When superstorm Sandy slammed into New York on Monday night, Daily News staffers were literally trapped in the tabloid's lower Manhattan newsroom by the rising floodwaters.
Veteran rewriteman Corky Siemaszko had just put the finishing touches on the lead storm story when Sandy struck.
"That story was being edited when we lost our computers and found ourselves trapped inside the building by a raging river," he said via e-mail. "I had messaged a copy to a colleague, so when we couldn't get the computers working again I grabbed his phone and dictated the whole thing to a webbie trapped in Pittsburgh who slapped it on our site. A bunch of us wound up spending the night in the newsroom."
The "webbie" was web editor Lauren Johnston. Stuck in Steel City on a family visit, she couldn't access the Daily News website. So, as the Wall Street Journal reported, she started a live blog on separate software and had reporters e-mail her updates.
Siemaszko said the night spent in the newsroom was "surreal."
"I slept on a desk and when my legs started cramping up on the floor," he said. "And all night long the fire alarms were blaring. That was because we shoved open the emergency doors for fresh air because this diesel smell invaded the newsroom and was sickening some of the staffers. Some were able to escape around 2 a.m. when the water receded."
Siemaszko left the newsroom around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and headed to a hotel to catch a few hours of rest. When he woke his cellphone was dead, so he went in search of his colleagues. On Broadway he found copy editor Kevin Flynn, who'd heard the staff was regrouping at the paper's Jersey City printing plant.
"After four hours, two jitney rides, one crooked cab ride, and miles and miles of marching through rain and Jersey City streets we got to the plant," Siemaszko recalled. "There we met News production people who told us the servers there were shot and to go back to NYC."
So he caught a ride with a staffer to the Jewish Week offices in Times Square, where some Daily News staffers have been working since the storm. Siemaszko knocked out a story or two then got a ride back to his home in New Jersey. "I've been working from here ever since because I have power," he said.
Jewish Week wasn't the only media outlet to lend the News a hand. Some staffers have been temporarily relocated to The Associated Press headquarters on West 33rd Street - the same building where the Daily News used to be based. Meanwhile, The New York Times, Newsday, Newark Star-Ledger, Bergen Record and Hartford Courant are all helping to print the News until power is restored in Jersey City.
It's a chaotic situation, to say the least.
"I'm not sure where the paper was published from today," Siemaszko said Thursday. "I'm still waiting for marching orders for tomorrow."
Still, the hard work paid off. Traffic on the Daily News website is reportedly up some 40 percent, and the paper published what Huffington Post called a "brilliant" special edition on Wednesday filled with "stunning photography." The headline? "APOCALYPSE N.Y."