West Coast MP rides out super storm

The lights on the Brooklyn Bridge stand in contrast to the lower Manhattan skyline which has lost its electrical supply. Photo / AP
The lights on the Brooklyn Bridge stand in contrast to the lower Manhattan skyline which has lost its electrical supply. Photo / AP

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor and his partner Sharon Flood remained trapped in New York today after riding out Hurricane Sandy.

Mass transit was still shut down this morning and they were unsure when they could train to Washington to catch a flight to Canada.

They hunkered down for about 12 hours yesterday as wind and rain lashed the midtown Manhattan apartment where they're staying with friends. Their area escaped flooding and the power stayed on, but the winds flexing the apartment windows were "pretty ferocious'', Mr O'Connor told the Westport News this morning.

"There's a lot of fairly permanent temporary structures that are shredded around the place. Anything that wasn't really rugged has been kind of destroyed by the wind.

"There's windows blown out in some of the high-rise buildings.''

Although wary of wandering far from the apartment, he couldn't resist going outside to experience the wind himself.

Some gusts were almost strong enough to blow him over, he said.

A couple of hours before the hurricane, dubbed Frankenstorm, hit, he had run down 57th Street beneath the massive construction crane which later collapsed from a billion-dollar luxury high-rise. He didn't even notice it when he was running. ``You don't look up so you have no idea what's above you.''

He said the storm differed from those he'd experienced on the West Coast because it was so prolonged.

"It's not unlike some of the storms we get but the big influence here, of course, was the rising seawater in the lower parts of Manhattan and New Jersey that got flooded.''

Fires, fanned by the gales, also broke out in Queens.

Emergency services seemed well organised and everyone had stocked up on provisions, Mr O'Connor said.

He hoped Hurricane Sandy would influence next week's presidential election by favouring incumbent Barack Obama, who is neck and neck with Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

"There's a clear indication here that the money sector is behind Romney. Obama is battling. He's ahead but he's battling. Hopefully he'll come through and win on the line.''

However, many working people would be unable to vote because the election was on a Tuesday and more Obama than Romney voters were likely to be hampered by the storm and its aftermath.

When the Westport News spoke to Mr O'Connor at 8.45 this morning (4.45pm Tue New York time) he said the city was grey and the streets were littered with fallen trees and debris. He had gone into Times Square and found few shops were open but lots of people walking around. The huge advertising signs remained lit up and traffic was increasing, he said.

Hurricane Sandy has knocked out his United States meeting schedule.

He and Ms Flood arrived in New York on Saturday where he was to attend a meeting with the New Zealand mission to the United Nations, but it was cancelled.

They were supposed to leave for Washington yesterday for meetings with the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the US Co-ops Association but those meetings were also cancelled, as was their train journey.

They had rebooked, but if they were stuck in New York another day they would miss their scheduled flight from Washington to Canada, he said. They had rebooked their train to Washington, but it might still not be operating tomorrow morning.

The couple have been away a fortnight and are due to fly back to New Zealand next Tuesday. They have already been to Canada, where Mr O'Connor attended an inter-parliamentary union conference and met the Canadian Co-operative Association, staff at the Ministry of Agriculture and the Under Secretary of Agriculture.

- NZ Herald

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