New York at a Stand Still

Inside the eerily still metropolis the day after Hurricane Sandy.
3:00 | 10/30/12

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Transcript for New York at a Stand Still
But first right here in new york city, we want to show you how it looks tonight. This photo, so much of the island sitting in the dark while shimmering in the distance the rest of the skyline shining as it's always been. And now let's go straight to "20/20" co-anchor and mine tonight, chris, who has been discovering this story nonstop for days. Chris? Thank you, diane. Down here it is almost completely dark but not behind me, you'll hear the generators, you see the lights that's because in the subway terminals here at south ferry men are at work right now in the dark down deep trying to get this city, as they say, back on track. It is time to recover from sandy. Justin and lindsay and their 4-year-old vance are finding a way to keep it light. By candlelight, no electricity, no hot water. I was nervous that he was going to freak out but he didn't. It was mostly more about him, the fact that he would get scared but he was okay. Reporter: We were with them just hours ago their stories repeated by thousands of new yorkers a day after sandy turned manhattan into a tale of two cities. To judge by times square in midtown today, hurricane sandy seemed to be more of a myth. But downtown, it's clear that the big apple took an enormous hit. Lower manhattan, normally vibrant and bustling now looking eerily like something out of a disaster movie. Many of the city's famed skyscrapers have gone dark, forcing residents like 25-year-old john chiero to make a 12-story trek home. So this is 12, right? This is 12, yeah. Reporter: When sandy slammed into new york city last night, all expectations were shattered. There was more water moving with more force in more directions than was ever foreseen. This is just unbelievable, we're downtown by the towers. Reporter: The incredible record-setting 14-foot storm surge hits like a liquid fist, punishing battery park city in southern manhattan. Sandy seemed to use darkness as deception. Black roads became black rivers trapping those left behind, including us. We were forced to hunker down in vehicles overnight. And it's not just the water. 70-mile-an-hour winds scream through the city, collapsing this construction crane mounted on this midtown high-rise. Streets are closed all around, building evacuated, and even guests nearby luxury parker meridien hotel had to find somewhere else to stay. Downtown, the wind rips the entire facade of this building away, exposing the apartments inside, like a dollhouse. Oh, my gosh, there's no walls on this apartment. Reporter: Incredibly no one was hurt. An explosion at a utility company substation plunged much of lower manhattan into darkness. Today, almost 750,000 residents have no power. The storm virtually crippled one of the wealthiest and most powerful cities in the world. For the first time since 9/11, bridges and tunnels leading in and out of the city were closed. All of the new york city area airports are also out of commission. My colleague juju chang just did A FLYOVER of LaGuardia airport. It doesn't look like a land mass. It looks like a big river of water. Reporter: Meanwhile, the water just kept coming floating cars bike boats and flooding the 9/11 site. Last night to use a word, it was just frightening and you were wondering when it was going to stop. Reporter: But the real job may lie below, as the surge of water has inundated the brooklyn battery tunnel and the city's subway system. We went into the labyrinth of debris, water and damage that are the city's subways with mta official joe leader. This wall here is from down here. That's how much the water pressure was. Reporter: Man, that's got to weigh 200 pounds. The subways are the vital arteries that keep manhattan alive, and right now most of the downtown tracks and all of the tunnels leading off the island are flooded. These are the stairs going down into the subway. And this is a wall of water. Actually this is about three levels. Reporter: This is a complete disaster. You are calm, why? You just roll with the punches. I mean we know what we can do. We will get the city back as quickly as possible. Reporter: Hollywood has always had a fascination with the effect of a maske lamb ty on new york citys from natural disasters to a man-made plague to even an alien invasion. While the aftermath of hurricane sandy isn't quite as dramatic as in the movies, make no mistake, sandy will have a profound and lasting impact on the people of this city. We're one of the lucky ones in the building, becau we have windows in the apartment. Reporter: But new yorkers are nothing if not resilient. We played some board games. Reporter: Are you still going to make a halloween of it? Definitely. A lot of new yorkers are hanging in there doing their best. John is young. I remember 9/11. I remember being just street as way from where we were stranded when sandy came. I remember the same sense of foreboding we felt in the people around us but you know what, this was a different day. The next morning, this morning, the water was gone, the things that we've lost, power, property damage, the lives we can never get back, but 9/11 gave us some perspective. Diane, we have definitely lived through worse. All right, chris and we will be back to you in just a moment. But as you well know, there are some towns in this storm that are really in a race against time at is rapping right now. Rescuers still at work so we want to take you to seaside heights, new jersey, and abc's terry moran made his way there and he'll tell us what's going on right now. Terry. Reporter: Diane, this is a nightmarish scene tonight as the dark and the cold come down on this classic jersey shore resort. In fact, a tv show has been filmed here. Now it lies stunned, eerily silent overwhelmed by sandy. We arrived just before dusk and canoed through the streets of this town. It was perfectly surreal. Canoeing through block after block but the real concern here, people. There are lots of people still here stuck in sandy. They decided to ride the storm out. People in wheelchair, we saw. We saw children here and the evacuations have been going all day but they are still stuck here and scared because at the smell gas in the air. There is fuel oil and gasoline on the floodwaters which extend across the town, and they have been told by the fire department, diane, that there is, in fact, a chance that if something sparks back here or something ignites, the whole town could be blow. It is a dangerous and very difficult situation for I would say dozens, maybe scores of people left.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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