As the storm intensifies tonight, reports of calamity are flowing in, particularly in the Rockaways, sections of Queens and Brooklyn. A city ambulance on Beach Channel Drive in southeastern Queens was reported surrounded with water, and the crew was sitting on the roof asking for a rescue. A fire in a residential complex was reported, and firefighters were having a terrible time getting there.
A building collapse at 475 Bedford Ave in Brooklyn. Another on West 15th Street in Manhattan. A family trapped in a car on the FDR service road near East 23rd Street. The NYPD’s 100th Precinct in Far Rockaway was reported surrounded with water, and Emergency Services and Harbor were being dispatched to help evacuate the building. The 60th Precinct stationhouse in Coney Island was similarly afflicted.
A house collapse at 166th Street and Pidgeon Meadow Road in Queens, with a possible report of a dead occupant. Just after 8 p.m., a man was reported killed by a falling tree in that vicinity, but details were sketchy. At West 28th Street in Brooklyn, a man reported stuck on a garbage truck. The National Guard was responding. The firehouse on City Island had lost water pressure and needed help.
There were some indications that the emergency agencies were overwhelmed and could not respond to every call for service. Both Mayor Bloomberg and the police department asked people not to call 911 for downed trees, because the emergency call system was being saturated with 10 times the normal call volume.
He added that more than 47,000 customers had lost power in Queens and Staten Island. He said Con Edison may shut power in lower Manhattan and south Brooklyn.
Late this afternoon, in a bone chilling rain, police labored to empty Riverside Park of Columbia students and others who wandered down to see the churning, angrily grey whitecapped Hudson River lap against the walkways even as the tide went out. The storm was still a novelty then.
The west side at that point had been largely spared of the damage faced by areas of Brooklyn and Queens, but trees were ripped from their moorings along Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue, and Riverside Drive. Thousands of branches littered the walkway in Riverside and Morningside Parks, and the worst of it was still hours away.
Unlike last year, when Hurricane Irene proved to be a dud at least in Manhattan, and the bars crowded with people, this year, Sandy led many businesses in the hood to shut down, and the watering holes were fairly empty.
In the roiling heave of the Hudson, a Coast Guard patrol boat pulled up next to an unoccupied, anchored sail boat, to check whether it was properly moored, and then motored off to look elsewhere for stranded sailors.
The Canada Geese who have invaded the pond in Morningside Park seemed perfectly at ease in the wind and rain, floating gently on the water, as the howl came up around them. By then, the novelty at least around here had worn thin.
By 9 p.m., the Hudson River had breached and rendered the West Side Highway impassable south of 110th Street. Cars moving southbound on the roadway were stalling out and getting trapped in high water near the 79th Street exit. At 23rd Street, the water was said to be pouring east.