New York-- As superstorm Sandy marched slowly inland, millions along the East Coast awoke Tuesday without power or mass transit, with huge swaths of the nation's largest city unusually vacant and dark.
New York City was among the hardest hit, with its financial heart in Lower Manhattan shuttered for a second day and seawater cascading into the still-gaping construction pit at the World Trade Center.
This will be one for the record books," said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Consolidated Edison, which had more than 684,000 customers without power in and around New York City on Tuesday morning.
The storm that made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening with 80 mph sustained winds killed at least 39 people in nine states, cut power to more than 8.2 million homes and businesses from the Carolinas to Maine, caused scares at two nuclear power plants, and stopped the presidential campaign cold. More than 18,000 flights domestic and international were cancelled.
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.
The full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the massive storm made landfall Monday evening, was unclear. Police and fire officials - some with their own departments flooded - fanned out to rescue hundreds.
"We are in the midst of urban search and rescue. Our teams are moving as fast as they can," Gov. Chris Christie said. "The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we've ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point."
Remnants of the former Category 1 hurricane were forecast to head across Pennsylvania before taking another sharp turn into western New York by Wednesday morning. Although weakening as it goes, the massive storm -- which caused wind warnings from Florida to Canada -- will continue to bring heavy rain and local flooding, said Daniel Brown, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
As Hurricane Sandy closed in on the Northeast, it converged with a cold-weather system that turned it into a monstrous hybrid of rain and high wind -- and even snow in West Virginia and other mountainous areas inland.
President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in New York and Long Island, making federal funding available to residents of the area. He suspended campaigning for a third day Wednesday, and planned to join Christie in viewing the damage in New Jersey.
Mr. Obama, speaking during a stop Tuesday at Red Cross headquarters, warned the public that the massive storm that struck the East Coast "is not yet over." He said there were still risks of flooding and downed power lines. He called the storm "heartbreaking for the nation."
The president offered his thoughts and prayers to those affected and told them "America is with you." He said he also told government officials coordinating the response that there was "no excuse for inaction."
And he said he told governors in affected areas that if they get no for an answer, "they can call me personally at the White House."
Republican challenger Mitt Romney resumed his campaign, but with plans to turn a political rally in Ohio into a "storm relief event."
Gannett News Service