Storm-weary Americans 'had the 1000-yard stare'

Kiwis in the storm-battered northeast of the United States have been out surveying the damage after a night of devastation.

Lisa Wu, 40, from Wellington and now living in Brooklyn Heights, said she went for a bike ride yesterday and saw tide marks on walls that were above her head.

"We rode over to Redhook and there was still floodwater on one of the main streets probably 2-3 feet (1 metre) high. There were people all over who were pumping out their basements.

"There were futons and beds out on the street where people were trying to dry them out. There were cars that looked like they'd been lifted and moved."

Kylie Stewart, now living in the Upper West Side of New York, said the storm had been frightening. "The windows were shaking, we thought they might smash. We live on the 14th floor and I saw something fly by."

Central Park was closed in the morning as workers cleared fallen trees and checked the safety of others, she said.

"There was trees and branches everywhere. There was one that had fallen on a car. It was just a mess, basically."

Many Kiwis joined locals wandering the streets for the chance to see New York in a different light.

Jamie Bell, 29, from Auckland, stranded in Manhattan after his flight to San Francisco was cancelled, said Times Square remained full of tourists.

"We went down to the Hudson River to inspect the damage . . . there was plenty of debris around. Further uptown there are still several blocks cordoned off under the doubled-over crane."

The biggest concern for many stranded tourists was accommodation. "We've seen a lot of people going from hotel to hotel with their bags looking for a room. With the [New York] marathon this weekend, it's making that harder."

Up the coast in Connecticut, Peter O'Keeffe, of Paraparaumu, awoke to find debris everywhere.

"It was just carnage, with trees and wires down. We went along the coastal route this morning and, jingoes, I don't think we realised how bad it was."

He said locals were struggling to cope, so soon after Hurricane Irene last year.

"Probably the worst sort of stuff was what I couldn't see, what it does to people mentally. You can get the chainsaw out and cut the tree off the car, but how do you get over the fact you've had these two hurricanes in a year and you don't know what's next?

"There were people out on their verandas and they just had the 1000-yard stare. They were just staring at nothing."

The Dominion Post