A teenager caught in the eye of devastating super-storm Sandy has described watching scenes reminiscent of a disaster movie play out before her eyes.
Emily Walford, 16, of Earlsfield, was on her half-term break in New York when the storm struck on October 29.
The Ursuline High School student, who is an aspiring journalist, saw shops falling to pieces, collapsed buildings and dirty water flow down streets as she and her family huddled together in their hotel room in the Hampton Inn for two days riding out the storm.
She said: “I was a bit worried because we were on the 17th floor. You could feel the building move with the wind.
“We were in the centre of New York in Madison Square Gardens, in the evening it was like a ghost town, it was normally so busy.”
She was travelling with parents Robert and Sarah, as well as 13-year-old brother Jack.
When the family could finally venture out Emily, a contributor to the Wandsworth Guardian's Young Reporter scheme, was shocked at what she saw.
She said: “As I travelled downtown, I could see for myself the worst results of Sandy. Most houses downtown had no power or water and some shops were falling to pieces.”
The storm at one point stretched for 1,000 miles along the east coast of America and claimed 55 lives, including 22 people in New York.
Such was its ferocity and impact, the cost of the recovery has been estimated at more than $50bn (£31.2bn).
The situation in the Big Apple was very different when the family arrived three days earlier.
During the weekend there was no sign Hurricane Sandy was on its way and Emily spent time sightseeing before the devastating weather front struck.
The teenager said: “It was a lot different to the weather over here. The wind was so much colder, it felt as if it could blow you off your feet.
“It was a relief to come home, there were still buildings and trees unstable.”
Her family were finally able to fly back safely to London on November 2, despite the cancellation of 12,000 flights.
Despite the devastation the experience has not deterred Emily, who hopes to return to the city to complete her sightseeing.