By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The memorial and underground museum at the site of the September 11 attacks were being pumped free of floodwater on Saturday, five days after the huge storm Sandy caused the Hudson River to pour into the area known as Ground Zero, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The construction site sits near the waterfront in lower Manhattan where Sandy produced a record storm surge of nearly 14 feet when it slammed ashore last Monday.
"The World Trade Center site was frightening," Cuomo said.
"At the cresting of the tide on Monday night, the Hudson River was basically pouring into the World Trade Center site. ... The World Trade Center site had 28 feet of water in the bottom," Cuomo said.
Four-inch-wide (10-cm-wide) hoses siphoned water from underground and into the street on Saturday, sucking out what one worker estimated to be 200 million gallons (757,000 cubic meters) of water.
Pumping at ground level was finished earlier on Saturday and was due to be completed at the underground memorial by the end of the day, Cuomo said.
The memorial features artificial waterfalls that cascade into reflecting pools at the footprints of each of the twin towers, which were destroyed in the suicide hijack attacks on September 11, 2001.
The museum will include underground space, still under construction, to view the waterfalls from below. Two of the four planned skyscrapers at the site are well into construction.
"I've never seen it, but I'll be back again," said Ralph Wade, 59, a tourist from Salt Lake City who had hoped to visit the site on Saturday but was turned away because it was closed.
A worker told visitors that officials hoped to have the memorial reopened by Monday.
"This was the one thing I wanted to see," said Micki Williams, 70, visiting from South Carolina. "But our disappointment is nothing compared to what people are going through."
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Peter Cooney)