do -- how do they prepare for that.
BLITZER: How do they prepare for that. And, Chad, you're with us still as well. James Franklin is standing by. We're going to speak to him from the National Hurricane Center.
Is there something specific you want to know?
MYERS: Yes, this storm picked up pace. It went from northwest at 15 to now north or west-northwest at 28. How did that change the 5:00 forecast?
BLITZER: Good question. All right. Stand by, both of you. James Franklin will be joining us momentarily.
Ashleigh Banfield is joining us right now from lower Manhattan.
Ashleigh, tell our viewers in the United States and around the world where you are right now and what it's like.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm in the southern tip of Manhattan and another gust is just coming up, Wolf. So I'm going to spin the camera around a bit. Behind me, you can see New Jersey. As I spin around, you can see the high rises of Manhattan.
Listen, this is one of the most famous sea level cities in the world. Look where sea level is. It's here. If Mayor Bloomberg is accurate in his prediction that the worst of the surge could be 12 feet, well, you'd probably be looking at about here by 8:00 tonight, which is only about three hours.
And Wolf, I just want to tell you, this is also a very high city. It's full of high rises. People know in New York it's full of high rises. And on 57th Street which is Midtown Manhattan, there was a terrible crane incident that broke off. And this crane is now dangling over 57th Street. And this is no ordinary skyscraper either. It is a luxury skyscraper.
Wolf, you know prices in Manhattan. The penthouse recently closed for $90 million. So they have asked most of the people who are still in that building to move to lower floors and other surrounding buildings as well. And the police have closed down 57th Street just to make sure it's safe. But that is a precarious situation to have winds that are gusting right now up to 60 miles an hour in this city.
But let me tell you, when you get up higher, Wolf, it changes. The metric is very different. At 30 stories, an 80-mile-an-hour wind goes up to 96 miles an hour. And at 80 stories, that same wind would be 106 miles an hour. And if I need to add to that, that's sustained. That's not even gusts. Those will be sustained winds at those -- at those heights and elevations. So a very dangerous situation.
It's no surprise that the mayor has done a mandatory evacuation of 400,000 people in a city of just over eight million. And it's no surprise that everything is shut down. You can't get in or out of this city. And yet, Wolf, I don't know why I keep seeing people on a stroll down here in these kinds of winds. It's not a picnic. Maybe they think it's interesting. But you know what, it's not. It's dangerous.
BLITZER: Very dangerous. Especially on West 57th Street where that crane is hovering there.
Ashleigh, stand by for a moment.
Chad, tell us a little bit why it is like that -- god forbid, that crane collapses and hits the street, West 57th, between Sixth and Seventh in Manhattan, that could be a disaster right there.
MYERS: It is all blocked off. The police have it completely cordoned off. They know where it is above it. The problem is if it does break off in a gust of wind, it will go with the gust of wind a little way. Which way does it go? Does it go left or right as it's swinging there, probably losing some of the strength in the material above it?
So the more it sways, the more likely it is to come down. That broke when only a wind gust at JFK was 66 miles per hour. We do expect wind gusts to go higher from here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chad, hold on a second.
Rick Knabb is joining us right now. He's the new director of the National Hurricane Center.
Rick, thanks very much for coming in. When do we expect landfall?
RICHARD KNABB, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, it could be within the next couple of hours to few hours. We've been seeing the center of circulation accelerate during the day today. The pressure has been dropping but the organization of the thunderstorm activity has been deteriorating. And we think those two things, along with a lot of other factors, indicate to us that that transition to a post- tropical system is well under way.
And I want folks to remember, though, that both the landfall location and the designation of the system don't change the overall huge area that's going to be impacted by a variety of hazards. The storm surge hazard at the coastline will persist for a day or two in some places because as this takes a right turn and slows down over Pennsylvania, the southerly flow here is going to persist.
So the inland rain and inland flooding will also be a long-duration event because of the large size and slow motion that we anticipate over the next couple of days.
BLITZER: Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is with us, Rick. And he had a very specific he wanted to ask you.
Go ahead, Chad.
MYERS: Yes, Rick, actually a couple of things. This thing really speeded up, northwest or west-northwest at 28. How did that affect your 5:00 forecast? And there's not much convection on the east side of the storm. How is that going to change what people are feeling?
KNABB: Well, let's see, the first part is that the overall scenario hasn't changed. Even though it has sped up this afternoon, the center of circulation has at low levels. The overall scenario for the next couple of days is unfortunately still the same, that that speed-up is temporary and that the center of circulation is going to come ashore and then it's going to slow down and take a right-hand turn.
So looking at our forecast track, you can see how much headway it does not make. This is on Tuesday where it takes this right-hand turn and sits. And remember how large it is. It's not just a point on the map. So it's going to be affecting this large area. The coastal storm surge, the rains, especially well inland, as you mentioned, this kind of half -- half dry and wet. But that inland rain is going to last for quite a while. And the winds even on the dry side will persist. So still a long-duration event for many, many people.
BLITZER: Any final word of thought for viewers who are watching right now who might be in this disaster zone, Rick?
KNABB: Well, I would just continue to do what emergency managers, local officials tell you to do and do not think that landfall of the center of circulation of this system is the end of it. The backside of it is large. There's a lot of wind. The water rise is going to continue at the coastline. And if you are in points north and west of this, the system's coming your way and it's not going to continue moving this fast.
Once the rain starts, it could last for a couple of days in some places. So don't let your guard down. Landfall or change to post- tropical, none of that has anything to do with the event being over.
BLITZER: Rick Knabb is the new director of the National Hurricane Center. Rick, thanks very much.
Let's go back to Atlantic City right now. Ali Velshi is joining us.
Ali, what's the latest?
VELSHI: OK. A couple of things. Power has just gone out in Atlantic City. You will recall as you're looking at the shot there were streetlights on, there were traffic lights on. It all went out about three minutes ago. There's auxiliary lights now I can see at the end of the street right where the ocean is.
I can see a few traffic lights on there and I can see a couple of the shops have put their auxiliary power. But the power has now gone out in Atlantic City.
I also just saw a truck, just before you came to me. A truck drove by, a pick-up truck in the back were what appeared to be two parents and three very little children. Obviously someone has gone and decided to take them to somewhere else. They're in the back of an open pick-up truck in this weather.
So at this point you heard the mayor of Atlantic City tell you earlier that there are still people -- they wish they would have moved to shelter. They did not go to shelter. There are 400 or 500 people in a city shelter here now. But if you have not left, this is probably not the time to leave right now.
We're getting gusting winds every now and then. Again, we get moments like this where there's no wind at all. And I'm standing here, the rain has tapered off. But the power is out and the flooding is under way. This whole road now full of water. This is Atlantic all the way over to the ocean. The Atlantic Ocean is about a little less than a mile right behind us. And that storm surge is going to come in. It's probably going to raise the water level in here by another 2 to 2 1/2 feet. So that's the latest here in Atlantic City. We have lost power and the flooding is under way.
BLITZER: We're going to see a full curfew take place in about half an hour in Atlantic City as well, Ali. We'll get back to you.
Emergency vehicles, you're looking at live pictures of New York City right now. They are on the ground. New York City bracing for the worst as well. You see that crane that has collapsed on West 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh, a luxury apartment building going up, that is hanging there precariously. They've abandoned the streets over there. God forbid that crane collapses, that could be a real, real disaster.
Much more of our special coverage, the breaking news, Hurricane Sandy continues after this.
BLITZER: New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland as well. Let's go out to Maryland right now, Annapolis, Maryland, specifically.
Lisa Sylvester is on the ground for us.
Lisa, what's it like in beautiful Annapolis? Lisa, go ahead.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, normally, Wolf, this is a beautiful area. A lot of tourists come out this way. But as you can see it's nothing like that. Right now, it's windy, it's blustery. They have the Bay Bridge that had to be closed down. And you can see just these big, huge wind gusts that are coming down. We've also had -- it's hard to actually stand still here, Wolf.
You can see that there are a number of businesses that have been concerned, very concerned about the hurricane, so much so that they have boarded up their buildings. Well, we had a chance, in fact, to talk to one business owner who said he runs an ice cream shop. And he said that he is actually going to be spending the night in his shop. One of the reasons why these business owners are so concerned is they remember another hurricane, Hurricane Isabella, that hit this area back in 2003.
And in that -- at that hurricane, during that time, you actually had flooding seven feet high, chest level essentially. And that's the big concern that they have right now is that you might see the water level actually going up and rising, coming up above the banks. This is an area -- and I know that you're very familiar with this, Wolf. But this is an area also, Wolf, where there are a lot of very -- and I know that those boat owners are also very concerned of what's going to happen so that you have the economic impact.
But there's a real concern right now. But for us, the concern, though, is getting to a dry, safe spot, Wolf. As you can see, this wind has really started to pick up -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I know there's going to be search and rescue operations under way. And Lisa's going to be watching that part of the story for us. And they've shut down the Bay Bridge as well.
All right, Lisa, thanks very much.
A terrifying real-life drama and dangerous rescue operation for crew members of a tall ship that was used in adventure movies. This is an unbelievable story. You'll see it next when we come back.
BLITZER: A monstrous storm of historic proportions about to crash ashore. Hurricane Sandy is now just a few dozen miles off the New Jersey coast. It will hit land shortly, maybe this hour. But its storm force winds extend almost 1,000 miles, much of it along the east coast, areas that already have been battered.
Some coastal communities have been evacuated. Major metro areas are virtually shut down. New York City right now bracing for the worst, which could include disastrous flooding. 765,000 customers are already without power in seven states. Millions more could face blackouts lasting not just for hours but for days.
The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, you're seeing a live picture from New Jersey, is getting ready to go to those microphones over there. We're going to have live coverage. We expect landfall to hit around the Atlantic City, New Jersey, area shortly. Not far from there, sandbags are piling up inside, outside all sorts of areas of New Jersey.
But it's not just New Jersey. It's other states as well, including in Virginia. Let's go to Alexandria, Virginia, right now, not far from Washington, D.C., along the Potomac River.
Carol Costello is riding out the storm there.
What's it like, Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's interesting because it doesn't feel like a hurricane. But it sure acts like one. It doesn't feel like a hurricane because it's so darn cold. The cold just goes right through you because it's so damp and wet out here. But every so often, it certainly acts like a hurricane. The rain will come down harder and there will be these terrific wind gusts. There's wind gust being clocked at about 65 miles per hour at Reagan National Airport right now. We have sustained winds anywhere between 20 and 30 miles per hour.
I'm standing here in Old Town Alexandria, a place you well know, Wolf. I'm standing right along the banks of the Potomac River. The big worry is there will be a big storm surge out in the Atlantic. And since this is in a tidal basin, that will push the waters of the Potomac up and maybe out of their banks. Frankly the people here in Old Town are used to that because, as you can see, there are dozens and dozens of businesses located very close to the Potomac River. Business owners here have been preparing for this storm since this weekend. They sandbagged this weekend, they put plastic up over the window.
I talked to the owner of a -- of a store that sells paintings, Aggie. She's well-rehearsed in what to do because she's been through it all before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Tell me how much water came with Isabel.
AGGIE, STORE OWNER: I would say, probably about this much, yes.
COSTELLO: Do you think that will happen this time?
AGGIE: I hope it will not. But it's better to be prepared for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Get a little few raindrops off the lens of the camera there. Wolf, the interesting thing, people are walking their dogs. They're looking at the Potomac -- there's a -- look over there --
BLITZER: All right. Carol, hold on for a minute. The governor of New Jersey is updating us on what's going on. Here's Chris Christie.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Mayor Langford urged people to stay in shelters in the city. Despite my admonition to evacuate, he gave them comfort for some reason to stay. We now have a large number of people, we can't quantify it at this point, that are in Atlantic City. And at this juncture, there is no other way for us to go in and get them. They're going to have to ride out the storm there until at least 7:00 tomorrow morning.
I cannot in good conscience send rescuers in as the storm is about to hit in the next hour, nor can I send them in in the dark, given all the various hazards that would occur potentially to them. So I asked these people to leave. For some reason, the mayor, in his initial conversations with the public, told them he didn't want his people leaving Atlantic City. So you've got people staying, either self- sheltering in their homes or sheltering in some city shelters there. One of which is literally a block away from the bay, in a school, which is now flooded completely.
So for those of you who are on the barrier island who decided it was a better idea to wait this out than to evacuate and for those elected officials who decided to ignore my admonition, this is now your responsibility. If you're still able to hear me, we need you to hunker down and get to the highest point possible in the dwelling that you're in. We will not be able to come and help you until daylight tomorrow. Please try to hunker down and stay safe until then.
We've deployed emergency crews throughout the day to assist individuals, particularly Atlantic City, with evacuation. But as I said, it's no longer safe for us to do it so we're stopping now. The winds are very high. We're seeing heavy rainfall. And darkness is obviously quickly creating this kind of dangerous situation for our first responders.
At this time, they'll be responding to calls for service only. As soon as it's safe to send them in, we'll send them back in. But it probably won't be until tomorrow morning. We've pre-staged our first swift-water strike team in Atlantic City. That's a 21-member team in four boats prepared to launch 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning for shallow and swift-water rescue in Atlantic City.
We're keeping swift-water strike teams at Lakehurst. That's 40 trained members. A total of 10 boats. They can deploy anywhere in New Jersey, along the coastline, as needed or requested. Also now situated at Lakehurst are two federally supported, USAR take 1 teams from out of state. That's 180 high-tech urban search and rescue personnel that are fully equipped and self-sustaining. And they also have waterborne capabilities.
Regarding flooding, we're also starting to see challenges now in Salem and Cumberland Counties streams and rivers because of heavy rains and tidal push which we continue to monitor. Luckily at this point in the rest of the state, we're not yet seeing indications of flooding. There's still a lot more water to come. But at this point, things are positive.
As I said earlier, state government is closed tomorrow. Education commissioner is encouraging closure of schools to ensure student safety. Five hundred and nine of our 580 some districts are saying that they will be closed tomorrow. I hope the rest of them will follow suit as soon as possible.
All these decisions are made at the local level. But I would hope that they would look at the conditions we're dealing with and would make the smart move and not have school buses out on the roads tomorrow. We don't know what the condition of the roads will be in. We're going to anticipate during the evening a lot more downed trees and downed wires. It will just be a very dangerous situation to move folks around tomorrow, we believe. So let's leave these roads open for emergency personnel to get around.
The Department of Health has requested out-of-state assistance for 75 ambulances to help with pre and post-storm medical transport. Twenty- two ambulances arrived from Indiana today. I want to thank Governor Daniels for his assistance in this regard for sending 22 ambulances from Indiana. They arrived today, traveled from Indiana to New Jersey. And I want to thank Governor Daniels for his help in this regard.
Let's talk about road closures. Garden State Parkway is closed in both directions from the Driscoll Bridge down to the end of the parkway in Cape May. And the turnpike is currently closed from exits 7A to exit 8. There are 42 other road closures in 13 counties.
BLITZER: All right. The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, updating us on what's going on in his state. Landfall for Hurricane Sandy expected to hit around the Atlantic City, New Jersey, area very, very soon.
We're also watching what's happening north of New Jersey in New York City right now. You're looking at live pictures. Emergency personnel are on the ground in Manhattan. You see the crane on the right part of your screen, a crane has collapsed and there is deep concern it could collapse.
Stand by. We're watching this. The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg s ready -- getting ready to brief reporters. We'll have live coverage.
BLITZER: The New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now briefing reporters. Let's listen.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: Any calls to the FDNY, unfortunately most are for downed trees or flooding conditions. That's not what 911 is for. That's 311. But if you've used 911, that means the operator on the line is not free for somebody who has a real emergency to call. So please use 311 for downed trees or flooding.
There have been more than 1,000 reports of tree damage in parks and on streets, and we're responding to them. Around half of them are for downed trees, half of them are for other damage. Earlier today, a jogger was struck by a falling limb near Prospect Park and was hospitalized. Fortunately she is going to be OK. And she was not in a closed park but she was running near.
And when you run under trees, whether the trees on the street or trees on the park, it is very dangerous, with the wind and a lot of these trees still have leaves on them. When the leaves are on the trees, they catch a lot of water, it makes them a lot heavier and they're much more likely to break off and also to be susceptible to the wind.
I can't emphasize enough, stay indoors and certainly away from the parks, the beaches, the boardwalks, piers and seawalls. We actually had to give a couple of people summonses for trying to surf today. It is dangerous. And the most important thing is that we're going to have to come in after you. And for us to lose an emergency responder because of someone's irresponsibility would be just an outrage.
Once again, if you're really in trouble, call 911. If not, 311. But 911 is only for true emergencies.
Now we've already seen flooding in some of the city's low-lying areas. We've also seen some power loss. More than 47,000 customers have lost power so far in the city. The vast majority of that, as you would expect, is in Queens and Staten Island because those are the areas served with overhead power lines.
Con Ed may be shutting down power in parts of lower Manhattan and southern Brooklyn. And ComEd has been doing outreach to its customers. You may have received a phone call about this. Kevin Burk (ph) is going to update us in a couple of minutes. This is a preventive measure to protect their equipment from serious damage. It's a similar kind of thing to what the MTA did very intelligently of moving their equipment out of harm's way.
It may mean we don't have the service of that equipment for a longer period of time. But it also means that when the storm is over, we can recover quickly. And if equipment is damaged, whether it's transportation equipment or power equipment, it can take days, weeks, even months to repair. We don't want that. And this time, I think we have taken all the appropriate steps.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor the mayor of New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he's briefing reporters on what's going on in New York right now. We'll continue to watch and see what he has to say.
As you know, that crane that collapsed on West 57th Street is hanging precariously right now. There you see it right there on the street below, emergency personnel have gotten together. The Parker Meridian Hotel near that collapsed crane has now been evacuated. We'll have a full report from New York momentarily.
We're also going to Connecticut, that is beginning right now to feel the brunt of this storm, only beginning. Stand by. Much more of our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: In Connecticut, a high tide could rise up to 11 feet above normal in just a matter of hours. A number of the governors says has the potential to cause, quote, "unprecedented damage."
CNN's David Mattingly is joining us from there right now.
David, you're near the Connecticut River, the Long Island Sound, flooding obviously, a major concern. What else are the residents worried about?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, take a look around me. This water is just the beginning of what we're expecting to see tonight. You were saying the state officials here predicting a storm surge of up to 11 feet. But just to the west of me is the Connecticut River. Behind me is Long Island Sound. That's just behind those houses back there on the dunes. I'm more than a block away from the ocean right here and you can see what's happening right now.
State officials are worried that this is going to be a very long, long night. They're predicting 50 to 60-mile-per-hour sustained until about 3:00 in the morning. So that's going to continue to push this water on to shore. We just passed a low tide not too long ago so this water is now going to steadily rise all through the night and everyone wondering just how high it's going to go.
Shelters have opened up. Not far from here. We talked to some people, a couple hundred people were in that particular shelter. This is a very agonizing time for them to sit there and wait. They might be dry. They might be safe. But they don't know what they might be coming home to. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: What are you worried about when you go back there? What do you think might be happening?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, definitely tonight we'll have water in our family room for the first time ever. I'm sure we will. With Irene, as high as the water as Irene got, this is going to be even higher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: What we're looking here is part of the storm surge. Just the beginning of the storm surge that's supposed to come ashore here in Connecticut. Also, you can see the wind whipping around me here. They're looking at problems with unknown numbers of people possibly being out of electricity tonight. Already we're up to about 80,000 in the dark. That number is going up every quarter hour -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Are people being evacuated from the areas around you right now, David?
MATTINGLY: Well, the word went out very early here. People who live along the coast here had experience with Hurricane Irene. They knew if they were going to be vulnerable then, that they were going to be vulnerable now, so a lot of ghost towns along the coast here in Connecticut. People heeding those warnings, going to higher ground, going inland to take shelter. So right now we're not seeing a lot of activity except for the water that continues the rise -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I assume people are bracing for a lot worse, not only over the next few hours but over the next day or two.
MATTINGLY: Well, just imagine what's going on right now. A little over an hour ago this water was just barely ankle deep. You can see how much it's come up in just the last hour. We're looking at sustained 50 to 60-mile-per-hour winds continuing to push this water on to shore until about 3:00 in the morning. How long it going to stay here after that is anybody's guess but combine that with the damage from the winds putting so many people out of electricity, this is going to be a very long event.
Last time with Hurricane Irene, it didn't take days to get everybody to have their lights back on, Wolf. It took weeks.
BLITZER: I see the flooding is pretty bad but it doesn't look very windy, at least not know. I assume that's going to pick up as this hurricane makes landfall.
MATTINGLY: We're getting gusts here of about 40 to 50. Sustained winds maybe about 20 to 30. But the wind is whipping and it is noticeably increasing as we go along. Again, state officials here are warning everyone that they're going to feel like they're going to be in the bull's eye here from they said beginning at 3:00 this afternoon until 3:00 in the morning so that's 12 hours of deteriorating and severe conditions that they're warning people to be be prepared for.
BLITZER: David Mattingly in Connecticut for us, watching what's going on. David, we'll stay in close touch with you.
We're also going to check back in with our severe weather meteorologist Chad Myers. He's got the latest forecast. The latest information on where Hurricane Sandy is moving right now.
Also, a terrifying real-life drama and a dangerous rescue operation for crew members of a tall ship that was used in adventures films. There will be a news conference coming up in a few minutes.
BLITZER: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, breaking news.
An historic storm is about to make landfall. Hurricane Sandy taking direct aim at southern New Jersey right now. Tens of millions of people are feeling the impact, including flooding that will only get worse in the coming hours and days.
We have our -- we have not only our correspondents but we also have our CNN iReporters sending us images of this disaster as it happens.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.