Mass transit slowly began running, two major airports reopened and trading resumed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, while across the river in New Jersey, National Guardsmen rushed to rescue flood victims and fires still raged two days after Sandy slammed the tri-state.
For the first time since the storm battered the Northeast, killing more than 40 people in our area and doing billions of dollars in damage, sunshine washed over the nation’s largest city — a striking sight after days of gray skies, rain and wind.
“We are on our way back to normal,” Mayor Bloomberg declared. “We are on the road to recovery. Each day you’re going to see more and more things.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a transportation emergency and authorized the MTA to waive fares on railways, subways and buses Thursday and Friday, he announced in a press conference Wednesday night.
He said limited Metro-North and LIRR service were resuming Wednesday, and some city subways would be up on Thursday, supplemented by buses. The subway service was not likely to be widespread; he said there would still be no subways below 34th Street in Manhattan, an area still largely without power.
Traffic was heavy as commuters began to try to return to work Wednesday, and later in the day Bloomberg announced that no cars with less than three people could enter Manhattan on East River bridges between 6 a.m. and midnight as a way to reduce congestion.
“The streets just cannot handle the number of cars that have tried to come in,” he said.
In some neighborhoods Wednesday, lines at bus stops wrapped around the block and packed buses bypassed the crowds. Many people simply walked over the bridges into Manhattan; large crowds of pedestrians were seen on the bridges in the morning. The city said schools would be closed the rest of the week, but teachers would return on Friday.
It was clear that restoring the region to its ordinarily frenetic pace could take days — and that rebuilding the hardest-hit communities and the transportation networks that link them together could take considerably longer.
At the stock exchange, running on generator power, Bloomberg gave a thumbs-up and rang the opening bell to whoops from traders on the floor. Trading resumed after the first two-day weather shutdown since the Blizzard of 1888.
Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports reopened with limited service just after 7 a.m. LaGuardia Airport, which suffered far worse damage and where water covered parts of runways, remained closed but officials planned to reopen the airport at 7 a.m. Thursday.
The National Weather Service said Wednesday that the strongest wind gusts reported during Sandy were 90 mph, recorded at Islip on Long Island and on Robbins Reef, just off Staten Island and Bayonne, N.J.
The scale of the challenge could be seen in Staten Island, where the NYPD aviation unit rescued people from rooftops Tuesday, and on Wednesday authorities were searching for two boys, 2 and 4, whose mother said they were swept away by rising waters. Rescue workers continued recovering bodies there, and the death toll was expected to rise as that grim task went on.
National Guard troops arrived in Hoboken overnight Tuesday to help evacuate thousands still stuck in their homes. Live wires dangled in floodwaters that Mayor Dawn Zimmer said were rapidly mixing with sewage.
And new problems arose when 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaked in Arthur Kill between Staten Island and New Jersey. Further down the coast, firefighters were unable to reach blazes rekindled by natural gas leaks in the heavily hit shore town of Mantoloking.
Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order Wednesday postponing Halloween “to minimize additional risks to lives and the public safety.” The governor is advising local officials to encourage communities to delay celebrations until Monday.
President Barack Obama arrived in Atlantic City, N.J., to inspect conditions in the area that was directly in the storm’s path Monday night. After surveying the damage in a helicopter tour, Obama and Christie stopped at the Brigantine Beach Community Center, which is serving as an evacuation shelter.
“The entire country has been watching what’s been happening,” Obama said. “Everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit.”
Christie stressed how important it was to have the president visit. “He means what he says,” the governor said. Those seeking federal disaster assistance are urged to start here.
Outages in Newark and Jersey City left traffic signals dark, resulting in fender-benders at intersections where police were not directing traffic. At one Jersey City supermarket, there were long lines to get bread and use an electrical outlet to charge cellphones.
Amid the despair, talk of recovery was already beginning.
“It’s heartbreaking after being here 37 years,” Barry Prezioso of Point Pleasant, N.J., said as he returned to his house in the beachfront community to survey the damage. “You see your home demolished like this, it’s tough. But nobody got hurt and the upstairs is still livable, so we can still live upstairs and clean this out. I’m sure there’s people that had worse. I feel kind of lucky.”
In New York City, Con Edison said it could also be the weekend before power is restored to Manhattan and Brooklyn, perhaps longer for outer boroughs and suburbs. There have been more than 20 people arrested for looting in some of the hardest hit areas of the city.
The recovery and rebuilding will take far longer than restoring services.
In Queens, at least 80 homes were destroyed by fire in the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway peninsula. Bloomberg said 23 serious fires erupted throughout the city overnight Monday.
In Belmar, N.J., when Christie stopped during a tour of the devastation, one woman wept, and 42-year-old Walter Patrickis told him, “Governor, I lost everything.”
Christie, who called the shore damage “unthinkable,” said a full recovery would take months, at least, and it would probably be a week or more before power is restored to everyone who lost it.
“Now we’ve got a big task ahead of us that we have to do together. This is the kind of thing New Jerseyans are built for,” he said.
In Connecticut, some residents of Fairfield returned home in kayaks and canoes to inspect widespread damage left by retreating floodwaters that kept other homeowners at bay.
“The uncertainty is the worst,” said Jessica Levitt, who was told it could be a week before she can enter her house. “Even if we had damage, you just want to be able to do something. We can’t even get started.”
The storm caused irreparable damage to homes in East Haven, Milford and other shore towns. Still, many were grateful the storm did not deliver a bigger blow, considering the havoc wrought in New York City and New Jersey.
“I feel like we are blessed,” said Bertha Weismann, whose garage was flooded in Bridgeport. “It could have been worse.”
- Con Ed said it had about 227,000 customers out in Manhattan, 113,000 in Queens, 100,000 in Staten Island, 74,000 in Brooklyn and 38,000 in the Bronx.
- At least 34 storm-related deaths have been reported.
- Gov. Cuomo declared a transportation emergency and authorized the MTA to waive fares on all commuter rails, subways and buses through Friday night.
- LIRR service was resuming Wednesday, starting with hourly train service between Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal. Visit www.mta.info for the latest.
- Metro-North on Wednesday was restoring limited service on its Harlem Line between North White Plains and Grand Central Terminal. Visit www.mta.info for the latest.
- Very limited subway service was to resume Thursday, with buses supplementing service between Brooklyn and Manhattan. There will still be no subway service below 34th Street in Manhattan because of power outages there. Visit www.mta.info for the latest.
- Three of the seven flooded East River subway tunnels have been pumped.
- Limited bus service resumed Tuesday, with fares waived. Yellow cabs will be able to pick up multiple passengers and livery cabs will be up to pick up curbside fares, Bloomberg said. Riders in both instances should negotiate fares with the driver ahead of time, the mayor said.
- The East River Ferry will resume on a modified schedule beginning at 7 a.m. Thursday. Ferry stops in Greenpoint and South Williamsburg remain closed until further notice. Check nywaterway.com for more information.
- The Staten Island Ferry remained closed.
- Cars entering Manhattan on East River bridges must have at least three passengers as a way to reduce congestion.
- Bellevue Hospital was being evacuated Wednesday after officials say equipment was too heavily damaged by flooding.
- New York City schools are closed for the rest of the week.
- The New York Stock Exchange resumed trading on Wednesday after two days of halted business.
- The East River bridges reopened just before 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, along with the George Washington, Goethals, and Bayonne bridges and the Outerbridge Crossing.
- The Verrazano, RFK, Throgs Neck, Whitestone and Marine Parkway bridges have also opened.
- The Lincoln Tunnel is open but the Holland Tunnel, Queens Midtown Tunnel and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel are closed until further notice.
- For the first time in its 39 years, New York City’s Halloween parade was canceled.
- City parks are closed. They were being inspected and could open by the weekend, the mayor said.
- PATH Train service remains suspended indefinitely, the Port Authority said.
- Bloomberg said the NYC Marathon will go on as planned Sunday.
- More than 100 trees at the New York Botanical Garden were destroyed, the garden said in a statement. Hundreds more trees were damaged, along with fences and other structures.
- The Brooklyn Botanic Garden lost about 20 trees of various types, but the garden’s beloved cherry trees were not harmed, according to spokeswoman Kate Blumm.
- Long Island Power Authority reported more than 860,000 customers without power.
- At least two storm-related deaths have been reported. In Suffolk County, a 39-year-old man was struck by falling tree and in Nassau County, a 84-year-old man died after being struck by a falling tree.
- The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant was flooded during the storm, damaged critical infrastructure. Some residents near the plant have raw sewage backing into their basements. A conserve water order is in effect in Nassau County from the Queens border to the Meadowbrook Parkway, south of the Long Island Expressway.
- Residents in Long Beach and Mill Neck in Nassau County were told not to drink tap water due to potential contamination.
- Historic Jones Beach was under water following the storm. State Director of Operations Howard Glaser posted a photo to Twitter with a note that there’s no beach left.
- More than 2 million customers were without power and 5,500 residents were in shelters.
- The storm killed at least six people, including a man whose body was pulled from the Hackensack River Tuesday and a 61-year-old Princeton man killed Monday night by a tree that fell on him as he cleared debris from his driveway.
- Authorities in Morris County said two people died after a tree fell on their car Monday evening in Mendham Township.
- Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy ordered a curfew starting Wednesday night for all residents. It lasts from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. He also ordered all schools closed until Monday.
- The Garden State Parkway was reopened to traffic Tuesday, but more than 200 other state roads remained closed, many of them inaccessible due to fallen trees and downed power wires.
- Many towns across the state rescheduled Halloween for the weekend.
- Tolls resumed on the northbound Garden State Parkway — from Cape May to the Driscoll Bridge — and on the full length of the westbound Atlantic City Expressway.
- All New Jersey Transit lines remain suspended. PATH Train service is suspended indefinitely, the Port Authority said.
- Conditions were still too hazardous Wednesday to allow residents back on Long Beach Island, where cars were buried in 5 feet of sand, crews used heavy equipment to clear the roads and National Guard members went door-to-door, checking on residents who stayed.
- Long Beach Island still lacked sewer service, water, gas and electricity. The stench of natural gas hung in the air, indicating broken lines.
- The following water companies have issued boil water advisories: Atlantic City MUA, New Brunswick Water Department, Independence MUA – Highland System; Warren County; Fortesque; Ship Bottom; Cedar Bonnet Island; United Water Sunset Ridge, Vernon Township; United Water Highlands Lakes, Vernon Township; United Water Predmore, Vernon Township; United Water Sammis, Vernon Township; United Water Woodridge Wantage; Brant Beach
- In Brick Township, as many as 10 homes caught fire during the storm, when they were knocked from their foundations, rupturing gas lines, said Brick Township Police Sgt. Keith Reinhard. Some gas lines continued to burn on Wednesday.
- About 482,000 customers were without power Wednesday.
- A firefighter in Easton died of cardiac arrest while responding to an emergency call after a tree landed on his vehicle.
- The body of a missing 34-year-old man was recovered in Milford. Authorities say he was last seen swimming in the heavy surf after jumping from a pier at about 8 p.m. Monday.
- A 90-year old Mansfield woman was killed and two family members were seriously injured when a tree fell on them Monday.
- CL&P said it is still assessing the extent of the damage and what needs to be done to make repairs, and United Illuminating says it will know better on Thursday when it can restore power.
- The state’s storm site can be found here.