Search-and-rescue efforts launched in NJ
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Rescue operations were under way from one end of New Jersey to the other Tuesday morning, hours after a powerful storm ripped through.
At least three people died from the storm, and authorities were rescuing residents of a small Bergen County community after a huge swell of water overflowed a barrier, stranding people on roofs in a trailer park.
A portion of the Atlantic City Boardwalk was destroyed by the pounding surf, and 2.3 million people were without electricity, many in flooded communities. One hospital evacuated, sending dozens of patients elsewhere.
And federal officials were keeping a close eye on the nation's oldest nuclear power plant, which suffered power outages, declared an alert due to rising water levels and lost a portion of its warning alarm system overnight.
"We are in the midst of urban search and rescue; our teams are moving as fast and as safe as they can," Gov. Chris Christie said. "The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we've ever seen. The cost of this storm is incalculable at this point."
Authorities in Moonachie began a rescue effort after a huge swell of water flooded the town. Police Sgt. Tom Schmidt said the rush of water put about 5 feet of water in the streets within 45 minutes.
The police and fire departments were themselves flooded. They were using boats to try to rescue about 800 people living in a trailer park and other stranded residents. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
In Atlantic City, which remained flooded Tuesday morning, several blocks of the Boardwalk -- the first in the nation -- were destroyed by the storm. But a majority of it remained intact.
Carol Mason returned to her bay front home in Atlantic City on Tuesday morning to find it sodden from floodwaters that washed through overnight. The carpets squished as she stepped on them; cans of beer and soda she had stored on the porch had washed inside the house.
She had just made the final mortgage payment on the house last week.
"Oh my God," she exclaimed. "I have insurance, but..." she said, her voice trailing off.
Mason initially tried to ride out the storm, despite a mandatory evacuation order. But looking out a bathroom window, she saw the bay waters rapidly rising, and re-thought that plan.
"I looked at the bay and saw the fury in it," she said. "I knew it was time to go."
Kim Johnson was another one who tried to stay during the storm. When the front door to her home blew off Monday afternoon, she fled.
"It's just stuff," the nursing student said of her ruined possessions. "That will be fine. It's the near-term things I'm more concerned about, like how I'm going to get to class."
Also Tuesday, officials were evacuating the Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, sending 51 patients, including new mothers and babies, to Hackensack University Medical Center.
Palisades Medical Center sustained power problems due to the storm, hospital officials said. Even though generator power was restored, officials feared the situation was too unstable.
The Garden State Parkway was reopened to traffic Tuesday, but more than 200 other state roads remained closed, many of them inaccessible due to fallen trees and downed power wires.
Major flooding had hit Toms River, and several people were trapped on upper floors of their homes near Barnegat Bay.
Jersey City closed the city to vehicles because traffic lights were out, and Hoboken was dealing with major flooding as well.
The barrier island of Ocean City was cut off from the mainland by the storm; an estimated 2,000 people had no way on or off the island during the storm.
The pounding surf also caused major beach erosion along New Jersey's 127-mile coast. Beach-related tourism is a major part of the state's $35.5 billion tourism industry.
The surf spilled over boardwalks in many shore towns, including Seaside Heights, home of MTV's infamous "Jersey Shore" reality series.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission was keeping a close eye on the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township, which had to declare an alert Monday night due to rising water levels in its canal that provides cooling water to the plant's intake system. The plant had been offline for refueling when the storm hit.
The NRC said the plant remains "in a safe condition" and said inspectors were on site. In addition, due to the power outages, Oyster Creek also lost 21 of its warning sirens.
The Lincoln Tunnel was open, but the Holland Tunnel remained closed. The George Washington Bridge, Goethals Bridge, Bayonne Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing all remained closed Tuesday morning, but all Delaware River Port Authority toll crossings reopened to traffic Tuesday morning.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)