Obama Tours Storm-Ravaged New Jersey Coast
As the northeastern US began a massive recovery and cleanup effort Wednesday following Hurricane Sandy, President Barack Obama got a firsthand look at the destruction during a tour of storm-ravaged New Jersey that showed demolished homes and businesses stretching as far as the eye could see.

"The entire country has been watching what's been happening," Obama said at a shelter in New Jersey, which bore the brunt of Sandy's wrath, during a tour with the state's Republican governor, Chris Christie.

"I want to let you know that your governor is working overtime," Obama said, and to the first responders behind countless rescue efforts, he said, "You've helped to save a lot of lives and property."

After a helicopter tour, Obama promised long-term government support for those affected by the storm, "we are here for you, and we will not forget."

In Hoboken, New Jersey, where much of the city remained underwater and officials estimated at least 20,000 people were stranded, National Guardsmen and volunteers went door-to-door delivering clothing and food, and evacuating those with medical problems—including a woman in labor.

"National Guard trucks are coming around," the city said on its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon. "Please check on your neighbors to see if they have an emergency and need help evacuating."
But the situation remained tense in the aftermath of the storm. A man screamed at emergency officials at the National Guard staging area in front of Hoboken's city hall, saying he had floated on an air mattress from his home to see why supplies were not being distributed, The Associated Press reported.
Hoboken officials asked anyone with nonperishable food, bottled water, available generators and boats to bring them to city hall.
Elsewhere, much of the US East Coast was still reeling from the storm, with more than 6 million utility customers still without electricity, roads and bridges closed to traffic, trees and utility lines down, and subway systems at a standstill.
In heavily flooded New York City, about 500 patients at Belleuve Hosptial were being evacuated Wednesday after floodwater damaged its equipment and power supply.
"It is very disturbing and sad and troubling to see the amount of damage done and the lives that have been disrupted all across the region," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The scene was frightening and "looked apocalyptic," Cuomo said, adding that officials would carefully assess design changes that could help prevent such widespread damage in the future.
"It is not prudent to say it's not going to happen again," he said. "I pray it's not, but I believe it is."
The death toll from the storm stood at 61 as of Wednesday afternoon, a grim reminder that for some families, despite the massive recovery efforts, life would never be the same.
"For all we do to recover, I think it's fair to say we can't replace the lives of those lost in the storm," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
"We're going to do everything we can to prevent tragedies in the future," Bloomberg added.
But there were tiny glimpses of normality on Wednesday.
Cheers went up on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in the morning when a smiling Bloomberg rang the opening bell.
With no power to Wall Street, the markets were running on a backup generator, but trading was underway for the first time since last Friday.

New York City's flooded subway system remained closed, but city buses began running on a limited schedule, and rides were free throughout the day—one way for the city to encourage people not to drive into the city. The subway system will resume limited service on Thursday.

"Traffic is very heavy," Bloomberg said.
"Streets cannot handle the number of cars coming into the city," he added. "People should use extreme caution with no traffic lights."
In a move to stem gridlock, Bloomberg announced Wednesday afternoon that cars entering Manhattan via four East River bridges Thursday and Friday must have at least three passengers. The mandate will be in place between 6 a.m. and midnight on those days, he said.

Two of the three major airports servicing the area—JFK and Newark—reopened and began clearing a backlog of thousands of flights canceled since Sunday. The third airport, LaGuardia, remained closed Wednesday because of flooding, but is supposed to reopen Thursday morning.

Property damage from Hurricane Sandy has been estimated at more than $20 billion, making it one of the most costly storms in US history.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One en route to New Jersey that Obama had placed a call to the heads of the New York University Langone Medical Center, where more than 200 patients were safely evacuated at the height of the storm after the hospital's power generators failed.

"It was a heartening story about, as the president said, in the darkness of the storm, the brightness of America shown through," Carney said.

Last Modified: 2012-11-01 12:00:03
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