By Henry Goldman, Brian K. Sullivan and Kathleen Hunter
NEW YORK - Millions of people in the Northeast U.S., the region most dependent on electric grids and mass transit networks for everyday life, struggled to find normalcy amid the floods, destruction and death from superstorm Sandy.
The biggest Atlantic storm in history, spanning an area broader than Texas, caused at least 50 U.S. deaths, according to the Associated Press, including 18 in New York City that Mayor Michael Bloomberg reported. Many government offices and U.S. stock markets, which shut for two days, plan to open today, with the exception of New Jersey government. Millions remained without power.
“Sandy hit us very hard, it was a storm of historic intensity, but New Yorkers are resilient and we’ve seen an outpouring of support,” the mayor said at a news briefing yesterday. “We have a plan for recovery, and that recovery is already beginning. It’s the beginning of a process that we all know will take a while.”
President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit New Jersey today to tour what Governor Chris Christie described as “absolute devastation,” such as seaside towns with houses ripped from their foundations. Bloomberg said he declined an offer from the president to visit the city.
“What I pointed out to him is that we’d love to have him, but we have lots of things to do,” Bloomberg said. The president declared New York and New Jersey disaster regions eligible for federal relief.
The storm that interrupted the U.S. presidential race eight days before Election Day weakened to a surface trough of low pressure over western Pennsylvania. The remnants of Sandy are forecast to continue to weaken over the state as it now lacks any discernible circulation and no specific location was stated in a 5 a.m. advisory issued by the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
Flood watches and warnings remain in effect for portions of the mid-Atlantic and northeast states and winter storm warnings are still in place for the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, western Maryland, West Virginia, eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky and extreme western North Carolina, the center said. Dangerous surf conditions will continue from Florida through New England for the next couple of days.
From Washington to Boston, officials of state and local governments, transit systems and businesses joined homeowners in assessing damage and arranging for recovery. Sandy may cause as much as $20 billion in economic damage and losses, according to Eqecat Inc., a risk-management company in Oakland, California.
Phillips 66’s Bayway refinery in Linden and Hess Corp.’s Port Reading plant, both in New Jersey, remained shut. Philadelphia Energy Solutions’ larger facility in Pennsylvania was restoring operations last night after coming through the storm unscathed, Cherice Corley, a spokeswoman, said in an e- mail yesterday. Gasoline futures rose in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange today.
Sandy came ashore as a hurricane two days ago near Atlantic City, New Jersey, the second-largest U.S. gaming center, causing “extensive” property damage, yet “the human damage has been minimal,” Mayor Lorenzo Langford told CNN in an interview.