New York hospitals saw their share of drama during Hurricane Sandy, with at least five city medical centers forced to evacuate. New York University Langone Medical Center on East 30th Street and First Avenue on Manhattan’s far East Side was one of them. Following is an account of the events.
As Sandy barreled up the Atlantic, bearing winds as high as 100 mph, patients at the New York University Langone Medical Center stayed put.
The hospital, located in Manhattan’s “Zone A” evacuation zone in the far East Side, is a high flood-risk area that was evacuated in August of 2011 during Hurricane Irene, which in the end bypassed New York and inflicted minimal damage.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall just south of Atlantic City, N.J., at 8 p.m. Extreme winds tore through New York and coastal areas of Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan saw severe flooding.
Waters surged from the East River into the low-lying area around NYU Langone. The basement was quickly flooded. The hospital lost power at 8:30 p.m.
The hospital’s backup generators failed, leaving the medical center in darkness. By 10:30 pm NYU Langone began a full evacuation. By midnight, the I.C.U. was completely evacuated, reported CBS’s Jonathan LaPook.
Tuesday Early Morning-
Through the wee hours of the morning, NYU Langone staff and students worked tirelessly to evacuate a total of 300 patients from the hospital. Illuminated only by flashlights, and sometimes glowsticks, workers carried patients down dark stairwells, some from as high as 17 stories.
“It was kind of incredible how many people were there and were just working straight through, tirelessly,” said David Ellenberg, an internal medicine resident at NYU Langone who first learned of the evacuation from a 10 p.m. phone call. He described guiding patients down dark stairwells, step-by-step, turn-by-turn, with up to six staff members per patient. “It was pretty nuts,” he said.
As daybreak bluntly pushed its way through heavy rain and cloud cover, NYU Langone’s evacuation had slowed but continued. Hospital staff and students pushed on diligently to evacuate the last of the patients, designated as low risk.
“Everybody’s taken care of us tremendously,” said Bob Sullivan as he was carried out on a stretch from the hospital’s 11th floor. Sullivan’s spirits were high as he was carried out in a stretch at 9 a.m. “They couldn’t be better,” Sullivan said. “I don’t know where we get such good people in New York.”
Emergency workers from across the country were flown in by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in anticipation of the storm.
“We’ve had a hard time getting around,” said Scott Hunt, a paramedic from Topeka, Kan. Hunt flew in on Oct. 28 and had been dodging floods and fallen trees in his ambulance ever since.
Just after 12 p.m., the NYU Langone Medical Center released a statement that the evacuation was complete.
“Three hundred patients were safely transferred from NYU Langone Medical Center to nearby hospitals able to provide the appropriate level of care,” the statement read.
“We will continue to provide updates as we learn more.”