Emergency officials along the U.S. east coast are assessing damage from the massive storm named Sandy, which is now blamed for at least 39 U.S. deaths, reports the AP.
President Barack Obama has declared “major disasters” in the northeastern states of New York and New Jersey, where the storm has flooded low-lying areas, damaged structures and caused widespread power outages.
Tuesday’s declarations free up federal disaster funds to help with disaster relief efforts. During a Tuesday conference at the White House, the president also pledged to deliver additional resources to hard-hit areas.
The storm moved ashore late Monday south of New York with hurricane-strength winds. It weakened as it moved inland.
In a Tuesday news conference, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said many of the city’s subway tunnels are closed, around 750,000 people have lost power and at least 80 homes were destroyed in a wind-driven fire.
“The damage we suffered across the city is clearly extensive and it will not be repaired overnight. The two biggest challenges facing our city going forward are getting our mass transit system up and running and restoring power,” Bloomberg said.
Trading at the New York Stock Exchange was canceled Tuesday for a second day in a row, marking the first time since 1888 that trading has been suspended for two consecutive days because of weather.
In neighboring New Jersey, a possible berm breach has caused flooding in several towns, forcing at least 800 people to evacuate. Also, a New Jersey nuclear power plant declared an alert after waters rose to a designated high-level mark. Officials said there were no safety concerns at the plant, which was shut off for maintenance.
In a Tuesday news conference, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said a popular vacation destination in his state has been hit hard.
“The level of devastation at the Jersey shore is unthinkabl,” Christie said.
Christie, a Republican who has been harshly critical of President Barack Obama, praised the president for his response to the storm. In an interview Tuesday with the NBC television network’s “Today” show, he said the president and federal emergency officials had done an “outstanding” job.
“The federal government’s response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again with the president, personally. He has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area. He expedited that on the phone. Last night, I was on the phone with FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) at 2 a.m. this morning to answer the questions they needed answered to get that designation. And, the president has been outstanding in this and so have the folks at FEMA,” Christie said.
The White House says President Obama will remain in Washington on Wednesday to monitor the disaster response and ensure that all available resources continue to be provided to support state and local recovery efforts. It says that, as a result, the president will not participate in campaign events scheduled in Ohio that day.
Other U.S. cities along the Eastern Seaboard, including Washington, were also at a standstill Tuesday, with public transit systems suspended, airports closed and millions of people forced to stay home from work for a second day.
Unseasonably powerful blizzards struck further inland. As much as a meter of snow was predicted in some places, as the storm spanned some 1,500 kilometers.
Weather forecaster Dan Pydynowsky of the AccuWeather service said that “Sandy” has been a unique storm.
“This is certainly pretty amazing. Just a number of amazing aspects to this storm, obviously how large it was. The low pressure which made for such a strong and expansive wind field and, of course, having the cold air on the western side of this storm add in an even more unique element to it — that we had a couple feet of snow in the southern Appalachians, the central Appalachians,” Padinowski said.
Federal government offices have been closed since Monday.
The storm killed at least 65 people in the Caribbean last week before moving toward the United States.