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Storm swamps East Coast

Residents in the East weathered the effects of Hurricane Sandy and marveled at its raw power as it churned north and then merged with two other weather systems to create a fearsome superstorm. Here are their stories.

***

Dani Hart searched for the perfect New York City vantage point to see the damage and destruction wrought by Sandy.

She climbed to the roof of her apartment building in the Brooklyn Navy Yards to gaze at the storm Monday night and saw an explosion in lower Manhattan.

Bright sparks lit the night sky. Against the silhouette of darkened buildings, an orange glow grew into a giant blinding flash. Minutes later it lit up again in another bright flash - an explosion at a utility company substation.

Hart, 30, took out her phone and recorded video of the second explosion.

"We see a pop," Hart said. "The whole sky lights up."

After the flashes, more lights went out in area buildings, she said.

***

In Narragansett, a Rhode Island beach town that sits at the mouth of Narragansett Bay, people gathered to watch the waves crash against the seawall while police nearby kept traffic off the road.

Athina McAleer ignored a voluntary call to evacuate her oceanfront home and went out watching the surf Monday.

"I was here last time so I'm going to stay this time," McAleer said, referring to last year's Tropical Storm Irene. "I just hope we don't have an outage."

Not far away, South Kingstown resident Marc Cinquegrana said he normally thinks forecasters and the media overhype storms - but not this time.

The 42-year-old said he remembers body surfing right before Hurricane Bob, one of the most destructive hurricanes in New England's history, in 1991. He said he wasn't crazy enough to do something like that for Sandy.

"I've never seen anything like it in my life," Cinquegrana said. "I grew up with hurricanes, and hurricanes were a joke. This is the worst I've seen."

***

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."

***

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

Sugar Mountain spokeswoman Kim Jochl said Monday that the ski resort had already received a couple of 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.

***

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."

***

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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