East Coast

NEW YORK — Stock trading will be closed in the U.S. for a second day Tuesday as Superstorm Sandy bears down on the East Coast. Bond trading will also be closed.
The last time the New York Stock Exchange was closed for weather was in 1985 because of Hurricane Gloria, and it will be the first time since 1888 that the exchange will have been closed for two consecutive days because of weather. The cause then was a blizzard that left drifts as high as 40 feet in the streets of New York City.

The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq said they intend to reopen on Wednesday and would keep investors updated.

CME Group’s New York trading floor was closed, but its electronic markets for commodities were functioning.

Bond trading will be closed Tuesday. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association called for an early close to bond trading at noon Monday.

The uncertainty generated by the storm comes at the start of a big week in the United States. This is the last full week before next Tuesday’s presidential election and Friday will see the release  of monthly jobs data, which many analysts think could have an impact on the vote.

The Stumpy Point Congregational Holiness Church is shown surrounded by water following the effects of Hurricane Irene in Stumpy Point, N.C. on Sunday. The storm that spent 12-hours scouring the North Carolina coast killed at least five people, brought pockets of flooding that required rescues along the sounds and left nearly a half-million customers without power. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Stripped of hurricane rank, Tropical Storm Irene spent the last of its fury Sunday, leaving treacherous flooding and millions without power — but an unfazed New York and relief that it was nothing like the nightmare authorities feared.

Slowly, the East Coast surveyed the damage, up to $7 billion by one private estimate, and worried of danger still lurking: the possibility of rivers and streams swelling with rainwater and overflowing over the next few days.

“This is not over,” President Barack Obama said from the Rose Garden.

Meanwhile, the nation’s most populous region looked to a new week and the arduous process of getting back to normal.

New York lifted its evacuation order for 370,000 people and said it hoped to have its subway, shut down for the first time by a natural disaster, rolling again Monday, though maybe not in time for the morning commute. Philadelphia restarted its trains and buses.

“All in all,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “we are in pretty good shape.”

At least 19 people died in the storm, most of them when trees crashed through roofs or onto cars.

The main New York power company, Consolidated Edison, didn’t have to go through with a plan to cut electricity to lower Manhattan to protect its equipment. Engineers had worried that salty seawater would damage the wiring.

And two pillars of the neighborhood came through the storm just fine: The New York Stock Exchange said it would be open for business on Monday, and the Sept. 11 memorial at the World Trade Center site didn’t lose a single tree.

The center of Irene passed over Central Park at midmorning with the storm packing 65 mph winds. By evening, with its giant figure-six shape brushing over New England and drifting east, it was down to 50 mph. It was expected to drift into Canada later Sunday or early Monday.

“Just another storm,” said Scott Beller, who was at a Lowe’s hardware store in the Long Island hamlet of Centereach, looking for a generator because his power was out.

The Northeast was spared the urban nightmare some had worried about — crippled infrastructure, stranded people and windows blown out of skyscrapers. Early assessments showed “it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.

Later in the day, the extent of the damage became clearer. Flood waters were rising across New Jersey, closing side streets and major highways including the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 295. In Essex County, authorities used a five-ton truck to ferry people away from their homes as the Passaic River neared its expected crest Sunday night.

Twenty homes on Long Island Sound in Connecticut were destroyed by churning surf. The torrential rain chased hundreds of people in upstate New York from their homes and washed out 137 miles of the state’s main highway.

In Massachusetts, the National Guard had to help people evacuate. The ski resort town of Wilmington, Vt., was flooded, but nobody could get to it because both state roads leading there were underwater.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen in Vermont,” said Mike O’Neil, the state emergency management director.

Rivers roared in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In the Hudson Valley town of New Paltz, N.Y., so many people were gathering to watch a rising river that authorities banned alcohol sales and ordered people inside. And in Rhode Island, which has a geography thick with bays, inlets and shoreline, authorities were worried about coastal flooding at evening high tide.

The entire Northeast has been drenched this summer with what has seemed like relentless rain, saturating the ground and raising the risk of flooding, even after the storm passes altogether.

The storm system knocked out power for 4½ million people along the Eastern Seaboard. Power companies were picking through uprooted trees and reconnecting lines in the South and had restored electricity to hundreds of thousands of people by Sunday afternoon.

Under its first hurricane warning in a quarter-century, New York took extraordinary precautions. There were sandbags on Wall Street, tarps over subway grates and plywood on storefront windows.

The subway stopped rolling. Broadway and baseball were canceled.

With the worst of the storm over, hurricane experts assessed the preparations and concluded that, far from hyping the danger, authorities had done the right thing by being cautious.

Max Mayfield, former director of the National Hurricane Center, called it a textbook case.

“They knew they had to get people out early,” he said. “I think absolutely lives were saved.”

Mayfield credited government officials — but also the meteorologists. Days before the storm ever touched American land, forecast models showed it passing more or less across New York City.

“I think the forecast itself was very good, and I think the preparations were also good,” said Keith Seitter, director of the American Meteorological Society. “If this exact same storm had happened without the preparations that everyone had taken, there would have been pretty severe consequences.”

In the storm’s wake, hundreds of thousands of passengers still had to get where they were going. Airlines said about 9,000 flights were canceled. United, Continental, Delta and JetBlue said they planned to resume service into and out of New York on Monday, and in Boston on Monday. Philadelphia International Airport was reopening Sunday afternoon, but there were no departures scheduled yet and only a few arrivals.

In the South, authorities still were not sure how much damage had been done. North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said some parts of her state were unreachable. TV footage showed downed trees, toppled utility poles and power lines and mangled awnings.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell had initially warned that Irene could be a “catastrophic” monster with record storm surges of up to 8 feet. But the mayor Virginia Beach, Va., suggested on Twitter that the damage was not as bad as feared, as did the mayor of Ocean City, Md.

One of two nuclear reactors at Calvert Cliffs, Md., automatically went offline because of high winds. Constellation Energy Nuclear Group said the plant was safe.

In New York, some cabs were up to their wheel wells in water, and water rushed over a marina near the New York Mercantile Exchange, where gold and oil are traded. But the flooding was not extensive.

“Whether we dodged a bullet or you look at it and said, ‘God smiled on us,’ the bottom line is, I’m happy to report, there do not appear to be any deaths attributable to the storm,” Bloomberg said.

New York officials could not pinpoint when the trains would run again but warned that the Monday commute would be rough. The New York subway carries 5 million riders on an average weekday.

The casinos of Atlantic City, N.J., planned to reopen Monday at noon after state officials checked the integrity of the games, made sure the surveillance cameras work, and brought cash back into the cages under state supervision. All 11 casinos shut down for the storm, only the third time that has happened.

In Philadelphia, the mayor lifted the city’s first state of emergency since 1986. The storm was blamed for the collapses of seven buildings, but no one was hurt and everyone was accounted for. People kept their eyes on the rivers. The Schuylkill was expected to reach 15 feet.

The 19 deaths attributed to the storm included five in North Carolina, four in Virginia, three in Pennsylvania, two in New York, two in rough surf in Florida and one each in Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey.

In an early estimate, consulting firm Kinetic Analysis Corp. figured total losses from the storm at $7 billion, with insured losses of $2 billion to $3 billion. The storm will take a bite out of Labor Day tourist business from the Outer Banks to the Jersey Shore to Cape Cod.

Irene was the first hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States since 2008, and came almost six years to the day after Katrina ravaged New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005.

As the East Coast cleans up, it can’t afford to get too comfortable. Off the coast of Africa is a batch of clouds that computer models say will probably threaten the East Coast 10 days from now, Mayfield said. The hurricane center gave it a 40 percent chance of becoming a named storm over the next two days.

“Folks on the East Coast are going to get very nervous again,” Mayfield said.

Printed on Monday, August 29, 2011 as: Northeast deals with floods, power loss.

Hurricane Irene is shown as it moves over the Bahamas on Thursday. Irene could hit North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Saturday afternoon.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BUXTON, N.C. — A nightmare Hurricane Irene barreled toward the Eastern Seaboard on Thursday, sending thousands of vacationers fleeing and threatening up to 65 million people from the Carolinas to New England.

The Category 3 storm with winds of 115 mph — the threshold for a major hurricane — would be the strongest to strike the East Coast in seven years, and people were already getting out of the way.

Tens of thousands fled North Carolina beach towns, farmers pulled up their crops, and the Navy ordered ships to sea so they could endure the punishing wind and waves in open water.

All eyes were on Irene’s projected path, which showed it bringing misery to every city along the I-95 corridor, including Washington, New York and Boston. The former chief of the National Hurricane Center called it one of his three worst possible situations.

“One of my greatest nightmares was having a major hurricane go up the whole Northeast Coast,” Max Mayfield, the center’s retired director, told The Associated Press.

The governors of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York and New Jersey declared emergencies to free up resources, and authorities all the way to New England urged residents in low-lying areas to gather supplies and learn the way to a safe location.

Irene was expected to come ashore Saturday in North Carolina with 115 mph winds and a storm surge of 5 to 10 feet. It could dump a foot of rain, with as much as 15 inches falling in some places along the coast and around Chesapeake Bay.

Scientists predict Irene will then chug up the coast. Some forecasts showed it taking dead aim at New York City, with its eye passing over Brooklyn and Manhattan before weakening and trudging through New England.

Printed on Friday, August 26, 2011 as: Northeast coast prepares for Category 3 hurricane.

MINERAL, Va. — The most powerful earthquake to strike the East Coast in 67 years shook buildings and rattled nerves from Georgia to Maine on Tuesday. Frightened office workers spilled into the streets in New York, and parts of the White House, Capitol and Pentagon were evacuated.

There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

The National Cathedral said its central tower and three of its four corner spires were damaged, but the White House said advisers had told President Barack Obama there were no reports of major damage to the nation’s infrastructure, including airports and nuclear facilities.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake registered magnitude 5.8 and was centered 90 miles southwest of Washington. It was mild by West Coast standards, but the East Coast is not used to quakes of any size, and this one briefly raised fears of a terror attack less than three weeks before the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

“I thought I was having maybe a heart attack, and I saw everybody running,” said Adrian Ollivierre, an accountant who was in his office on the 60th floor of the Empire State Building when the shaking began. “I think what it is, is the paranoia that happens from 9/11, and that’s why I’m still out here — because, I’m sorry, I’m not playing with my life.”

Two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station, in the same county as the epicenter, were automatically taken off line by safety systems, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

At the Pentagon, a low rumbling built until the building itself was shaking, and people ran into the corridors of the complex. The shaking continued there, to shouts of “Evacuate! Evacuate!” The main damage to the building, the largest single workspace for the federal government, came from a broken water pipe.

The Park Service closed all monuments and memorials on the National Mall, and ceiling tiles fell at Reagan National Airport outside Washington. Many nonessential workers in Washington were sent home for the day. The Capitol was reopened by late afternoon for people to retrieve their things.

The National Cathedral said cracks had appeared in the flying buttresses around the apse at one end. “Everyone here is safe,” the cathedral said on its official Twitter feed. “Please pray for the Cathedral as there has been some damage.”

In lower Manhattan, the 26-story federal courthouse, blocks from ground zero of the Sept. 11 attacks, began swaying, and hundreds of people streamed out of the building.

The New York police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, was in a meeting with top deputies planning security for the upcoming anniversary when the shaking started. Workers in the Empire State Building spilled into the streets, some having descended dozens of flights of stairs.

“I thought we’d been hit by an airplane,” said one worker, Marty Wiesner.

New York District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance was starting a news conference about the dismissal of the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, when the shaking began. Reporters and aides began rushing out the door until it became clear it was subsiding.

On Wall Street, the floor of the New York Stock Exchange did not shake, officials said, but the Dow Jones industrial average sank 60 points soon after the quake struck. The Dow began rising again a half-hour later and finished the day up 322 points.

Shaking was felt as far south as Charleston, S.C., as far north as Maine and as far west as Cincinnati and Atlanta. It was also felt on Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts, where Obama is taking summer vacation and was starting a round of golf when the quake struck at 1:51 p.m. EDT.

Obama led a conference call Tuesday afternoon on the earthquake with top administration officials, including his homeland security secretary, national security adviser and administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Around Mineral, Va., a small town close to the epicenter, people milled around in their lawns, on sidewalks and parking lots, still rattled and leery of re-entering buildings. All over town, masonry was crumpled, and there were stores with shelved contents strewn on the floor. Several display windows at businesses in the tiny heart of downtown were broken and lay in jagged shards.

Carmen Bonano, who has a 1-year-old granddaughter, sat on the porch of her family’s white-frame house, its twin brick chimneys destroyed. Her voice still quavered with fear.

“The fridge came down off the wall and things started falling. I just pushed the refrigerator out of the way, grabbed the baby and ran,” she said.

By the standards of the West Coast, where earthquakes are much more common, the Virginia quake was mild. Since 1900, there have been 40 quakes of magnitude 5.8 or greater in California alone. There have been 43 of magnitude 6 of greater.

Quakes in the East tend to be felt across a much broader area.

“The waves are able to reverberate and travel pretty happily out for miles,” said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough.

The Geological Survey put the quake in its yellow alert category, meaning there was potential for local damage but relatively little economic damage.

The agency said the quake was 3.7 miles beneath the surface, but scientists said they may never be able to map the exact fault. Aftershocks may help to outline it, said Rowena Lohman, a seismologist at Cornell University. There were at least two aftershocks, magnitudes 2.2 and 2.8.

The last quake of equal power to strike the East Coast was in New York in 1944. The largest East Coast quake on record was a 7.3 that hit South Carolina in 1886. In 1897, a magnitude-5.9 quake was recorded at Giles County, Va., the largest on record in that state.

A 5.8-magnitude quake releases as much energy as almost eight kilotons of TNT, about half the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The earthquake that devastated Japan earlier this year released more than 60,000 times as much energy as Tuesday’s.

The Virginia quake came a day after an earthquake in Colorado toppled groceries off shelves and caused minor damage to homes in the southern part of the state and in northern New Mexico. No injuries were reported as aftershocks continued Tuesday.

On the East Coast, Amtrak said its trains along the Northeast Corridor between Baltimore and Washington were operating at reduced speeds and crews were inspecting stations and railroad infrastructure before returning to normal.

In Charleston, W.Va., hundreds of workers left the state Capitol building and employees at other downtown office buildings were asked to leave temporarily.

“The whole building shook,” said Jennifer Bundy, a spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court. “You could feel two different shakes. Everybody just kind of came out on their own.”

In Ohio, office buildings swayed in Columbus and Cincinnati, and the press box at Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, shook. At least one building near the Statehouse was evacuated in downtown Columbus.

In downtown Baltimore, the quake sent office workers into the streets, where lamp posts swayed slightly as they called family and friends to check in.

John Gurlach, air traffic controller at the Morgantown Municipal Airport in West Virginia, was in a 40-foot-tall tower when the earth trembled.

“There were two of us looking at each other saying, ‘What’s that?’” he said, even as a commuter plane was landing. “It was noticeably shaking. It felt like a B-52 unloading.”

Immediately, the phone rang from the nearest airport in Clarksburg, and a computer began spitting out green strips of paper — alerts from other airports in New York and Washington issuing ground stops “due to earthquake.”

The earthquake caused a stir online, where people posted to Facebook and Twitter within seconds and described what they had felt. The keywords in posts, or hashtags, included “DCquake,” ‘’VAquake” and “Columbusquake,” an indication of how broadly the quake was experienced.

“People pouring out of buildings and onto the sidewalks and Into Farragut Park in downtown DC,” Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist, posted on Twitter.

Quake photos and videos also made the rounds. A handful were authentic. Many more were not — they were favorite earthquake scenes from Hollywood blockbusters or footage of people shaking their glasses and plates at an Olive Garden.

Printed on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 as: U.S. eastern seaboard sustains mild yet surprising earthquake.