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Sandy's mammoth wake: 46 dead, millions without power, transit

/ Source: NBC News

The sweep of devastation from Superstorm Sandy became heartbreakingly clear Tuesday: At least 46 people are dead, and authorities face the unimaginable task of restoring power and transit for millions of others.

"We have not seen damage like this in a generation," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, assessing the scope of a hurricane that swept homes into the ocean, flooded large swaths of coastal areas, left millions of people without power and crippled transportation, told NBC News.

The storm, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, was proof that "nature is an awful lot more powerful than we are."  

President Barack Obama declared major disasters in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut, promising that the federal government would do all it could to help local authorities cope with damage. The president was scheduled to visit damaged areas in New Jersey on Wednesday, the White House said.

Details of the devastation became clearer late Tuesday after authorities made their way through severely damaged areas across 20 states stretching from New England to Tennessee:

  • Forty-six people had been killed in the U.S., 23 of them in New York — including 18 in New York City, NBC News reported. Six people had been killed in New Jersey, as well as  five in Pennsylvania; four in Connecticut; two apiece in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia; and one each in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. Before it made its way north, Sandy was blamed for 68 other deaths in the Caribbean.
  • More than 6.6 million homes and businesses were without electricity, about two-thirds of them in New York and New Jersey. That number represents individual structures, including large businesses, meaning the number of people without light, heat or refrigeration is likely much higher.
  • The New York region's airports were closed Tuesday. JFK International and Newark Liberty will open early Wednesday and offer limited service; LaGuardia will remain closed "due to extensive damage," Cuomo said. , while Amtrak canceled all of its Northeast Corridor rail service Tuesday, in addition to some other lines.
  • Subway service was unlikely to resume for four to five days, Bloomberg said, but free bus service had resumed on a Saturday schedule, and about 4,000 cabs were running on city streets. PATH train service between Manhattan and New Jersey is likely to be suspended for seven to 10 days, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.
  • The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the South Ferry subway station was "flooded up to the ceiling," while each tube of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel — better known as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel — was filled with 43 million gallons of water.
  • At least were submerged by up to 6 feet of water after a levee broke.
  • were shut down or otherwise affected, while the nation's oldest facility declared a rare "alert" after the record storm surge pushed flood waters high enough to endanger a key cooling system.
  • Major U.S. stock exchanges were closed Tuesday for a second day, but they .

Dawn Zimmer, mayor of Hoboken, N.J., said half the city remained flooded Tuesday night.

"We have, probably, about 20,000 people that still remain in their homes, and we're trying to put together an evacuation plan, get the equipment here," Zimmer told MSNBC TV.

Zimmer said the city's elecric utility vehicles were too big to make it down many of the flooded streets. After "begging and pleading" for equipment, she said, the National Guard told her Tuesday night some could arrive Wednesday morning.

In Breezy Point, a seaside community in Queens, N.Y., a massive fire of undetermined origin destroyed at least 110 homes and damaged 20 others . Firefighters had difficulty reaching the blaze because of the severe weather.

"To describe it as looking like pictures we've seen of the end of World War II is not overstating it," Bloomberg said. "The area was completely leveled. Chimneys and foundations were all that was left of many of these homes."

It remained impossible to put a dollar value on Sandy's destruction. will run from $7 billion to $15 billion, according to an estimate published late Tuesday by AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe modeling firm.

"I think the losses will be almost incalculable," Christie said on NBC's TODAY show.

More targets in Sandy's sights Even as attention was riveted on New York and New Jersey, Sandy had already moved on, remaining a dangerous storm as it dispersed north and south.

About 90,000 customers were without power Tuesday in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, the Energy Ministry said. At least one death was reported in Toronto after a woman in her 50s was hit in the head by a sign Monday night, NBC News Channel reported.

Sandy hit the mountains of West Virginia and North Carolina with full-blown blizzards, part of a storm-generated snow system stretching as far west as Kentucky and Ohio, in Champaign County.

Officials said the that blanketed Newfound Gap, on the Tennessee-North Carolina line, was believed to be biggest October snowfall on record. Parts of eastern Virginia were through Wednesday morning, with snowfall at 1 to 2 inches an hour expected.

'The worst that we have ever experienced'Tuesday's disaster declarations for New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut mean federal funds will be available to people affected by the storm.

Residents make their way through flood waters brought on by Hurricane Sandy in Little Ferry, New Jersey, October 30, 2012. Millions of people across the eastern United States awoke on Tuesday to scenes of destruction wrought by monster storm Sandy, which knocked out power to huge swathes of the nation's most densely populated region, swamped New York's subway system and submerged streets in Manhattan's financial district. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT)Adam Hunger / X01873

"This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced," Bloomberg said, adding that schools would remained closed Wednesday.

The historic storm, which made landfall at 6:45 p.m. ET Monday, hurled a wall of water up to 13 feet high at the Northeast coast. and areas of Brooklyn, submerging entire streets and parks. A record tide of 13.88 feet was set at The Battery in Lower Manhattan on Monday night, breaking the previous record of 11.2 feet in 1821.

The powerful storm and other areas of the New Jersey shore. Part of the Atlantic City boardwalk was washed away.

Atlantic City's casinos, which were closed Sunday afternoon, may not reopen until Thursday, officials said. Although they sustained only minor damage, the flooding and heavy damage to surrounding infrastructure means employees and customers can't get to them.

Officials estimated that the casinos alone are losing $5 million every day they're shuttered.