Hurricane Sandy: How long will the recovery take? (+video)
New York and New Jersey were particularly hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. Power losses and interruptions in subway service could last for days. Some wonder if certain polling places will be ready to open in time for next week's election.
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Obama issued federal emergency decrees for New York and New Jersey, declaring that "major disasters" existed in both states.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Sandy: Chronicle of an unrelenting storm
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Power outages darkened large parts of downtown Manhattan. A large blaze destroyed more than 80 homes in New York City's borough of Queens, where flooding hampered firefighting efforts.
"To describe it as looking like pictures we've seen of the end of World War Two is not overstating it. The area was completely leveled. Chimneys and foundations were all that was left of many of these homes," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said after touring the area.
Neighborhoods along the East and Hudson rivers in Manhattan were underwater, as were low-lying streets in Battery Park near Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood. Lower Manhattan could be without power for four days.
One disaster modeling company said on Tuesday that Sandy may have caused up to $15 billion in insured losses. That would make it the third-costliest hurricane on record, behind hurricanes Katrina, which laid waste to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, and Andrew, which devastated parts of Florida in 1992.
That figure did not take into account residential flood losses or flooding of tunnels and subways, meaning ultimate insurance claims could rise higher still.
Campaigning on hold
Obama and Romney put campaigning on hold for a second day. The campaign truce was likely to be short-lived, as Romney planned to hit the trail again in Florida on Wednesday. Obama appeared likely to resume campaigning on Thursday for a final five-day sprint to Election Day.
Obama faces political danger if the government fails to respond well, as was the case with predecessor George W. Bush's botched handling of Katrina. Obama has a chance to show not only that his administration has learned the lessons of Katrina but that he can take charge and lead during a crisis.
All along the East Coast, residents and business owners found scenes of destruction.
"There are boats in the street five blocks from the ocean," said evacuee Peter Sandomeno, one of the owners of the Broadway Court Motel in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. "That's the worst storm I've ever seen, and I've been there for 11 years."
Sandy, which was especially imposing because of its wide-ranging winds, brought a record storm surge of almost 14 feet (4.2 meters) to downtown Manhattan, well above the previous record of 10 feet (3 meters) during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.
Water poured into the subway tunnels under New York City. Bloomberg said the subway system, which normally carries over 5 million people each weekday, would likely be closed for four or five days.