Hurricane Sandy came barrelling down on Newark Monday evening, pushing a wall of water into the East Ward, bringing down street trees and power lines, and leaving the skyline of the state's largest city largely dark in the wake of widespread power outages.
"It's bad out here," said Fire Chief John Centanni.
By midnight, the few motorists defying the state of ermergency were greeted by the eerie sight of an almost completly unilluminated downtown. Aside from emergency lighting in the stairwells of high rises, power was out up and down Broad Street.
Damage from the weather event dubbed "Frankenstorm" for its sheer breadth and destructive potential was relatively minimal throughout the day Monday. But wind gusts picked up around 7 pm, sending a hybrid team of police and firefighters scrambling to contend with a succession of calls -- everything from water rescues to a person trapped in an elevator on Summit Avenue.
Brief but powerful bursts of wind tore siding from homes and material from roofs throughout the city. Gusts were strong enough to nearly lift a moving SUV from the roadway. A group of pedestrians on Springfield Avenue were nearly struck by flying debris early Monday evening. Nearby, on Kent Street, downed eletrical lines touhed off a car fire, one of several occuring across the city Monday. The sky lit up as transformers blew and power lines were pulled down by wind and crashing branches.
Then there was the water. As high tide approached around 8 pm, flooding from the rain and the Passaic River inundated the East Ward, with streets like South and Raymond Boulevard virtually impassable even to heavy-duty fire vehicles. Huge pools of deep water formed near Penn Station. Near Newark Liberty Inernational Airport, Corbin Street and other access roads were under several inches to a few feet of water by 8 pm.
Flooding hindered rescue attempts. At least five feet of water on the eastern end of Raymond and elsewhere in the Ironbound aruond 11 pm made it impossible for firefighers to immediately reach residents living near the Passaic River trapped in their homes by rising floodwater. The waters finally began to recede by about midnight.
As waters receded after midnight, firefighters were able to make additional rescues in the East Ward. Around 2:30 am, two people were pulled from their flooded Waydell Aveune home. Six workers were rescued around 3 am from the trailer where they took refuge from the flooding at 155 Raymond Boulevard. Repeated attempts to reach the men failed before firefighters were able to surmount the high water in a sanitation department dump truck.
Earlier in the evening, nine people, including an infant, were rescued by boat from a Ferry Street residence.
Also, the Newark Fire Department had to secure a fire boat to ensure the rising waters of an inlet near the Passaic River did not wash the craft out to sea or, more likely, founder it on land. The boat was lashed to a barge which in turn was secured to tugboats, keeping it secure.