Middle of the storm: How people handled Sandy

Associated Press
Peaople watch waves crash in Hampton, N.H., from the effects of Hurricane Sandy Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. The hurricane continued on its path Monday, as the storm forced the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
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Along the East Coast, residents weathered the effects of Hurricane Sandy as it churned north and then merged with two other weather systems to create a fearsome superstorm. Here are their stories.

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Most businesses near the Hudson River in Hoboken, N.J., piled sandbags at their doorsteps and taped up windows in preparation for the worst of the superstorm late Monday. Even Carlo's Bakery, home of the cable TV's "Cake Boss," was closed.

But some businesses stayed open and made the most of the fact that many people had the day off from work.

Music blared and a convivial atmosphere permeated the scene at the Victory Hotel Bar and Grill, about two blocks from the Hudson. Drinks were half-price, even.

"We're actually completely prepared back at the apartment, that's why we felt we could go out for drinks," said Matthew Boucher of Hoboken, who has lived in the city for three years.

Clara Widdison, an exchange student from England who lives in nearby Jersey City, kept a sense of humor about the whole situation.

"My preparation is I've put a bottle of vodka in the bathroom and a package of roasted cashews ... and a heart-shaped pillow," she said before turning more serious. "In England we don't have these extreme types of weather, so that's why it's hard for us to take it seriously and it's all fun and games. But I have a feeling we're not going to be laughing in another three or four hours."

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Two feet of floodwater lapped at the front steps of Mike Leban's house, about 50 yards from the Lafayette River in Norfolk, Va.

Ducks swam in the middle of the street nearby, and some were in his neighbor's yard. The water didn't get into his house, but it tore the duct work underneath.

"We've lived in this house 20 years and we've lost the duct work four times in 20 years, so that's not so bad," he said. "As I say, 360 days a year I love this neighborhood, I love this house, I love this river, and five days a year it's a religious experience.

"It's at high tide, so you become very aware of when the high tides are and that's when you break out the prayer rug in hope that you've lived a righteous life."

Leban said the older he gets, the less he can handle the stress of a storm.

"The ducks are happy," he said. "I'm not."

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A few hardy tourists roamed New York City's Wall Street area in search of any attractions that might be open.

One was historic Trinity Church where, despite the conditions, a security guard diligently ordered visitors to take off their caps as they entered.

Belgian tourist Gerd Van don Mooter-Dedecker, 56, wandered in after learning that a planned shopping spree with her husband Monday wouldn't happen.

"We brought empty suitcases so we could fill them up," she said.

She was scheduled to fly home Tuesday but hoped the foul weather would "give us an extra day or two."

The storm wasn't a worry. Of more concern was getting to her 51st floor room at a hotel near ground zero if the power went out.

"I don't think I can climb all those stairs," she said.

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Hurricane Sandy has accelerated the arrival of winter at Sugar Mountain Ski Resort in North Carolina.

Sugar Mountain spokeswoman Kim Jochl said Monday the ski resort had already received a couple inches of natural snow and that snow makers had been running since Sunday night.

The resort, in the North Carolina high country and located in the Pisgah National Forest, plans to open Wednesday for Halloween, the earliest opening in 43 years of operation. Jochl said the earliest opening date previously was Nov. 6, 1976.

"It's unprecedented," she said.

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Fishing boat owner Carlos Rafael, who owns 48 scalloping and groundfish vessels, was soaking wet Monday after he and his crews worked to secure his fleet in New Bedford, Mass.

Raphael said preparations for the strong storm surge began over the weekend. He bought extra lines to tie down the vessels as tightly as possible and hoped the boats would stay moored to the dock, not end up on top it, during high tide Monday night into Tuesday morning.

"That's all I can do; there's nothing I can do," Raphael said. "After that, just keep praying that it doesn't get too crazy. ... I'm going to have to be on standby on this one, just in case we get some nightmare."

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Ticket agents seemingly outnumbered customers Monday at Terminal A at Boston's Logan International Airport, where passengers glued to cellphones pulled roller suitcases and checked out video screens displaying a grim list of cancellations.

David Kimball, a 50-year-old engineer, was feeling lucky, though, after moving his flight to Irvine, Calif., up a day to Monday to try to avoid the storm. His flight was still on, even as the red "cancelled" designation dominated the list of departures. If his luck held out, it would be good to get home, he said.

"Yeah, it's 82 degrees there and sunny," he said.

But Shawn Hartman, of San Antonio, already knew Monday he had a few more days in the stormy Northeast. The truck driver dropped off a load of new trucks at a local dealership, then hopped a bus and train to get to Logan, only to find out his flight was cancelled.

Wednesday is the earliest the 41-year-old Hartman can get a flight. In the meantime, he was calling a local friend to see if they could hang out for a few days.

"I'm just resigned (to the wait)," he said. "They've got to do what they've got to do to keep everybody safe. I'd rather be here on the ground than, going down, you know?"

He added, "I'll get some good seafood in me."

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Eric Danielson had a one-way ticket from San Francisco to Norfolk, Va., to begin a new job.

What was supposed to be a two-hour layover in Atlanta on Monday looked likely to stretch into a second day as airline officials told him Tuesday was the earliest he'd be able to fly.

"I'm trying to have a smooth transition, and this is not helping," he said.

Danielson was in good spirits Monday morning, chatting with other bored passengers, browsing Facebook and YouTube on his phone and communicating with friends and family by email and text message.

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Pat White, a lobster fishermen from York, Maine, said those who make their living on the water didn't know what to make of the hybrid storm, a combination of Hurricane Sandy with a wintry storm from the west and cold air from the Arctic.

He said the resulting wind action would be something that's unfamiliar to Maine fishermen.

"We're in uncharted territory," said White, noting that the wind on the storm's backside would be opposite of what fishermen are accustomed to seeing.

"It's going to be like a washing machine out there," he said.

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Contributing to this report were Dave Porter in Hoboken, N.J.; Brock Vergakis in Norfolk, Va.; Tom Hays in New York City; Michael Biesecker in Raleigh, N.C.; Larry Rosenthal in Trenton, N.J.; Jay Lindsay in Boston; Kate Brumback in Atlanta; David Sharp in Portland, Maine.

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