Streets flooded under the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn, New York
NEW YORK -- A day after superstorm Sandy blasted the East Coast with its late October fury, millions were coping without electricity or mass transit as they faced extensive damage from flooding, high winds, fires and downed trees and power lines.
At least 39 people were dead from the storm, many killed by falling trees. At least 17 of them were in New York state including 10 in the city.
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An estimated 7.4 million people were without power Tuesday across 15 states and the District of Columbia after the storm made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening.
The presidential campaign was on hold because of the storm just a week before Election Day with the presidency at stake.
"This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The full extent of damage was still being uncovered. Bloomberg said he expects the death toll to rise as emergency workers move through neighborhoods of the city that were among the hardest hit by cyclone Sandy.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie described devastation including seaside rail lines washed away and parts of the coast still underwater.
"It is beyond anything I thought I'd ever see," he said. "It is a devastating sight right now."
Most major tunnels and bridges in New York were closed, as well as schools and theaters. More than 15,000 airline flights were canceled and the city's three major airports were still closed
The storm sent a surge of water over seawalls in Lower Manhattan and into streets, subway stations and electrical equipment. A large tanker ran aground on Staten Island and winds collapsed a construction crane 74 stories high atop an expensive new condo building.
The weakening storm continued to move to the east with winds of 45 mph and still bringing heavy rain and flooding and heavy snow in higher elevations of the Appalachians.
President Obama was joining Christie, a Republican, to view the New Jersey damage.
Speaking during a stop Tuesday at Red Cross headquarters, Obama warned that the massive storm "is not yet over."
He said there were still risks of flooding and downed power lines and called the storm "heartbreaking for the nation."
The president said he told governors in affected areas that if they get no for an answer, "they can call me personally at the White House."
Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the U.S., according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.
New York's mayor gave a somber account of some of those who died.
They included two who drowned in a home and one who was in bed when a tree fell on an apartment. A 23-year-old woman died by stepping into a puddle near a live electrical wire. A man and a woman were crushed by a falling tree.
An off-duty officer on Staten Island who ushered his relatives to the attic of his home apparently became trapped in the basement.
"Make no mistake about it, this was a devastating storm," Bloomberg said at a news conference. "Maybe the worst we have ever experienced."
Sandy also killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Eastern Seaboard.
President Obama declared New York and New Jersey federal disaster areas.
The disaster declaration makes federal funding available to residents and businesses in the affected areas, which bore the brunt of the sea surge from the superstorm. Jeff Masters, meteorology director for Weather Underground, a private forecasting service, called the storm surges some of the highest ever recorded.
In New Jersey, where the storm came ashore, hundreds of people were evacuated in rising water early Tuesday. Officials used boats to try to rescue about 800 people living in a trailer park in Moonachie.
There were no reports of injuries or deaths. Local authorities initially reported a levee had broken, but Gov. Chris Christie said a berm overflowed.
In New York City, the city was shut down, cut off and in many places dark. A 13-foot storm surge, 3 feet above the previous record, caused flooding and widespread power outages. The city's subway system was shut down due to flooding. The Holland Tunnel, which connects New York to New Jersey, and a tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan, were both closed. High winds forced the closure of the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and several other spans.
"It was an extremely devastating and destructive storm, hopefully one that people will only see once in their lifetime," said Joe Pollina, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Con Edison spokeswoman Sara Banda said Tuesday that power was out for 804,000 of their customers in New York -- four times the number affected by Hurricane Irene.
"This is the largest storm-related outage in history," Banda said.
An explosion at a substation on the East River could delay restoring power to much of Manhattan below Midtown.
"The majority of today will be spent on damage assessment," Banda said. "We have to make sure our equipment is free of water. We have to inspect it to make sure our equipment will be safe to turn back on."
An estimated 234,000 customers were without power from 31st Street on the West Side and 39th Street on the East Side all the way south to the southern tip of the island.
That area includes the New York Stock Exchange, Ground Zero and well-known neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, Soho and Tribeca. The power outages shut down most of the scattering of delicatessens, coffee shops and other small stores that had managed to ride out the storm before darkness fell Monday night.
Con Ed's Monday decision to pre-emptively cut power to parts of lower Manhattan helped spare some underground electrical equipment from catastrophic damage, he said. But that appeared to be a slim silver lining.
"The storm surge and flooding surpassed everybody's expectations," said Drury. "We do not have a firm estimated time of (electrical) restoration. Obviously, it's going to be a multiday process."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an interview with WCBS News radio said Tuesday that "power restoration is going to be a real challenge."
"You want to talk about a situation that gets old very quickly. You are sitting in a house with no power and you can't open the refrigerator," he said. "That gets very frustrating."
Bloomberg said Tuesday that the biggest challenge facing the city is restoring mass transit and the power, the loss which he said is "unprecedented in scope."
Cuomo said that mass transit will most likely be restored "in pieces" and "over a period of time."
Seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded during the storm Monday night, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. So did the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, a vehicular crossing that links lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The Metro-North commuter train system was without power from Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan deep into stops in the northern suburbs, said MTA spokeswomen Judy Glave and Deidre Parker.
MTA chief Joseph Lhota told WCBS News radio early Tuesday that he hopes to restore mass transit in stages, with pumping flooded tunnels and cleaning switches first. Some bus service is likely to return first on Wednesday, he said.
Evidence of the storm's power came from a new record high water level of 13.88 feet at the tip of Lower Manhattan at 9:24 p.m. Monday, a time that roughly coincided with high tide and the full moon that also strengthens tides. Pollina said the record shattered the mark of 10.02 feet set during Hurricane Donna in 1960.
Wind gusts from the storm registered as high as 96 miles per hour at an elevated location at Eatons Neck on Long Island, said Pollina. JFK Airport in Queens clocked a 79 mile per hour gust, while Newark Airport was right behind at 78 miles per hour and even Central Park was buffeted with a high gust of 62 miles per hour, said Pollina.
In the borough of Queens, a fire destroyed at least 80-100 homes early Tuesday morning in a flooded zone. Firefighters reported chest-high water on the street and used a boat to rescue residents.
Bloomberg said that the Queens fire was one of 23 serious fires in the city.
A massive explosion at a power substation in Lower Manhattan on Monday evening contributed to the power outages. No one was injured, and the power company did not know whether the explosion was caused by flooding or by flying debris.
New York University's Tisch Hospital was forced to evacuate 200 patients after its backup generator failed. NYU Medical Dean Robert Grossman said patients - among them 20 babies from neonatal intensive care that were on battery-powered respirators - had to be carried down staircases and to dozens of waiting ambulances.
Stock trading was closed in the U.S. for a second day Tuesday - the first time the New York Stock Exchange will be closed for two consecutive days due to weather since 1888, when a blizzard struck the city. Trading was scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
Sandy's winds dropped below hurricane force as the storm spun into the interior Northeast Tuesday. As of 11 a.m. ET Tuesday, the center of post-tropical cyclone Sandy was located about 120 miles east southeast of Pittsburgh and about 145 miles west of Philadelphia, according to the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC). It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and was moving to the west at 10 mph.
The storm has slowed its forward motion and is expected to continue its westward motion across southern Pennsylvania Tuesday afternoon, the HPC reported. It should move into New York State at night and into Canada on Wednesday.
Sandy is still expected to produce strong winds across the Mid-Atlantic and New England, as well as rainfall amounts of 4-8 inches over portions of the Mid-Atlantic. Additionally, snowfall totals of 2-3 feet were possible in the mountains of West Virginia, where blizzard warnings remain in effect.
The storm surge threat from Sandy had diminished, but a concern about river flooding remained from the rain that fell Monday and continued to fall. Flood watches and warnings had been put in place from Virginia to Maine.
The storm first made landfall in New Jersey Monday evening and by Tuesday morning had affected people from the Carolinas to Ohio with power outages. It reached as far as Chicago, where officials warned residents to stay away from the Lake Michigan shore as the city prepared for winds of up to 60 mph and waves exceeding 24 feet into Wednesday.
Residents of low lying sections of Amityville on the south shore of Long Island emerged Tuesday from powerless homes to find a landscape of fallen trees downed wires and misplaced objects -- especially boats.
Chris McGirk, owner of the Delmarine Yacht Yard, found a 40-foot cabin cruiser blocking the entrance to his boatyard. The storm surge from Sandy lifted it over a 4-foot-high chain-link fence in the neighboring boatyard.
Mcgirk's is part of a group of 13 yards on the Great South Bay. Dozens of craft were lifted by the surge or sunk. Water rose about four feet around Mcgirk's office and totally submerged some business offices closer to the water.
"I barely got out of here last night," he said. "I had eight pumps going. I'm in the office and the water was rising."
- Airlines canceled more than 14,000 flights nationally because of the storm.
- The Indian Point nuclear power plant about 45 miles north of New York City was shut down Monday night because of external electrical grid issues. Entergy Corp., which operates the plant, said there was no risk to employees or the public.
- An "unusual event" was declared at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township, N.J., when waters surged to 6 feet above sea level during the evening. The reactor was offline for regular maintenance and the event was quickly upgraded to an alert, the second-lowest in a four-tiered warning system.
- In Baltimore, four unoccupied row houses collapsed in the storm, sending debris into the street but causing no injuries.
- A blizzard in western Maryland caused a pileup of tractor-trailers that blocked the westbound lanes of Interstate 68.
- Winds as high as 60 mph caused officials to close the port of Portland, Maine, keeping several cruise ships from docking.
Contributing: Haya El Nasser; Doyle Rice; Kevin Johnson; Kitty Bean Yancey; Charisse Jones; Rick Hampson; John Bacon; Beth Belton; Oren Dorell; Gary Stoller; William Welch, Jeff Montgomery, The (Wilmington,Del.) News Journal; Florida Today; WUSA 9; The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News; Associated Press.