Obama takes in devastation left behind in N.J. by superstorm Sandy
Published Wednesday, October 31, 2012 10:01AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 31, 2012 10:42PM EDT
U.S. President Barack Obama visited New Jersey Wednesday to survey the mass flooding, burned-out homes and displaced residents left behind by superstorm Sandy and its aftermath, and promised federal help for those struggling to rebuild their lives.
More than six million homes were still without power late Wednesday, from the Carolinas to Wisconsin.
New Jersey was hardest hit, as Sandy made landfall along the state’s southern coast Monday evening, flooding coastal communities and sparking devastating fires. Homes and cars remained half submerged in water Wednesday, as rescue workers searched for the stranded.
National Guard troops converged on Hoboken, N.J., Wednesday, where about 20,000 people remained trapped by extreme flooding.
National Guard trucks brought emergency supplies to residents evacuated from their homes.
The mayor of the city of 50,000 even issued an appeal for anyone with a boat to join the effort to evacuate those who, after two days stranded by floodwaters, have decided enough is enough.
"We are doing what we can, but we really need more help," the mayor's spokesperson Juan Melli said.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer warned of live wires landing in floodwaters, which were also mixing with sewage.
In Mantoloking, to the south, more than a dozen homes were destroyed after firefighters were unable to reach the site of the blaze.
In New York, residents of the beachfront Breezy Point neighbourhood also returned to survey the damage after a massive fire, sparked by the storm, destroyed as many as 100 homes. The neighbourhood was also deluged with water.
John Frawley, who lives just houses down from the scene of the blaze, said he spent Monday night terrified that the fire would hit his home, too.
"I stayed up all night," he said. "The screams. The fire. It was horrifying."
The weather system that began as Hurricane Sandy and then morphed into a megastorm after making landfall Monday night is responsible for the deaths of more than 100 people so far, including:
- 69 victims in the Caribbean
- 63 in the United States
- 2 in Canada
The Canadian victims are a woman in Toronto who was killed by falling debris as she walked near a Staples store on Monday evening, and a hydro worker in Sarnia, Ont. who was killed Wednesday while doing repair work.
As the search for victims and the massive cleanup continued Wednesday, Obama toured the stricken New Jersey area, including a flyover with Gov. Chris Christie.
“We’re going to be here for the long haul,” Obama told workers at one emergency shelter.
Surveying the devastation across the state Wednesday, Christie made it clear the damage is too severe to ignore.
As a result of the dangerous combination of flooding, blackouts, downed power lines and fallen trees, Christie issued an order postponing the traditional Halloween night trick-or-treating ritual until Monday, when it might be safer for children to walk the streets.
In Manhattan, the New York Stock Exchange returned to business and officials announced that some subway lines would return to partial service on Thursday.
City streets were crowded with commuters and tourists again, as the sun shone down for the first time in days Wednesday morning. Children trick-or-treated throughout the island on Wednesday evening.
Bridges into the metropolis were reopened to traffic, but the flooded Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan, and the Holland Tunnel, between New York and New Jersey, remained closed.
Buses were back on the streets, offering riders trips free of charge, while the city's three major international airports were all expected to be open on Thursday, operating on a limited schedule.
As the economic heart of the region, not to mention America's most populous city, there is a clear push to repair the storm damage in New York City as quickly as possible.
Residents of neighbouring states have a chance to prove their own resilience, too, as the power remains out for more than 6 million homes and business in a region stretching from Wisconsin in the west to the Carolinas in the south.
Other developments Wednesday include:
- Mayor Michael Bloomberg rang the opening bell to reopen trading at the NYSE after its first two-day, weather-related shutdown since 1888
- New York schoolchildren had another day off, as schools in the city remained closed for a third day
- Power company Consolidated Edison said power may remain out for Manhattan and Brooklyn until the weekend, even longer for the other boroughs
- Amtrak resumed some service Wednesday, from Newark, N.J., to destinations south, and announced plans to resume some service to and from New York City on Friday.
- In Washington, the Smithsonian Institution's museums and National Zoo reopened after shutting for two days
Although it is too early to pin down the economic impact of the storm, forecasting firm IHS Global Insight has already predicted approximately $20 billion in damage, and between $10 and $30 billion in lost business.
Another firm, AIR Worldwide, has estimated losses up to $15 billion.
Sandy fizzles over Canada
While Sandy has left residents of the northeastern U.S. to assess the damage and begin putting their lives back together, the storm continues to rain down on Canadians living in southern Ontario and Quebec.
The storm has weakened significantly, but continues to creep north from southern Ontario into Quebec, dropping ice, snow and freezing rain as it goes.
In its latest bulletins issued Wednesday, Environment Canada warns of freezing rain in the Timmins-Cochrane-Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing-Hearst and Chapleau-Gogama regions of northeastern Ontario.
In light of the "mixed bag of periodic snow, ice pellets, drizzle and freezing rain" the agency predicts will continue into Thursday, motorists there are reminded to drive with caution.
And in Quebec, forecasters are still calling for heavy rain and strong winds in parts of the province along the St. Lawrence River. Rainfall warnings remain in effect for an area along the St. Lawrence River, from Baie-Comeau to Minganie, as well as the Gaspe region, where forecasters say between 50 and 60 millimetres could fall by Thursday.
A wind warning is in effect for Umiujaq in the north of Quebec, where Environment Canada is calling for winds of up to 100 km/h into the evening, as Sandy produces "strong to high east winds over the Hudson Bay region today and tonight, as well as a mixed bag of winter precipitation."
Blizzard warnings were also in effect for parts of northern Quebec, including Quaqtaq, Puvirnituq and Akulivik.
Sandy blew ashore in Atlantic City, N.J. Monday night with 130 km/h winds, then headed north and west over Pennsylvania. The storm's remnants are expected to continue moving north and east before dissipating over the St. Lawrence Valley on Thursday.
At the height of its strength in Canada, post-tropical storm Sandy's heavy rain and winds blowing up to 100 km/h in places left more than 210,000 homes and businesses without power in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.