- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Governors, mayors and millions of Americans on the East Coast braced for a “superstorm” of unprecedented strength — and it delivered.

Sweeping from Manhattan to Milwaukee, the storm system that began as Hurricane Sandy had killed at least 40 people by late Tuesday, many of them victims of falling trees, after marching from the Caribbean to its landfall along the New Jersey coastline. While New York City was left dumbstruck by record storm surges in Battery Park, officials in less-affected states gave thanks after the tempest cut its swath from the Carolinas to Maine.

The full extent of the damage to the Garden State, where the storm roared ashore Monday night with hurricane force, was unclear, but some projections put the cost upward of $50 billion in property damage and lost business across a third of the country.

Police and fire officials, some with their own departments flooded, fanned out to rescue hundreds.

“The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we’ve ever seen,” Gov. Chris Christie said. “The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point.”

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said it could be several days before the lights come on for hundreds of thousands of people in darkness. It could be four or five days before the city’s subway system, which sustained the worst damage in its 108-year history, is running again.

The National Weather Service said a foot and more of snow was reported in lower elevations of West Virginia, where most towns and roads are located. In Maryland, residents were spared the brunt of the storm but felt the effects of hurricane-force winds on its eastern shores and risked being stranded on snow-covered highways in its westernmost counties. The nation’s capital had its share of downed trees and the Potomac River rose to worrisome levels in Georgetown, but local officials said things could have been much worse.

Based on the extent of the damage from the storm, President Obama verbally declared New York and New Jersey major disasters as the storm struck on Monday night, allowing both states access to more federal assistance in recovery efforts.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said the generosity of some governors surprised him.

“Governors are saying, ‘We’re not that bad. We’re offering up help to the states that were harder hit,’” Mr. Fugate said.

National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb said the storm was centered over western Pennsylvania as of Tuesday afternoon, still bringing strong winds, rain, snow and potential flooding to the northeast United States — though not as much as earlier this week.

“I don’t want anyone to think the event is anywhere near over in terms of the weather,” Mr. Knabb said. “We still could have some areas of flash flooding or coastal flooding.”

While areas in the Midwest braced for high winds from the megastorm’s late-stage punch, areas along the Eastern Seaboard took stock of the devastation at shore towns, inland communities and densely populated cities.

In lower Manhattan, the financial center of the U.S. was among the hardest-hit areas after the storm sent a nearly 14-foot surge of seawater, a record, coursing over its seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets. Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Center, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather in more than a century.

“So clearly the challenges our city faces in the coming days are enormous,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a news conference. Even before noon, the mayor announced that city schools would be closed again Wednesday.

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