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Hurricane Sandy: Atlantic City abandoned and under water

Tuesday, 30 October 2012 - 12:35pm IST | Place: Atlantic City/Chicago | Agency: The Daily Telegraph

Thousands of people evacuated their homes and travel was banned as flooding submerged resort ahead of Hurricane Sandy's arrival.

Much of Atlantic City, the Las Vegas of the United States' east coast, was under water on Monday night as America's storm of a century threatened to come ashore on top of the resort.

Emergency services fought to contain flooding in the city and along large swathes of the New Jersey coastline even before Hurricane Sandy made landfall.

A combination of high tides and a full moon saw strong storm surges break over protected sea walls and sweep through the city streets. Parked cars were swamped by rising water levels and sections of the resort's famous boardwalk, a wooden walkway usually packed with tourists, were reportedly swept away.

Officials warned that conditions were set to "nosedive" as Sandy's wind speeds were measured as high as 90 mph.

The majority of Atlantic City's 40,000 residents evacuated their homes on Sunday, heeding warnings from their governor, Chris Christie, not to be "plain stupid". Tourists had to leave as most hotels, casinos, restaurants and bars closed.

A travel ban across Atlantic County was issued, barring vehicles except emergency services from heading into the city. A curfew was also in place throughout the immediate area. The nearby towns of Margate and Brigantine, and the Barrier Islands, a cluster of islands off the New Jersey coast near Atlantic City, were included in the restrictions.

Officials reported that they had asked about 115,000 residents to evacuate the Barrier Islands, though it is not known how many heeded the warning.

Despite thousands of residents and tourists abandoning the city, some businesses remained open.

Mark Joyner, 54, from North Carolina, decided to sit tight at the Chelsea Pub and Inn. "They told everyone to leave at 4 pm Monday and most hotels shut at noon," he said. "But I thought, well, I've got food, a bed, and a bar, so why not stay here? I didn't feel like driving yesterday." Jannine Bandle, the hotel's owner, said her business was "on slightly higher ground" and she believed that she would probably escape the flooding.

On Long Beach Island, a few miles north of the city, 20ft to 25ft swells surged into the streets and through the doors of local businesses.

By mid afternoon, power companies said 50,000 customers were already without electricity throughout the state. Jersey Central Power and Light said 20,000 homes in Monmouth and Ocean counties were without power. In Atlantic City, another 3,000 outages were reported.

New Jersey has declared a state of emergency with President Barack Obama signing a declaration over the weekend allowing the state to apply for federal funding and other help.

As the rain continued to fall, police formed roadblocks to stop people seen flouting the travel ban.

In a press conference, Mr Christie called on residents to heed mandatory evacuation orders.

He called people who refused to move "stupid and selfish", and added that "this is putting first responders in significant danger and it's not fair for their families to be putting them in danger because you decided to be hard-headed".

In nearby Pleasantville, some seven miles inland from Atlantic City, officials organised emergency shelters to provide refuge from the storm. By 3 pm, volunteers said some 2,200 people were using them to wait out the hurricane.

In northern New Jersey, residents living in communities near rivers braced for yet another round of flooding, which has become commonplace to them.

On Monday, Willie Glass, Atlantic City's public safety director, said the flooding was likely to be worse than the destruction caused by the 1962 storm. That weather system hit over a three-day period, killing 40 people, injuring more than 1,000, and causing millions of pounds worth of property damage.

A spokesman for the National Hurricane Centre said "record extreme coastal flooding is forecast to continue for this evening's high tide".

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