Hurricane Sandy: Entertainment Industry Examines Devastating Fallout

7:58 AM PST 10/30/2012 by Eriq Gardner
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Broadway remains closed, and officials say it will be at least a few days before power and transportation services are restored.

Millions of people in the Northeastern U.S., including people working in the media and entertainment industries, awoke on Tuesday morning to a grey sky and a drizzle. After one of the most devastating storms to hit the region in quite some time, authorities were still responding to emergencies emanating from Hurricane Sandy, surveying damage, and carefully preparing to restore service to all those still without power, cable TV and other essential services of modern life.

Schools, courts and Broadway shows have been cancelled on Tuesday. The New York Stock Exchange remains closed for the second day as well, marking the first time in more than 120 years that this has happened. The business community got a small scare when several media outlets reported that the floor of the NYSE had flooded, but the reports turned out to be inaccurate.

A number of telcos including AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable said they were attempting to switch damaged systems to backup generators. AT&T said it would be adding capacity to its wireless network. Some web sites, including Gawker and Huffington Post, were knocked out as the storm flooded data servers in the region. The reach of the damage is extensive. YouTube users around the world are reporting unreliable service.

"We are continuing to battle flooding and fiber outages in downtown New York and Connecticut," said a notice on the web site of Datagram, which offers server-hosting services to many big media companies.

Many of the cable companies wouldn't give exact timetables on full recovery, but are pledging to do what they can.

According to a statement put out by Cablevision, “As a result of Hurricane Sandy, Cablevision is experiencing widespread service interruptions, primarily related to the loss of power. Where conditions allow, Cablevision crews are in the field and are working around-the-clock to restore Optimum TV, phone and Internet service, in close coordination with local utilities. We will provide updates for our customers at Optimum.net.”

Many entertainment and media companies are also proceeding with caution, keeping employees home and attempting to scale back operations in the face of power, transportation and data disruptions.

A Sony Corp. representative said the company's New York offices were closed Monday and remain closed Tuesday. She said there was no word yet on Wednesday, which will depend on such factors as mass transportation.

A Time Warner spokesman said the conglomerate's headquarters at midtown Manhattan's Columbus Circle also remains closed Tuesday "with staff working from home."

NBCUniversal's New York offices also remain closed "for all but essential employees -- news and people who keep us on air," a spokesman said. All tri-state area TV and film productions remain halted on Tuesday.

Asked about the NBCUniversal headquarters at midtown Manhattan's 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the spokesman said the building was "basically okay" although there were reports of a few shattered windows.

A Viacom spokesperson said that only "network essential personnel is working," with offices closed on Tuesday and no plans yet for Wednesday. The company's headquarters at 1515 Broadway are fine, but employees at the company are reporting no phone service.

More than 7 million people in 13 states are still without power, from the DC/Baltimore area up to New Hampshire. The most pressing barrier to normality is the return of electricity, and officials say it could take up to a week to repair damages. In New York City and the immediate suburbs, some 650,000 people lost power, according to Con Edison, which is more than three times the number of people affected by Hurricane Irene.

"This is the largest storm-related outage in our history," said ConEd senior vice president for electric operations John Miksad.

To restore power, ConEd said it would have to navigate infrastructure hit hard by the storm. Wires are down all throughout New York City, hundreds of roads remain closed to all but emergency response vehicles, and getting power online means cleaning underground equipment of sea water and dealing with such matters as the explosion that took out a power station on 14th street.

"If you're power is out, it will likely be out for the next few days, " said Con Ed spokesperson Alfonso Quiroz.

Transportation in the area also remains in terrible shape. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has opened bridges to emergency personnel only, meaning that even if commuters wanted to rush to work, there's no pathways to make that happen.

As for the subways, they are down too, as the Metropolitan Transit Authority attempts to dry tunnels of floodwater. On Tuesday morning, MTA officials were gathering to discuss when to restore bus service.

"We are assessing the extent of the damage and beginning the process of recovery," said MTA executive director Joseph Lhota. "In 108 years our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now."

Georg Szalai contributed to this report.
 

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