Superstorm-crippled NYC subway creaks back into service
NEW YORK • Subways started running again in much of New York City on Thursday for the first time since Superstorm Sandy, but traffic at bridges backed up for miles, long lines formed at gas stations, and tempers flared as commuters waited for buses.
The trains couldn't take some New Yorkers where they needed to go. There was no service in downtown Manhattan and other hard-hit parts of the city, and people had to switch to buses. But some of those who did use the subway were grateful.
"It's the lifeline of the city. It can't get much better than this," said Ronnie Abraham, who was waiting at Penn Station for a subway train to Harlem, a trip that takes 20 minutes underground but 2Â½ hours on the city's badly overcrowded buses.
Three days after Sandy slammed the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, New York and New Jersey struggled to get back on their feet, the U.S. death toll climbed to more than 80, and more than 4.6 million homes and businesses were still without power.
Nearly 20,000 people remained stranded in their homes by floodwaters in Hoboken, N.J., across the river from the New York, and swaths of the New Jersey coastline lay in ruins, with countless homes, piers and boardwalks wrecked.
In a piece of good news for many New Yorkers, Con Edison said it is on track to restore power by Saturday in Manhattan, where a quarter-million customers were without electricity. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg said meals and bottled water will be distributed in hard-hit neighborhoods around the city.
Downtown Manhattan, which includes the financial district, the Sept. 11 memorial, Chinatown and Little Italy, was still mostly an urban landscape of shuttered bodegas and boarded-up restaurants. People roamed in search of food, power and a hot shower. Some dispirited and fearful New Yorkers decided to flee the city.
"It's dirty, and it's getting a little crazy down there," said Michael Tomeo, who boarded a bus to Philadelphia with his 4-year-old son. "It just feels like you wouldn't want to be out at night. Everything's pitch dark. I'm tired of it, big-time."
Rima Finzi-Strauss was taking a bus to Washington. When the power went out Monday night in her apartment building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, it also disabled the electric locks on the front door, she said.
"We had three guys sitting out in the lobby last night with candlelight, and very threatening folks were passing by in the pitch black," she said. "And everyone's leaving. That makes it worse."
She said people were on the street buying "old, tiny little vegetables" and climbing 20 floors into apartments where they couldn't flush the toilet and had no heat. New York dipped to about 40 degrees Wednesday night.
Flights took off and landed Thursday at LaGuardia Airport, the last of the three major New York-area airports to reopen since the storm.
In the morning, more than 1,000 people waited outside an arena in Brooklyn for buses to Manhattan. When one bus pulled up, passengers rushed the door. A transit worker banged on a bus window and yelled at people on the bus and in line.
With the electricity out and gasoline supplies scarce, many stations across the metropolitan area closed, and the stations that were open drew long lines of cars that spilled out onto roads.
"Either they're out of gas or the lines are ridiculous," Katie Leggio said from her car, in line on Long Island. "I need gas. I think it's ridiculous that they're doing this to us when we're down, but what are you going to do? We're desperate, and we're helpless."
Police enforced carpooling at bridges into the city, peering through windows to make sure each car carried at least three people. TV helicopter footage showed lines for miles.
Across the region, people stricken by the storm pulled together, providing comfort to those left homeless and offering hot showers and electrical outlets for charging cellphones to those without power. That cooperative spirit extended to politicians, who at least made the appearance of putting their differences aside to deal with the destruction wrought by Sandy.
"We are here for you," President Barack Obama said Wednesday in Brigantine, N.J., touring a ravaged shore alongside Republican Gov. Chris Christie, one of Mitt Romney's most vocal supporters. "We are not going to tolerate red tape. We are not going to tolerate bureaucracy."
In New Jersey, signs of the good life that had defined wealthy shorefront enclaves like Bayhead and Mantoloking lay scattered and broken: $3,000 barbecue grills buried beneath the sand and hot tubs cracked and filled with seawater. Nearly all the homes were seriously damaged, and many had disappeared.
"This," said Harry Typaldos, who owns the Grenville Inn in Mantoloking, "I just can't comprehend."
Most of the state's mass transit systems remained shut down, leaving hundreds of thousands of commuters to deal with clogged highways and quarter-mile lines at gas stations.
Darryl Jameson of Toms River waited more than hour to get fuel.
"The messed-up part is these people who are blocking the roadway as they try to cut in line," he said. "No one likes waiting, man, but it's something you have to do."
On New York's Long Island, bulldozers scooped sand off streets and tow trucks hauled away destroyed cars while people tried to find a way to their homes to restart their lives.
Richard and Joanne Kalb used a rowboat to reach their home in Mastic Beach, filled with 3 feet of water. Richard Kalb posted a sign on a telephone pole, asking passing drivers to show some mercy: "Slow please no wake."
Contributing to this report were Verena Dobnik, Eileen AJ Connelly, Karen Matthews, David B. Caruso, Leanne Italie and Lou Ferrara in New York; Samantha Henry in Hoboken, N.J.; Wayne Parry in Mantoloking, N.J., Katie Zezima in Seaside Heights, N.J.; Frank Eltman in Mastic Beach, N.Y., Larry Neumeister in Long Beach, N.Y., and Vicki Smith in Elkins, W.Va.
New estimate for economic damage from storm: $50B
The total economic damage from Superstorm Sandy could run as high as $50 billion, according to new estimates from the forecasting firm Eqecat. The new numbers are more than double the firm's previous estimate.
Eqecat said Thursday that its new estimate for economic losses is between $30 billion and $50 billion. The cost to insurance companies could run from $10 billion to $20 billion.
Widespread electric outages will likely push the costs higher than in a typical Category 1 storm, Eqecat said. The lack of subway service in New York City and blocked roadways also led the firm to raise its damage estimate.
Before the storm hit, Eqecat estimated that the total economic losses could range as high as $20 billion and that insured losses could reach $10 billion. A state-by-state look at superstorm's effects
The massive storm that started out as Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast and morphed into a huge and problematic system, killing at least 75 people in the United States. Power outages now stand at more than 4.6 million homes and businesses, down from a peak of 8.5 million. Here's a snapshot of what is happening, state by state.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other state, federal and local officials from Connecticut are scheduled to meet with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday to review damage to the state caused by Superstorm Sandy. Deaths: 3. Power outages: 354,000, down from a peak of 625,000.
Governor lifts state of emergency and authorizes National Guard to continue cleanup support. Shelters close. Deaths: none. Power outages: 500, down from more than 45,000.
The last remnants of Sandy drop more snow in the mountains on top of a foot that already fell. Deaths: none. Power outages: 3,000.
Amtrak's Downeaster resumes service. Governor sends forest rangers to New York City to help with recovery there. Deaths: none. Power outages: 3,300, down from more than 90,000.
Residents return to polls after storm forced cancellation of early voting for two days. Deaths: 3. Power outages: 47,345, down from 290,000.
Storm shifted a dead whale that had been left to rot on the shoreline to a spot where scientists can now recover the bones before it is buried. Deaths: none. Power outages: 19,500, down from 400,000.
Cargo shipping on the Great Lakes resumes after high waves subside. Deaths: none. Power outages: 10,000, down from 154,000.
Surprise "microburst" from vestiges of storm topples pines onto lake cottages. Trick-or-treating postponed to Sunday. Deaths: 1. Power outages: 16,000, down from 210,000.
Debate rages about whether to rebuild delicate but popular barrier islands a day after President Barack Obama tours them by air. National Guard delivers food and water to people in flooded Hoboken. Deaths: 14. Power outages: 1.76 million, down from 2.7 million.
Police say the bodies of two missing New York City boys have been found. The 2- and 4-year-olds disappeared Monday night when waves of water crashed into an SUV while they were being driven by their mother in the city's Staten Island borough. Deaths: 45, including 38 in New York City. Power outages: 1.6 million, down from 2.2 million.
Sea search continues for the captain of a tall ship that sank. Deaths: 2. Power outages: mostly restored.
Cleanup begins after another day of steady rains and gusty winds that led to flood warnings along Lake Erie. Deaths: 2. Power outages: 100,000, down from more than 250,000.
Utility crews struggle to restore power in state where most damage was driven by wind, not water. Deaths: 12. Power outages: 525,000, down from 1.2 million.
About half of Newport's famed 3.5-mile Cliff Walk has been closed because of extensive damage. Officials say part of the path and a retaining wall washed away, and fencing was knocked down. Deaths: none. Power outages: 25,000, down from more than 122,000.
Elizabethton businesses close off a street and cover sidewalks for trick-or-treaters as snow falls in mountainous areas. Deaths: none. Power outages: minimal.
Amtrak works to restore service to the state after tracks were damaged in other areas. Deaths: none. Power outages: mostly restored, down from more than 10,000.
National Guard winds down most recovery operations. U.S. Navy sends three Virginia-based ships toward the Northeast in case they're needed. Deaths: 2. Power outages: 9,300, down from more than 180,000.
Early voting resumes after being shut down for two days, and hours are extended. Federal workers return, National Mall reopens. Deaths: none. Power outages: mostly restored, down from 25,000.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin plans to ask President Barack Obama for a federal disaster declaration to help residents and businesses in the hardest-hit areas of the state. Some areas have seen nearly 3 feet of snow. Deaths: 6. Power outages: 154,000, down from about 271,000.