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As Coasts Flood, Inland Areas See Blizzards


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

As Hurricane Sandy, or whether - at this point in time, it's Superstorm Sandy, when it did thunder ashore as a hurricane, Tamara Brownstein(ph) was assessing the damage. She was working for the Red Cross in Sea Bright, New Jersey.

TAMARA BROWNSTEIN: And we saw a transformer blow, which just kind of lit up the sky. And then everything went black. And so from there, we just came straight back and we've kind of been hunkering down ever since, which is exactly what we've been telling people in the area to do, as well, because the number one priority is just safety.

INSKEEP: Now, in New York City overnight some people who stayed home had to be rescued. WABC reporter Jeff Pegues watched firefighters working in flooded areas of Queens.

JEFF PEGUES: Some of these members of the specialized unit had to climb walls of building, break through windows to reach these families in their apartments. And then they led them downstairs, out into the water.

MONTAGNE: Now, the storm is spreading inland, with effects on many states, including West Virginia, where NPR's Dan Charles is standing by.

And, Dan, good morning.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: What are you seeing there?

CHARLES: We have a blizzard warning, here. I'm in southern West Virginia in the town of Beckley. It's kind of coalmining country down here. It's snowing. It's blowing, although not really hard at the moment. I had to help push a pickup truck out of snow this morning. There's a foot of snow on the ground already, and more to come.

MONTAGNE: And snow is not unusual there, I gather, but maybe a little more unusual in October. So are people prepared?

CHARLES: People were pretty fatalistic about it. I mean, they've dealt with storms like this, at least of this magnitude before, plenty of times. Yeah, the crazy thing is it's October, and there are high winds and there is the risk of flooding down the way.

You know, there's power out for tens of thousands of people in the state, some of that from the wind, some of that just from snow weighing down branches of trees. Shelters are open. Roads are treacherous. The interstate is still passable, although much of it is covered with snow south of Charleston. But people - I have to say, people are pretty much coping.

MONTAGNE: So, and then just quickly, first responders managing to get in there and start helping?

CHARLES: They seem to be. They seem to be. No major sort of problems, other than kind of routine winter storm emergency.

INSKEEP: OK. Dan, stay with us. We're going to bring in NPR's Jon Hamilton, who's with us here in the studio.

And, Jon, will you paint a picture for us? We've got this storm that's coming in off the Atlantic. What are the mechanics? How does it end up pulling a snowstorm down in West Virginia?

JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: OK. So it started out as a hurricane, which is a counterclockwise-rotating storm. And it is still rotating counterclockwise, except it keeps getting bigger. So if you imagine, say, a skater extending their arms outward and outward. Right now, those arms would be brushing Canada at the top and North Carolina at the south. And imagine their fingers pulling huge bunches of cold air and moisture down from Canada and depositing it in West Virginia in the form of snow.

INSKEEP: And so you have trouble then - potential trouble, anyway - all the way through the Midwest and down to West Virginia, even beyond?

HAMILTON: A huge area of the country, yes.

INSKEEP: And this is highly unusual for this early in the season, I would think.

HAMILTON: It's pretty unusual to see a storm that has rotation that big.

INSKEEP: I can't remember, actually, a storm that looks this large on the radar. I mean, that image that you give is just kind of amazing to look at when you see the radar image.

HAMILTON: I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it.

INSKEEP: So, Dan Charles, coming back to you in West Virginia, you said the roads are treacherous there. So there's already some snow down at this point, is what you're saying.

CHARLES: Oh, lots. There's a foot of snow on the ground here in Beckley. Lots of things are closed, although I noticed Mountain State University, they're opening today, but two hours late. But they're telling people pretty much if you don't have to go out, don't go out on the roads today.

INSKEEP: Impressed that they're going to try to open at all. So, a foot of snow on the ground. And how much more are forecasters saying that you should expect there in Beckley, West Virginia?

CHARLES: It could be as much as another foot.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, we'll be following that. Dan, thanks very much.

CHARLES: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Dan Charles in Beckley, West Virginia. We're also listening to NPR's Jon Hamilton as we continue to track Hurricane Sandy, what we're now calling Superstorm Sandy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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