(NEW YORK) — Superstorm Sandy unleashed its lethal wrath, leaving nearly five million without power, downing trees and flooding the streets, spurring President Obama to issue disaster declarations for New York and New Jersey.
Federal aid will be offered to the affected areas to help supplement state and local clean-up efforts.
Sandy continued on a ferocious streak early Tuesday morning when a levee in Bergen County, N.J., was breached, resulting in four to five feet of water flowing into three towns and endangering as many as one thousand people, said Jeanne Beratta, spokesperson for the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management.
Boat rescues are currently underway and minor injuries have been reported, she said.
Although the worst of Sandy is over, high winds are expected to continue whipping through the northeast on Tuesday, but will weaken at a steady rate, according to a National Weather Service briefing at 5 a.m. EST. Maximum winds were reported to be near 65 mph.
Parts of the mid-Atlantic and northeast states also remained under flash flood watches and warnings. Normally dry areas near the coast could be vulnerable to potential flooding brought on by high tide, the briefing stated.
As Sandy moves west-northwest at 15 mph, rainfall totals of four to eight inches are expected over the mid-Atlantic states, while one to three inches are possible from New York through New England, according to the National Weather Service.
Sandy was downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm shortly before it made landfall at 8 p.m. in Atlantic City, N.J., on Monday, however that didn’t stop the superstorm from wreaking havoc.
Five deaths were reported in New York, including three children in Westchester County just north of New York City. One death was recorded in the city and a fifth in Ulster County.
Two people were also reported dead in New Jersey, two in Connecticut, three in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia.
Nearly 5 million customers were without power from the East Coast to Ohio, according to figures from the Department of Energy and local power company reports.
In Lower Manhattan, a blowout at a Con Edison substation cut power to thousands of customers. The outage was likely the result of flooding or flying debris, said John Miksad, senior vice president of electrical operations for the company.
Approximately 670,000 customers in New York City and Westchester County were without power, due to factors including the explosion, outages in the overhead system and pre-emptive shutdowns.
“When we went into today, we knew the forecast was for strong winds from Sandy as well as the potential for flooding, so we had anticipated and reported to you all that we were expecting overhead outages,” Miksad said.
What the company had not anticipated, he said, was the continued flooding following the peak tides.
In New Jersey, 1,918,000 customers were without power. On Long Island, 823, 920 — 75 percent of LIPA’s customers — were in the dark.
There were nearly 640,000 customers without power in Connecticut, more than 390,000 in Virginia, almost 290,000 in Marlyand and Washington, D.C., more than 68,000 in West Virginia, more than 10,000 in Massachusetts and 125,000 in New Hampshire.
New York University Medical Center was among the millions left without power in the wake of Sandy. A full evacuation was under way after the hospital’s back-up generators had failed.
Around midnight on Tuesday morning, approximately 200 patients had been evacuated by private ambulance with assistance from the FDNY.
Miksad said it was too soon to say when power could be restored and that inspectors would be out once it was daylight to assess the damage.
The usually congested streets of New York City were ominously empty, as people stayed indoors to avoid flying debris, loose tree branches and ripped fixtures from skyscrapers.
One of the more frightening threats was a broken construction crane that dangled atop a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. Neighboring buildings were evacuated as the massive metal crane arm swayed in winds that gusted above 65 miles per hour.
And transportation may prove to be a problem in the Big Apple during the coming days. Superstorm Sandy flooded parts of the New York City subway system, rail yards and bus depots, creating what officials are calling the biggest disaster of its 108 years in existence.
“The New York City subway system…has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night,” MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said in a statement.
It was not yet known when the city’s subway system would be back up and running.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jason Borba, KPVI
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com
Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com