With six days to go before the November 6 elections, President Barack Obama will visit flood-ravaged areas of the New Jersey shore, where the storm of historic proportions made landfall on Monday. As his guide, he will have Republican Governor Chris Christie, a vocal backer of presidential challenger Mitt Romney who has nevertheless praised Obama and the federal response to the storm.
Leaders at all levels had immense amounts of work to do to bring a semblance of normality back to the densely populated Eastern Seaboard.
Sandy, which killed 40 people in the United States, pushed inland by dumping several feet of snow in the Appalachian Mountains, more than 8.2 million homes and businesses remained without electricity across several states as trees toppled by fierce winds tore down power lines.
Subway tracks and commuter tunnels under New York City, which carry several million people a day, were under several feet of water. The lower half of Manhattan remained without power after a transformer explosion at a Con Edison substation Monday night.
Hit with a record storm surge of nearly 14 feet of water, New York City likely will struggle without subways for days, authorities said. Buses were operating on a limited basis and many residents were walking long distances or scrambling to grab scarce taxi cabs on the streets.
Assessing the damage, officials with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said they would release a timetable of their recovery plans sometime on Wednesday.
Despite much of the city’s financial district being damaged by flooding, officials planned to reopen financial markets on Wednesday as well. How much activity could take place remained to be seen, however, as many workers may be unlikely to get to work without subways and commuter railroads from the suburbs.
Christie took a helicopter tour of the Jersey shore on Tuesday and saw boats adrift, boardwalks washed away, roads blocked by massive sand drifts and other destruction. He stopped in the badly damaged resort towns of Belmar and Avalon.
“I was just here walking this place this summer, and the fact that most of it is gone is just incredible,” he said at one stop.
Christie said it could be seven to 10 days before power is restored statewide. He also said residents could not yet return to homes on the shore’s battered barrier islands.
WAITING FOR RESCUE
Obama faces political danger if the government fails to respond well, as was the case with his predecessor George W. Bush’s botched handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Thousands of residents of Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, were stranded in their homes due to flooding, the mayor said.
“We have, probably, about 20,000 people that still remain in their homes, and we’re trying to put together an evacuation plan, get the equipment here,” Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer told MSNBC television.
The remains of Hurricane Sandy slowed to 8 mph (13 kph) over Pennsylvania, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (64 kph) and was expected to continue north toward western New York and Canada, the National Weather Service said.
The slowed pace meant it was dumping a lot of snow on the Appalachian Mountains, with nearly 30 inches recorded in Red House, Maryland.
Blizzard warnings and coastal flood warnings for the shores of the Great Lakes were in effect. The western extreme of Sandy’s wind field generated gusts of up to 60 mph (96 kph) on the southern end of Lake Michigan and up to 35 mph (56 kph) in Chicago, the weather service said.
The storm killed 22 people in New York City, among 27 total in New York state, while six died in New Jersey. Seven other states reported fatalities. One disaster modelling company said Sandy may have caused up to $15 billion in insured losses.
Sandy hit the East Coast with a week to go to the November 6 presidential election, dampening an unprecedented drive to encourage early voting and raising questions whether some polling stations will be ready to open on Election Day.
Obama and Romney put campaigning on hold for a second day on Tuesday, but Romney planned to hit the trail in Florida on Wednesday and Obama seemed likely to resume campaigning on Thursday.
BROADWAY IS BACK
Sandy became the biggest storm to hit the United States in generations when it crashed ashore with hurricane-force winds on Monday near the New Jersey gambling resort of Atlantic City.
Two of the area’s major airports – John F. Kennedy International in New York and Newark Liberty International – planned to reopen with limited service on Wednesday.
New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the third of the airports that serve the nation’s busiest airspace, was flooded and remained closed.
Nearly 19,000 flights have been cancelled since Sunday, according to flight tracking service FlightAware.com.
On Broadway, the Theater League announced that most shows would resume performances on Wednesday. Shows had been cancelled since Sunday due to the storm.
Sandy forced New York City to postpone its traditional Halloween parade, which had been set for Wednesday night in Greenwich Village. Reuters