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PHOTOS: 14-Foot Storm Surge Floods Lower Manhattan and City Coastal Areas

By  Julie  Shapiro Mary Johnson and Jill Colvin | October 29, 2012 9:47pm | Updated on October 29, 2012 11:51pm

NEW YORK — Hurricane Sandy blew ashore as high tide hit New York Monday evening, causing massive flooding and power outages while emergency responders struggled to respond.

City officials said early reports indicated a record-breaking storm surge as high as 13 feet or more — which sent water gushing over seawalls from TriBeCa to the East Village, spilling onto surrounding streets and partially submerging cars under multiple feet of water, witnesses said.

“We knew that this was going to be a very dangerous storm, and the storm has met our expectations,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters late Monday night, as many sections of the city remained several feet under water and emergency crews raced to respond to multiple fires caused by downed power lines.

“We’re seeing an extraordinary amount of water throughout Lower Manhattan," Bloomberg said.

In Lower Manhattan, the Hudson River encroached on basketball courts and the esplanade walkway and then spread onto West Street, preventing anyone from crossing near Chambers Street, residents said.

"The water has breached the esplanade," a Gateway Plaza resident said in a phone interview around 8 p.m. on Monday. "It's windy. The trees are really, really bent."

The MTA also reported that there is flooding in all underwater tunnels, as well as in many subway lines in Lower Manhattan — something officials warned earlier could paralyze the system by damaging signals along the line.

The 1 train was flooded from Chambers Street to South Ferry, and there was also substantial flooding in underground tunnels in the Rockaways.

MTA officials said they need to get underground to determine the full extent of damage, which they hope to accomplish some time Tuesday.

"[The storm is] going to do damage," a spokesman for the mayor said.

The East River also spilled over its banks, flooding cars as far west as Avenue C, witnesses said.

All of Lower Manhattan south of the mid-30s was left in the dark by 10 p.m., after a Con Ed transformer apparently exploded on the East Side. Officials said they were still investigating the cause of the malfunction shortly after 10 p.m.

Forecasters predicted that Sandy would bring a 6- to 11-foot storm surge into New York Harbor at high tide Monday evening. Just after 7 p.m., The Weather Channel reported that the water level in Battery Park had broken a record high set in 1821.

Winds gusted up to 100 miles per hour, forcing many of the city's bridges and tunnels to shut down. Water poured into the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel Monday evening, just hours after it was closed to traffic.

Con Edison cut power to Lower Manhattan and other parts of the city to prevent equipment from being damaged by flood waters, leaving a quarter of a million customers without electricity.

Officials reported extensive flooding in many parts of the city, from the runways at LaGuardia Airport and JFK International to the neighborhood around the Gowanus Canal.

At least two fatalities in Queens have also been linked to the storm. One 29-year-old man was killed after a tree fell on his home at 166th Street in Flushing, officials said.

A 23-year-old woman was killed, too, after she apparently stepped into water charged by a downed power line near 134th Street in Queens, police said.

In addition to logging more than 10,000 911 calls every half hour, police also faced obstacles, including cars blocking streets.

Police at the 60th Precinct in Brooklyn were also temporarily trapped inside the station house because of flooding and had to be rescued, officials said.