Frankenstein's Monstorm: Hurricane Sandy liveblog

Nicky Woolf charts the progression of what might be the biggest storm to hit the East Coast in a century.

11:36PM

Mayor Bloomberg of New York City:

 

 


11:23PM

Reuters is reporting: "Nineteen workers were trapped inside a Consolidated Edison power station on the east side of Manhattan Monday night by rising floodwaters that accompanied the surge from powerful storm Sandy, according to a Reuters witness. A rescue worker, who declined to be named, said the station had suffered an explosion inside."

This is being denied by Consolidated Edison:

 

 


11:12PM

The Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey is on an alert right now due to "water exceeding certain high water criteria in the plant's water intake structure", according to a release by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at 9PM, though the release also said that "all plants remain in a safe condition" and that the NRC anticipates water levels abating.

 


10:52PM

Now that the immediate danger of rising water is gone, there is chaos. NYU hospital is currently being evacuated, by what Fox is calling "an armada of ambulances".

Meanwhile, Buzzfeed's Ben Smith is apparently listening to the police radio frequencies, and is reporting:

 

 


10:22PM

As it begins to look like the surge is thinking about receding - or at least that the worst is over - the news cycle is beginning to look at the second-day story. The prison of Rikers Island has apparently been neglected, and there is the beginnings of a meme developing around Mayor Bloomberg's sign-language interpreter...

On a more serious note, NYU Hospital's backup generators have failed, causing a wholesale evacuation of patients; which will almost certainly eventually merit direct scrutiny.

 


10:10PM

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tells a brief press conference that he expects the surge to recede by midnight.

 


10:05PM

BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) just tweeted an amazing picture of Ground Zero flooding.

 

 


10:01PM

Rosie Gray, who works for Buzzfeed and lives in Lower Manhattan, is tweeting that water levels might be beginning to recede.

 

 

 


9:41PM

Spectacular footage of that transformer box explosion on the Lower East Side:

 

 


9:32PM

High tide has now been and gone - but water in lower Manhattan continues to rise unabated.

This was one of the explosions that caused the lights in the sky earlier, caught on instagram: 

 


9:27PM

A quite genuinely astonishing picture of water rushing into Hoboken PATH station in New Jersey.

http://instagram.com/p/RYuVQVG6mq/

 


9:13PM

 

 


9:00PM

The worst predictions for the storm surge were for 11ft. Battery Park is experiencing water levels of 13.65ft; 3 feet higher than the previous record.

And the water is still rising.

 


8:55PM

More pictures from flooded Manhattan. First Avenue (via @ChaseCainTV):

 

...the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (via the Transport Authority):

It has just been announced that all tunnels and bridges are now closed.

 


8:40PM

 

 

 


8:32PM

This picture, apparently taken by ABC News employee @TheGunzShow, shows the floodwater continue to advance - this is at 20th street and avenue C. The Lower East Side appears to be drowning.

 


8:29PM

Vivid and violent green and blue flashes in the sky over lower Manhattan are apparently happening, caused - as far as anyone seems to be able to tell - by exploding electrical transformers on the Lower East Side. It's all getting pretty apocalyptic down there, Hurricane or no Hurricane.

 


8:22PM

...and a pretty serious fire in New Jersey:

 

 

...and many are reporting seeing a bizarre, prolonged green flash in the sky over Manhattan, too.

 


8:17PM

Lower Manhattan is having some pretty serious flooding issues right now.

 

 

 

 


8:06PM

The center of former-Hurricane Sandy has made landfall over New Jersey.

 


7:59PM

NBC News is reporting the first Sandy-related death, that of a 30-year-old man "trapped under a tree" in his home on 166th Street, new York.

 


7:52PM

More seriously, the storm-surge appears to have been greater than expected. Battery in New York is reporting more than 12 and a half feet of floodwater, and the full force of the surge isn't due for up to another half an hour. Flood-damage, not wind-damage, was always the real worry with this storm.

(Photo via @BillKarins)

 


7:44PM

Despite the down-grade, we're hearing reports of a terrifying new danger facing Americans on the Eastern Seaboard... (could be a fake)

 

 


7:27PM

TweetDeck, BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post are all down - but meanwhile, Sandy has changed status - it is now a Post-Tropical Cyclone rather than a Hurricane. This was always expected to be its transition as it hits the coast, however, and its wind speeds are still a sustained 85MPH.

The National Hurricane Center outlines the difference thus: "Tropical cyclones tend to have more compact wind fields, tend to be more symmetric, and have a well-defined inner core of strong winds. Wintertime lows have strong temperature contrasts or fronts attached to them, have a broader wind field, and more complex distributions of rain or snow."

As this weather system meets the cold-weather front over the Appalachians, this storm will likely become more unpredictable, but less focussed and may lose its intensite.

 


7:14PM

With just 45 minutes to go until the projected time at which the full force of the storm - and it's accompanying surge - hits New York, here is a solid history lesson, about the Great New England Hurricane of 1938:

"Along the south shore of Long Island, the sky began to darken and the wind picked up. Fishermen and boaters were at sea, and summer residents enjoying the end of the season were in their beachfront homes. Around 2:30 p.m., the full force of the hurricane made landfall, unfortunately around high tide. Surges of ocean water and waves 40 feet tall swallowed up coastal homes. At Westhampton, which lay directly in the path of the storm, 150 beach homes were destroyed, about a third of which were pulled into the swelling ocean. Winds exceeded 100 mph. Inland, people were drowned in flooding, killed by uprooted trees and falling debris, and electrocuted by downed electrical lines.

"All told, 700 people were killed by the hurricane, 600 of them in Long Island and southern New England. Some 700 people were injured. Nearly 9,000 homes and buildings were destroyed, and 15,000 damaged. Nearly 3,000 ships were sunk or wrecked. Power lines were downed across the region, causing widespread blackouts. Innumerable trees were felled, and 12 new inlets were created on Long Island. Railroads were destroyed and farms were obliterated. Total damages were $306 million, which equals $18 billion in today's dollars."

You can read the whole thing here.

 


6:55PM

A neat tidbit:

 

 


6:24PM

I may be reading this slightly off, but it's just possible that someone running Chris Christie's twitter feed - or perhaps the governor himself - has somewhat of a dry sense of humour.

 

 


6:06PM

Brief panic in LiveBlog HQ as the internet goes down - and everyone holds their breath for the electricity to follow. But we seem to have got lucky this time - connection is back, however temporarily.

None of that affects this lunatic, though, who spent the afternoon careening around the flooded streets of Manasquan, New Jersey, on a jetski. If he's still alive by tomorrow, internet celebrity surely awaits him.

 

 


5:50PM

As the storm makes landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie prepares for his moment to shine - and perhaps make steps towards winning his party's nomination in 2016 if Mitt Romney loses this election. So far his response to the storm - closing roads and managing evacuations - has been widely praised as confident and competent - earlier today he called people who ignore Hurricane warnings and hold out against the storm "stupid and selfish". But it will be in how he deals with the aftermath that his political star will wax or wane.

 


5:35PM

This satellite map from the National Hurricane Center shows the formation of the storm as it comes within an hour of landfall on the coast of New Jersey.

 


5:10PM

President Obama watches news about Sandy come in from the White House.

 


4:36PM

Michael Mann, the director of Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Center and a Fellow of both the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society, is keen to highlight the bigger picture.

"One thing that we're fairly confident about is the likelihood for increasingly more powerful hurricanes as the oceans continue to warm," he said in a statement. "But one thing that doesn't get quite as much attention and yet is equally if not important is the potential for inland flooding with these storms. Few people are aware that much of the damage and expense from hurricanes and tropical storms isn't from the winds or coastal surge, but the inland flooding."

"As ocean temperatures warm, there is more water vapor in the atmosphere above them. ... Sandy will cross near-record ocean surface temperatures off the mid-Atlantic coast as she veers inland. That means she's going to contain more water vapor within her, and will have the potential to produce more flooding rain, than if temperatures hadn't been so warm."

"We can't blame the existence of a single hurricane on global warming just like we can't blame a single roll of a six on a die that has been weighted to yield too many "sixes".  But we can see that climate change is playing a role in setting the context for these storms, in particular the record levels of North Atlantic ocean warmth that is available to feed these storms with energy and moisture."

 


3:43PM

Lots of rumours on Twitter about another crane - this one on the World Trade Center site.

 

 

...but this one is entirely untrue; which goes to show how quickly a scary rumour can gain legs on Twitter. The Port Authority of New York City are saying there's no problem on One World Trade Center cranes at the moment:


3:28PM

And here's a terrifying live video feed of that dangling crane. That building on the right of the picture is the Hearst tower, which houses Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Harpers' Bazaar and other magazines. The top of the crane is 75 stories up.

 


3:21PM

This live wind map, using data from the National Digital Forecast database, shows just how much of America is involved in this weather system. It's absolutely hypnotising.

http://hint.fm/wind/

 


2:51PM

More incredible pictures; this time from the New York City Aviation twitter feed.

 

 


2:43PM

Dangerous times in upper Manhattan. @JonathanWald is tweeting pictures of what seems to be a broken crane dangling precariously from a half-built skyscraper on 57th Street. Am trying to get confirmation.

 


2:35PM

This dramatic picture has been circulating Twitter of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetary, near Washington DC:

...in fact it was, as many have already pointed out, not actually taken today but last September; but it is nonetheless amazing and true that the 3rd Infantry regiment, or the "Old Guard", will be standing outside at the tomb throughout the coming storm.

"The Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier maintain their vigil even as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the Eastern Seaboard. The Old Guard has guarded the tomb every minute of every day since April 6, 1948. Today will be no exception," the regiment announced through its Facebook page.

(h/t istwitterwrong.tumblr.com)

 


2:24PM

It's possible that the flaw in the New York Times' plan to view the storm from a camera atop their Manhattan skyscraper, which updates every minute, may already be becoming clear: all you can see, already, is grey. It might be a more dramatic view when things get hairer, though.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/10/28/nyregion/nyt-webcam.html

 


2:17PM

Electricity company ConEd, which provides power to the majority of New York City, is considering shutting off the power to Lower Manhattan to protect its cabling and equipment, which is often housed in basements, from rising floodwater, which would leave the tip of the island as well as parts of the East Village in the dark.

It also reports that downed power lines have already shut off power to parts of Brooklyn and Queens - including Crown Heights; which is where I am blogging from, so if this blog suddenly goes quiet, it means that we've lost power here...

ConEd's power outages map can be accessed here http://www.coned.com/sm/outageinfo.asp#

 


1:59PM

Mayor Bloomberg gave a press conference about an hour ago.

“This is a massive storm; hurricane-force winds extend some 175 miles in every direction of the center. The storm may strengthen as it meets the cold front approaching from the northwest, and that’s when it changes from a tropical storm to a nor’easter, which has very big implications for those areas to the west of us and to the north of us," he said.

“As we’ve emphasized all along, the greatest danger posed by Sandy is the coastal storm surge it will produce."

That storm surge has been estimated to be between 9 and 11 feet - nothing like Hurricane Katrina's more focussed surge of more than 27 feet, but still sizable - and spread across a much wider area, all along the eastern seaboard. The full moon is also contributing to the surge, which will reach its high tide peak this evening, around the same time as Sandy is due to make landfall. That, and the incoming cold front, is what is leading everyone to refer to this as the perfect storm system.

 


1:44PM

This is a satellite photo of the Earth taken by NASA at just after nine this morning. Hurricane Sandy is clearly visible at the top.


1:25PM

Brooklyn is getting pretty windy, but reports are that Manhattan is still continuing business as usual for now - despite surge levels already having reached the level of Hurricane Irene.

 


12:55PM

Hello and welcome to the New Statesman's live-blog of Hurricane Sandy. The storm, still around 250 miles off the coast, is picking up speed - winds were consistently hitting 90MPH two and a half hours ago, and the 500-mile-wide storm is approaching the east coast at a stately 18MPH. It is expected to make landfall at around eight o'clock this evening eastern time, that's the crack of midnight UK time. I'm in Crown Heights, safely at higher ground in Brooklyn, New York. Outside, gusts of wind have been picking up all morning.

In large, lower-lying areas of the New York metropolitan area, including parts of Manhattan Island, an estimated 375,000 people have been ordered to evacuate to higher ground. Scientists are expecting more than 11 feet of surge being driven in from the sea by the storm. Despite the storm still being around 250 miles from us here, the trendy Brooklyn district of Red Hook is already under water:

Red Hook

Sandy brushes past the tip of Florida. Photograph: NOAA

Nicky Woolf is a writer for the Guardian based in the US. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

Hamzah al Zobi
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Meet the Syrians using education to escape the refugee camps

On the bus to university with Syrian refugees in Jordan. 

The bus to Zarqa University leaves Jordan’s largest refugee camp at 7am sharp. The journey is one of the day’s highlights for the Syrian students who ride this route - a chance to plan weekend get-togethers, bemoan heavy course loads and even enjoy the occasional school-bus style sing-along. It’s also their daily ticket out of Za’atari camp and a means of escaping the dreary realities of refugee life.

“We are the lucky ones. Most had to give up their dreams of higher education” says 19-year-old Reema Nasser Al Hamad, whose family fled to Jordan five years ago when bombs destroyed her home in Dara’a, Syria. She shudders to think of the alternatives: aimless days spent sitting in a crowded caravan, or early marriage. “After the war, students in Syria lost their cities, their opportunities and their futures, so many of the girls just married when they got here. There’s a huge difference between the lives of those who study and those who don’t.”

Despite missing two years of school, Reema (pictured below) was able to pass her exams before securing a Saudi-funded scholarship to study Pharmacy at Zaraq’ University. “In Syria, I’d planned to do medicine and be a doctor because I always had high grades. There are fewer choices for us here but I’m happy to be studying at all,” she says. Hamza al Zobi, who’s studying Pharmacy on an the EU-funded EDU-Syria programnme, says young Syrians are hungry to learn. “We all have friends and relatives who didn’t get this chance and we feel so upset for them. If they’re not well educated, how can they go back and do the right thing for our country?”

More than a quarter of 18-24 year olds in Syria were enrolled in higher education when the war broke out. “Based on data provided by UNHCR we assess that around 20,000 young Syrians in Jordan would qualify for vocational education and higher education,” says Job Arts, Programme Manager Education and Youth, EU Delegation to Jordan, which is supporting some 1800 Syrians and disadvantaged Jordanians on degree courses in Jordan.

“While the number of places for Syrian students to pursue their education has increased dramatically over the past few years, there are still many more interested students than spaces available for study,” says Sarah Dryden-Peterson, non-resident Fellow at the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution. “Without these possibilities, young Syrians will lose the kind of hope that is essential to productive futures.”

According to the Jordan Response Platform for the Syria Crisis, 1,250 Syrian youth were in higher education in Jordan in 2016. Building on commitments made by the international community at the London Conference on Syria last year, the Jordanian government hopes to secure funding to increase access to tertiary education and vocational training at the upcoming conference in Brussels this April.

“Jordan views higher education from a strategic point of view, specifically in terms of providing the Syrian youth with the education, skill and knowledge that will allow the opportunity to be part of rebuilding their country once the current situation comes to an end,” says Feda Gharaibeh, Director, Humanitarian Relief Coordination Unit at the Jordanian Ministry of Planning & International Cooperation.

Reema plans to return to Syria when the war is over. “After graduation a lot of students want to go to Europe. That would be fine for me too if it’s just to do a masters or doctorate, but then I want to go back to Syria and use what I’ve learnt to help my people.” Now four semesters into her course, she is making good progress but says adapting to the Jordanian education system was a challenge. “It’s really difficult for us. Classes are taught in English and the teaching style is different. They also have a lot more exams here.”

Only the brightest stand a chance of securing a scholarship but many young Syrians have seen their grades plummet after missing years of schooling. For, some, it’s too late to catch up. Accountancy student Ibrahim Mohammed, 23, came to Jordan in 2013 with his younger brother Khalil, now 19, who works in a print shop. “He stopped studying when he was 14. He didn’t even have a chance to get his high school certificate,” says Ibrahim.

Attempts to bridge the gap through open and distance learning programmes aren’t always effective. “It’s not a tool that is frequently used in the education environment in the Middle East,” explains Arts. Refugee students' access to electricity, internet connections, computers and space to study can be in short supply. Moreover, many students seek the escapism that a university education offers. “In our dialogue with parents and students, we often hear the phrase ‘being normal again’,” Arts adds.

Hamzah tries to help fellow students achieve this in his role as representative for the Syrian community at Zarqa University. He and Reema are part of a team that offers advice to new students and support for those from poorer families living in the camps. “There are 900 Syrian students here and each one has a different story of suffering,” says Hamzah, who organises group trips to restaurants and fairgrounds, helping to create a sense of regular student life. “It makes us forget what we are,” explains Reema.

During term time, she prefers to stay with her uncle in Mafraq, a city nearby. It’s hard to study in Za’atari. As soon as the power comes on at 5pm, her brothers switch on the TV, making it difficult to concentrate in the cramped caravan they share. There’s nowhere else to go; the camp is dangerous at night, particularly for young women. It’s even more crowded since the arrival of her baby sister. Reema remembers how her mother sobbed when she learned of the pregnancy, worried about bringing another child into the makeshift world of the camp.

But in five years a lot has changed. “In Syria, I had never left my village; now I feel there is another world to know,” says Reema. Like many Syrian students, she worries about life after university, particularly if they stay in Jordan where employment opportunities remain restricted for Syrian refugees. “It seems like work is forbidden to us Syrians and without a job we can’t take control of our lives. We’re studying hard but with no prospects,” says Hamzah. Few can see beyond graduation. “The future is opaque for us,” he adds, “We’re just living day by day.”

To date, the Jordanian government has issued some 39,000 works permits out of the 200,000 it pledged to make available for Syrians during the London Conference last February. However, with these opportunities built around low-income roles, primarily in the construction, agriculture, and textile manufacture sectors, the way for Syrian university graduates in Jordan still seems barred.

“Jordan is a small country with limited job opportunities,” says Ghaith Rababah Head of Projects & International Cooperation Unit (PICU) at the Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research. “Maybe the market will be better able to absorb educated Syrians at a later stage.”

In the meantime, higher education offers young Syrians a semblance of the security and stability their lives otherwise lack, Rababah continues. Given the opportunity to “use their talents for something good”, he adds, young people placed in difficult situations are less likely to fall prey to extremist ideologies and be “tricked into committing terrorist acts".