US East Coast struggles to return to life as Superstorm Sandy retreats

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

People in the battered U.S. East Coast corridor took the first cautious steps to reclaim their upended daily routines today, even as the National Guard searched for flood victims in New Jersey and fires still raged two days after superstorm Sandy. Two major airports reopened and the New York Stock Exchange came back to life.

For the first time since the storm pummeled the Northeast, killing 61 people and doing billions of dollars in damage, brilliant sunshine washed over the nation's largest city — a striking sight after days of gray skies, rain and wind.

At the stock exchange, running on generator power, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a thumbs-up and rang the opening bell to whoops from traders on the floor. Trading resumed after the first two-day weather shutdown since the Blizzard of 1888.

Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports reopened with limited service this morning. New York's LaGuardia Airport, which suffered far worse damage and where water covered parts of runways, remained closed.

It was clear that restoring the region to its ordinarily frenetic pace could take days — and that rebuilding the hardest-hit communities and the transportation networks that link them together could take considerably longer.

About 6.5 million homes and businesses were still without power, including 4 million in New York and New Jersey. Electricity was out as far west as Wisconsin and as far south as the Carolinas.

The scale of the challenge could be seen in New Jersey, where National Guard troops arrived in the heavily flooded city of Hoboken to help evacuate thousands still stuck in their homes and deliver ready-to-eat meals. Live wires dangled in floodwaters that Mayor Dawn Zimmer said were rapidly mixing with sewage.

Thousands of people were still holed up in their brownstones, condos, and other homes in the city across the Hudson River from New York.

And new problems arose when firefighters were unable to reach blazes rekindled by natural gas leaks in the heavily hit shore town of Mantoloking. More than a dozen homes were destroyed.

President Barack Obama was planning to visit New Jersey, which was directly in the storm's path Monday night and where part of the historic boardwalk washed away.

Governor Chris Christie said he plans to ask the president to assign the Army Corps of Engineers to work on how to rebuild beaches and find “the best way to rebuild the beach to protect these towns.”

As New York began its second day after the megastorm, morning rush-hour traffic was heavy as people started returning to work. There was even a sign of normalcy: commuters waiting at bus stops.

On the Brooklyn Bridge, closed earlier because of high winds, joggers and bikers made their way across the span before sunrise. One cyclist carried a flashlight. Car traffic on the bridge was busy, and slowed as it neared Manhattan.

A huge line formed at the Empire State Building as the observation deck opened for the first time since the storm.

The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan, and the Holland Tunnel, between New York and New Jersey, remained closed. But bridges into the city were open, and city buses were running, free of charge.

School was canceled for a third straight day today in the city, where many students rely on buses and subways to reach classrooms.

Bloomberg said it could take four or five days before the subway, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history, is running again. High water prevented inspectors from immediately assessing damage to key equipment.

Earlier today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that limited commuter train service would resume later in the day and that limited subway service would resume on Thursday.

The chairman of the state agency that runs the subway, Joseph Lhota, said service might have to resume piecemeal, and experts said the cost of the repairs could be staggering.

Power company Consolidated Edison said it could also be the weekend before power is restored to Manhattan and Brooklyn, perhaps longer for other New York boroughs and the New York suburbs.

Amtrak also laid out plans to resume some passenger train service in the Northeast today. But flooding continues to prevent service to and from New York's Penn Station. Amtrak said the amount of water in train tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers is unprecedented.

There was no Northeast Regional service between New York and Boston. No date has been set for when it might resume.

In Connecticut, some residents of Fairfield returned home in kayaks and canoes to inspect widespread damage left by retreating floodwaters that kept other homeowners at bay.

“The uncertainty is the worst,” said Jessica Levitt, who was told it could be a week before she can enter her house. “Even if we had damage, you just want to be able to do something. We can't even get started.”

And in New York, residents of the flooded beachfront neighborhood of Breezy Point returned home to find fire had taken everything the water had not. A huge blaze destroyed perhaps 100 homes in the close-knit community where many had stayed behind despite being told to evacuate.

John Frawley, who lived about five houses from the fire's edge, said he spent the night terrified “not knowing if the fire was going to jump the boulevard and come up to my house.”

“I stayed up all night,” he said. “The screams. The fire. It was horrifying.”

There were still only hints of the economic impact of the storm.

Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight predicted it would cause $20 billion in damage and $10 billion to $30 billion in lost business. Another firm, AIR Worldwide, estimated losses up to $15 billion.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all