Sandy Makes Landfall Near Atlantic City

Robert Siegel talks with Associated Press correspondent Katie Zezima, who was in Atlantic City, N.J., close to where Sandy made landfall.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Hurricane Sandy is now Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy, but no less destructive. The storm made landfall about an hour ago along the coast of Southern New Jersey, five miles from Atlantic City, with maximum sustained winds of 80 miles an hour. In a moment, we'll hear from a reporter in Atlantic City.

CORNISH: Sandy's reach is enormous, affecting an estimated 60 million people up and down the Eastern Seaboard and inland - in places such as Ohio and West Virginia. There is widespread flooding, wind gusts greater than 70 miles an hour and record storm surge reported in places like New York City's Battery Park and Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Falling trees have killed at least two people. And power is out for more than a million homes and businesses, a number that short arise.

SIEGEL: Earlier as the storm raged, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged people to stay indoors, away from beaches, boardwalks and seawalls.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: They 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.

SIEGEL: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had more pointed words for the mayor of Atlantic City, Lorenzo Langford, who, he says, ignored warnings to get people out of harm's way.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: 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 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 o'clock tomorrow morning.

SIEGEL: And Governor Christie went on to say that he could not, in good conscience, send in rescuers while it's dark. Well, as we said, Sandy made landfall very close to Atlantic City.

Joining us is Associated Press correspondent Katie Zezima. And, Katie, before the eye of the storm and the calm that comes with the eye passed over Atlantic City, what was it like there today?

KATIE ZEZIMA: It was a day of driving rain and howling wind. It picked up pretty early, and it really intensified in the afternoon. I almost got blown over walking down the street. It was very, very rough. Trash that's flying everywhere. Recycling bins and garbage cans were strewn throughout the streets. It was a day of very severe wind and very severe rain.

SIEGEL: And generally, businesses, casinos - are they all shut down?

ZEZIMA: Yes. Absolutely. Governor Christie ordered all casinos to shut down as of 4 o'clock on Sunday. So there's very, very few businesses open. Really, the only thing open is the hotel that many press and first responders are staying in.

SIEGEL: And any word from Mayor Langford, who was called out by the governor there?

ZEZIMA: I have not been able to reach Mayor Langford. Not for lack of trying, but we have not heard from him as of yet.

SIEGEL: Fire and police - are they fully staffed and coping with problems there?

ZEZIMA: They are. Yes. They are here. There is an emergency management team that is staffed and that's ready to go. They actually evacuated a number of people from low-lying areas this morning and brought them to those shelters that Governor Christie was talking about. The officials also brought some people - mostly elderly and disabled people - off of the island to a shelter on the main land about five miles away.

SIEGEL: And we've heard reports of record flooding in Atlantic City. What do you see? And is it at the boardwalk or near the casinos?

ZEZIMA: Yes, there have been flooding at the boardwalk and at casinos. I can look out of this hotel where - right by the convention center, and the parking lot is flooded, the streets across a street are flooded as well, part of the boardwalk, which is the - it was the dilapidated part of the boardwalk. But nonetheless, part of the boardwalk (unintelligible) and floated away.

The concern is that the storm passed over right around the time of high tide tonight. So we really won't know until tomorrow morning how high the water levels will arise. There is concern that because high tide this morning brought in so much water that this high tide will just really exacerbate things and make it much worse.

SIEGEL: And you mention shelters. I gather that some are in a school that's just a block from the water. Is that a safe area?

ZEZIMA: I'm not sure about that. There's a bay side to Atlantic City and there is an ocean side to Atlantic City, and they both flood. I've been told today that the bay side brings in water a few hours after the high tide. So, you know, it remained to be seen exactly how much water will be in which areas in the city.

SIEGEL: OK. Katie Zezima, thanks a lot for talking with us.

ZEZIMA: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Katie Zezima, correspondent with the Associated Press, speaking to us from Atlantic City.

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