Aftermath of Sandy Update

With at least 50 people dead, transit crippled in New York City and millions of people along the U.S. East Coast struggling without electricity, communities face a daunting challenge of repairing the damage wrought by super-storm Sandy. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg surveyed the destruction in the hardest-hit neighborhoods Tuesday. He said he saw homes so utterly destroyed only “chimneys and foundations” were visible. But despite the daunting challenge of recovery efforts, Bloomberg said “New Yorkers are resilient.” About a third of New York’s fleet of taxis were operating Tuesday, bus service was partially restored, and the New York Stock Exchange was expected to reopen Wednesday. U.S. President Barack Obama declared New York and Long Island a “major” disaster area. The declaration means federal funding is now available to residents of the hardest-hit areas, who awoke to a tragic aftermath of the deadly storm that slammed ashore in New Jersey on Monday evening. New York had seen a four-meter surge of seawater crash ashore overnight, inundating the city’s tunnels and electrical systems and causing massive damage to the city’s famed subway. The storm left New York with no running trains, a vacated business district and entire neighborhoods under water. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the subway system, which remains closed, had suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history. As of midday Tuesday, Sandy’s sustained winds were already diminishing from the 130 km/h it was packing at landfall near Atlantic City, N.J. on Monday evening. But forecasters warn the storm system will continue to affect a region stretching from the U.S. eastern seaboard north to Canada, and as far west as Wisconsin and Illinois, as it churns across Pennsylvania before veering into western New York state sometime Wednesday. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave a bleak update at a morning news conference Tuesday, saying seaside rail lines were washed away, and there was no safe place on the state’s barrier islands for him as large parts of the coast are still under water.

“We are in the midst of urban search and rescue. Our teams are moving as fast as they can,” Christie said. “The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we’ve ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point.” The effects aren’t contained to America’s largest city. More than 7.4 million homes and businesses in an area that stretches from the Carolinas in the south to Ohio in the northeast are without power Tuesday. Tens of thousands were also without electricity in southern parts of Ontario and Quebec too, as Sandy carries its combination of rain and wind northwards. In Canada, a Toronto woman was killed Monday evening after she was struck by a falling sign blown down in the powerful storm’s high winds. Most of the Sandy-related wind warnings issued by Environment Canada have been called off however, except for the Sarnia region, areas along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and Inverness County in Nova Scotia. The storm was officially downgraded from hurricane status, but it came ashore packing a lot of energy due to its unusually low barometric pressure. Combined with a cold-weather system from the north, and the high tide of the full moon, the storm is forecast to continue wreaking havoc across a 1,300-kilometre region that’s home to 50 million people through Wednesday. Sandy may cost the U.S. more than $20 billion in damage.
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West Virginia crippled by massive snow storm

Parts of West Virginia were digging out from up to three feet of snow dumped in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a deluge that cut power to hundreds of thousands of residents and shut down main highways. The thick blanket of snow at higher elevations across the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, including in parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania, also brought concerns that rivers and creeks in low-lying areas could flood later in the week as the snow melts, with temperatures expected to reach 60 degrees. Falling trees and storm-related traffic accidents claimed the lives of three people in Maryland, three in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia, state officials said Tuesday. Close to 300,000 West Virginia residents were without power Tuesday afternoon, as high winds and heavy snow snapped branches and downed power lines, and officials expected the number to rise. Outages at several utilities had left some areas without access to water, and officials were sending out trucks to deliver bottled water. “West Virginia continues to be hard hit,” said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat. “Right now, my main focus is on life safety, power restoration and critical infrastructure.…We are doing everything we can to help the folks in need.”

More than 30 of West Virginia’s 55 counties had snow, with the heaviest snowfall at higher elevations, said Liz Sommerville, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Charleston, W.Va. Bowden, above 3,000 feet, recorded 24 inches by early Tuesday, compared with 16 inches in Beckley, elevation 2,300 feet, and 9 inches in the capital of Charleston, elevation 980 feet. “Trees are coming down. I got a feeling that a lot of weaker structures are going to come down,” said Gary Berti, of Davis, W.Va., where 30 inches of snow had fallen by Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Berti, 54 years old, said all the stores along the main street of Davis were closed Tuesday and only pickup trucks with four-wheel drive were braving secondary roads. Restaurants without power were making food for rescue workers using gas stoves, he said: “They’re cooking everything they’ve got because they know they’re going to lose it.” Snow was expected to keep falling on mountainous areas through Wednesday, and blizzard warnings remained in effect in more than a dozen counties Tuesday. At lower elevations, snow was expected to turn to rain by Tuesday night. The West Virginia Department of Transportation reported accidents on three major highways in the state and said fallen trees and power lines were complicating efforts to clear roads. The agency urged residents to stay home. Marshall University canceled classes at various campuses around the state, and West Virginia State University closed for the day.

Tens of thousands flee as storm hits south India

indiaMore than 100,000 people were Evacuated from their homes Wednesday as a Tropical Storm hit southern India from the Bay of Bengal, officials said.Rain lashed the region and strong winds uprooted trees in some places. Weather officials said the storm packed winds of up to 60 miles per hour as it made landfall near Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state.A storm surge of up to 5 feet was expected to flood low-lying areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states, the India Meteorological Department said.It said it expected heavy to very heavy rainfall over parts of the states during the next 24 hours. Fishermen were asked to stay at shore until Thursday.State authorities turned 282 schools into relief centers in Chennai. The city’s port halted cargo operations, but berthing of ships was continuing, the Press Trust of India news agency said. Twenty-three ships were moved to safer areas.About 150,000 people were moved to shelters in Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh state, district official B. Sridhar said.In Sri Lanka, authorities said two people were killed and thousands displaced due to heavy rain and strong winds from the storm.Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center said 4,627 people across the island nation had been displaced because of flooding, while 56 were evacuated in the central region due to threats of landslides. One woman died Tuesday after a tree branch fell on her, while another person was killed in flooding, the agency said. Floods have also damaged about 1,000 houses, it said.

On Halloween, US military forces train for zombie apocalypse In San Diego

The scenario is part of a counterterrorism summit held this week. A zombie invasion would have characteristics similar to other catastrophic events and would be ‘a federal incident,’ a summit organizer says.

Why is the US military preparing for a zombie apocalypse?

That’s the latest training exercise that US Marines and Navy special-operations forces will be taking part in on an island off the coast of San Diego – starting on Wednesday, aka Halloween.

“This is a very real exercise. This is not some type of big costume party,” Brad Barker, president of the Halo Corp. security company, told the Associated Press.

[RECOMMENDED: War games – Pentagon’s 3 nightmare scenario]

This scenario is dire, modeled in part on a public-service campaign that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)launched last year, warning that US citizens should be prepared in the event of a zombie invasion.

It will play out Wednesday and Thursday at Halo’s annual Counter-Terrorism Summit security conference, which will be attended by, among other people, former Central Intelligence Agencydirector Michael Hayden.

Zombies will invade Paradise Point Resort, which covers 44 acres on an island that will be transformed with Hollywood-style sets, including a Middle Eastern village and a pirate cove. Some 1,000 US military personnel, police, and state and federal government officials will be charged with responding.

“No doubt when a zombie apocalypse occurs, it’s going to be a federal incident, so we’re making it happen,” Mr. Barker told the AP.

The training scenario has not come without its share of unwelcome attention, he noted, adding that “every whack job in the world” has called about the exercise.

Barker acknowledges that the “zombie apocalypse is very whimsical,” telling the Military Times that the scenario was created to “add some levity to the more-dire scenarios summitgoers will encounter,” including terrorists roaming hospital halls shooting people and pilots trapped behind enemy lines.

That said, an affinity for zombie television shows and movies could help provide a teachable moment not only for US troops, but also for the American public.

This is particularly true when it comes to the uncertainty that surrounds unexpected catastrophic events, including natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

“No one knows what the zombies will do in our scenario, but quite frankly, no one knows what a terrorist will do,” Barker told the AP. “If a law-enforcement officer sees a zombie and says, ‘Freeze, get your hands in the air!’ what’s a zombie going to do? He’s going to moan at you. If someone on PCP or some other psychotic drug is told that, the truth is he’s not going to react to you.”

When it launched its awareness campaign last year on a zombie apocalypse, the CDC used it as a chance to encourage Americans to be prepared for any unexpected emergency.

“We have a very small office and an equally small budget,” Maggie Silver, a CDC official, told ABC News. “So we had to do something that wasn’t going to take a lot of manpower or dollars.”

The CDC recommended doing things such as stocking up on water (one gallon per person per day), food (nonperishable items you eat regularly), tools like duct tape, a battery-powered radio, and blankets.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security released its own tongue-in-cheek webinar about zombie preparation as an “effective way of engaging new audiences,” as one FEMA official noted.

The CDC zombie campaign grew out of an effort “to spice up our general preparedness message,” added Ms. Silver. “We decided, why not give people what they want?”

Source: www.yahoo.com

At least 48 dead, millions without power in Sandy’s aftermath

The misery of superstorm Sandy’s devastation grew Tuesday as millions along the U.S. East Coast faced life without power or mass transit for days, and huge swaths of New York City remained eerily quiet. The U.S. death toll climbed to at least 48, many of the victims killed by falling trees, and rescue work continued.

The storm that made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening with hurricane force cut power to more than 8.2 million across the East and put the presidential campaign on hold just one week before Election Day.

New York was among the hardest hit, with its financial heart closed for a second day. The storm caused the worst damage in the 108-year history of the city’s subway system, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it could be four or five days before the biggest U.S. transit system was running again.

“This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced,” Bloomberg said.

But the full extent of the damage in New Jersey was being revealed as morning arrived. Emergency crews fanned out to rescue hundreds.

A hoarse-voiced New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave bleak news at a morning news conference: Seaside rail lines washed away. No safe place on the state’s barrier islands for him to land. Parts of the coast still under water.

“It is beyond anything I thought I’d ever see,” he said. “It is a devastating sight right now.”

The death toll from Sandy in the U.S. included several killed by falling trees. Sandy killed 18 people in New York City. It also killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Eastern Seaboard.

Airlines canceled more than 15,000 flights. New York City’s three major airports remained closed.

Some bridges into the city reopened at midday, but most major tunnels and bridges remained closed, as were schools and Broadway theaters.

The storm sent a nearly 14-foot surge of seawater, a record, coursing over Lower Manhattan‘s seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets. The water inundated tunnels, subway stations and the electrical system that powers Wall Street and sent hospital patients and tourists scrambling for safety. Skyscrapers swayed and creaked in winds that partially toppled a crane 74 stories above Midtown. A large tanker ship ran aground on the city’s Staten Island.

Around midday, Sandy was about 120 miles east of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, pushing westward with winds of 45 mph, and was expected to make a turn into New York State on Tuesday night. Although weakening as it goes, the storm will continue to bring heavy rain and flooding, said Daniel Brown of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Sandy also brought blizzard conditions to West Virginia and neighboring Appalachian states, with more than 2 feet of snow expected in some places.

Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the U.S., according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.

President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in New York and Long Island, making federal funding available to residents of the area. He suspended campaigning for a third day Wednesday, and planned to join Christie in viewing the damage in New Jersey.

Obama, speaking during a stop Tuesday at Red Cross headquarters, warned the public that the massive storm that struck the East Coast “is not yet over.” He said there were still risks of flooding and downed power lines. He called the storm “heartbreaking for the nation.”

The president offered his thoughts and prayers to those affected and told them “America is with you.” He said he also told government officials coordinating the response that there was “no excuse for inaction.”

And he said he told governors in affected areas that if they get no for an answer, “they can call me personally at the White House.”

Republican challenger Mitt Romney resumed his campaign, but with plans to turn a political rally in Ohio into a “storm relief event.”

Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Center, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather since the Blizzard of 1888. The NYSE said it will reopen on Wednesday.

A fire raged in a neighborhood Tuesday morning in the borough of Queens, near the Atlantic Ocean, with 80 to 100 homes destroyed but no deaths reported.

“This will be one for the record books,” said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Consolidated Edison, which had more than 670,000 customers without power in and around New York City.

In New Jersey, where the superstorm came ashore, Sandy cut off barrier islands, swept houses from their foundations and washed amusement pier rides into the ocean. It also wrecked several boardwalks up and down the coast, tearing away a section of Atlantic City’s world-famous promenade. Atlantic City’s 12 waterfront casinos came through largely unscathed.

A huge swell of water swept over the small town of Moonachie, and authorities struggled to rescue about 800 people, some of them living in a trailer park. Police and fire officials used boats to try to reach the stranded.

The massive storm reached well into the Midwest with heavy rain and snow. Chicago officials warned residents to stay away from the Lake Michigan shore as the city prepared for winds of up to 60 mph and waves exceeding 24 feet well into Wednesday.

Curiosity turned to concern overnight as New York City residents watched whole neighborhoods disappear into darkness as power was cut. The World Trade Center site was a glowing ghost near the tip of Lower Manhattan. Residents reported seeing no lights but the strobes of emergency vehicles and the glimpses of flashlights in nearby apartments. Lobbies were flooded, cars floated and people started to worry about food.

As Hurricane Sandy closed in on the Northeast, it converged with a cold-weather system that turned it into a monstrous hybrid of rain and high winds — even bringing snow in West Virginia and other mountainous areas inland.

Just before it made landfall, forecasters stripped Sandy of hurricane status, but the distinction was purely technical, based on its shape and internal temperature. It still packed hurricane-force winds.

While the hurricane’s 90 mph (144 kph) winds registered as only a Category 1 on a scale of five, it packed “astoundingly low” barometric pressure, giving it terrific energy to push water inland, said Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at MIT.

New York University’s Tisch Hospital was forced to evacuate 200 patients after its backup generator failed. NYU Medical Dean Robert Grossman said patients — among them 20 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit who were on battery-powered respirators — had to be carried down staircases and to dozens of ambulances waiting to take them to other hospitals.

A construction crane atop a $1.5 billion luxury high-rise overlooking Central Park collapsed in high winds and dangled precariously. Thousands of people were ordered to leave several nearby buildings as a precaution.

Bloomberg told reporters that the storm deaths were tragic but said the city pulled through better than some people expected, considering the magnitude of the storm.

The mayor said: “We will get through the days ahead by doing what we always do in tough times — by standing together, shoulder to shoulder, ready to help a neighbor, comfort a stranger and get the city we love back on its feet.”

Click for updates from the MTA website

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/weather/2012/10/30/at-least-17-dead-millions-without-power-in-sandy-aftermath/?intcmp=trending#ixzz2ArRlcGHm

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer sacrifices to gods in Druidic tradition. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Believe it or not, most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to these old pagan rites and superstitions.

But what about today? Perhaps we can still learn from history. In the fourth century, Christians attempted to co-opt the holiday by celebrating the lives of faithful Christian saints the day before Halloween. This was a conscious attempt to provide an alternative and re-focus the day away from ghouls, goblins, ghosts, witches and other “haunted” experiences. Since that time many Christians have decided to allow their children to dress in more “innocent” costumes of pumpkins, princesses, Superman or as a cowboy. Part of this is due to the simple reality that in today’s Western culture it is nearly impossible to “avoid” Halloween.

Just before reaching a conclusion on the subject, I was struck with the thought that I ought to further my search and find out what Wicca, the official religion of witchcraft, has to say about Halloween. Perhaps they viewed the day as a simple fun and innocent neighborhood activity?

“Shock” is the only word to describe what I found. Halloween is a real, sacred day for those who follow Wicca. In fact, it is one of two high and holy days for them. The Celtic belief of spirits being released is current, along with the worship of Samhain (the lord of death) – both are promoted as something to embrace on that day. There is no question in my mind that to those who believe and follow the practices of witchcraft, Halloween represents an opportunity to embrace the evil, devilish, dark side of the spiritual world.

So after discovering this, what is a reasonable conclusion? As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness. There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries.

My suggestion? Christians should be teaching their children (age appropriately) that:

  • there is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Eph. 2:1-10);
  • life with Christ has power over darkness (I John 4:4); and
  • those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.

To counter the evil influence of Halloween, we need to join together and celebrate the reality of the heroic efforts of Christian saints over the evil in their day. Many leaders in the past — and present — have fulfilled the mandate of destroying the works of the devil through their sacrificial commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.

Too, rather than “hide” in the face of evil, we should unabashedly and boldly create an alternative that is positive and uplifting; that celebrates good over evil and the triumph of God over Satan. We need to provide an environment that also makes room for heaps of fun while using the day as a “teachable moment” to celebrate God’s protection, provision and purpose for our lives.

More from CBN.com’s Halloween Resource Section