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SKYE on AOL

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    New York City firefighters battle a blaze on Rockaway Beach Boulevard on Tuesday in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

    NEW YORK (AP) - A huge fire destroyed between 80 and 100 houses in a flooded neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens.

    More than 190 firefighters have contained the six-alarm blaze fire in the Breezy Point section, but they are still putting out some pockets of fire.

    A fire department spokesman says one firefighter suffered a minor injury and was taken to a hospital. Two civilians suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.

    Officials say the fire was reported around 11 p.m. Monday in an area flooded by the superstorm that began sweeping through the city earlier.

    The neighborhood sits on the Rockaway peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean.

    Sandy Fans Inferno Through Queens Homes


    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Updated Tuesday, Oct. 30, 3:28 p.m. ET

    With the aid of New Jersey State police, a man walks with his dog to a National Guard vehicle after leaving his flooded home at the Metropolitan Trailer Park in Moonachie, N.J., on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

    MOONACHIE, N.J. (AP) - A tidal surge triggered by superstorm Sandy sent water overflowing a riverbank and gushing out of storm drains, quickly swamping two northern New Jersey towns and setting off a frantic middle-of-the-night rescue of people stranded in houses and rooftops.

    Authorities said the body of a man was recovered from the river Tuesday morning upstream from the main flood zone, where rescues were carried out through the night.

    Gov. Chris Christie said hundreds of stranded people were rescued when the tidal surge up the Hackensack River resulted in water overflowing a natural berm.

    The body was recovered in the city of Hackensack, where flooding also occurred but was less severe. The victim was not immediately identified, and county officials said they did not yet have a cause of death.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Twitter Captures the Megastorm
    In Moonachie, a town of 2,700 about 10 miles northwest of Manhattan, police Sgt. Tom Schmidt said water rose to 5 feet within 45 minutes, making roads impassable and cutting off residents who thought the worse from the superstorm was over.

    The floodwaters also knocked out the police and fire departments, forcing them to relocate to a business in a neighboring community.

    Schmidt said rescuers had trouble using boats to carry out rescues because water levels were varying from several feet to only inches. Trucks were also used.

    Mobile home park resident Juan Allen told The Associated Press that water overflowed a 2-foot-wall along a nearby creek during the tidal surge, filling the area with 2 to 3 feet of water within 15 minutes and eventually as much as 5 feet.

    "I saw trees not just knocked down but ripped right out of the ground," he said. "I watched a tree crush a guy's house like a wet sponge."

    He said rescuers moved in quickly to get people out.

    "There's no way you're going to be ready for something like this," he said.

    In neighboring Little Ferry, population 10,000, residents reported water suddenly started gushing out of storm drains late Monday night, and within 90 minutes, 4 feet of water was in the road and entering houses.

    "I looked out and the next thing you know, the water just came up through the grates. It came up so quickly you couldn't do anything about it. If you wanted to move your car to higher ground, you didn't have enough time," said Little Ferry resident Leo Quigley, who was taken with his wife to higher ground by boat and later went to a shelter set up in a school gym.

    Residents of Little Ferry, situated near the confluence of the Hackensack River and a major creek, had put out sandbags and said they thought they had escaped damage when the water started coming out of the storm drains.

    Janice Kama was playing cards with her husband by candlelight Monday night after power went out when her poodle terrier mix started looking out the screen door.

    "I thought she saw an animal," Kama said. "Then my husband looked out the back door and said, 'Oh, my god.' It was like rapids coming down the block and down the sidewalk, like someone turned on a faucet."

    Rescued residents were taken to the gym at a vocational-technical school in neighboring Teterboro.

    Local and county officials reported during the night that a levee had broken but the governor and emergency officials said that turned out to be incorrect.

    Bergen County Emergency Management coordinator Dwane Razzetti said "an overwhelming tidal push" essentially caused the river to back up and overflow its banks.

    "No one has ever seen water come up so quickly," he said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Updated Tuesday, October 30, 12:18 p.m.

    Trees lie fallen across parked cars in the Brooklyn borough of New York the morning after superstorm Sandy made landfall on Tuesday. (AP)

    NEW YORK (AP) - Phone and cable companies started assessing the damage in the storm-hit areas of the East Coast on Tuesday amid widespread reports of phone outages in flooded areas.

    Cablevision Systems Corp., which serves parts of Long Island, New York City and New Jersey, says it's experiencing widespread outages due to the loss of power. Verizon Communications Inc., the biggest phone company in the region, says some facilities in downtown Manhattan are flooded, shutting down phone and Internet service. The company doesn't yet know the extent of outages in New Jersey, which bore the brunt of the storm.

    Time Warner Cable Inc., the other big New York-area cable company, said it had no reports of significant damage to its network, but customers without power obviously had no cable service.

    AT&T Inc. says there are "issues" in hard-hit areas, and it's in the early stages of checking for damage and restoring service.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Updated Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2:34 p.m. ET

    A man crosses flooded a street in New York's South Street Seaport, in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy Tuesday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

    NEW YORK (AP) - Water welling into southern Manhattan drenched one of the world's densest communications nodes, taking out popular websites and forcing carriers to reroute international traffic.

    As commercial power was cut to the southern tip of Manhattan, data centers and phone-companies facilities in the Wall Street area were forced to switch to diesel generators. Data centers that failed to keep running on backup power brought down news and gossip sites Gawker, Huffington Post and many popular New York-based blogs.

    Gawker was still down Tuesday afternoon, but Huffington Post was back online. Their webhost, Datagram Inc., said power was out and flooding in their basement was preventing their backup generators from pumping fuel. Internet connectivity from three providers was also down, Datagram said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Sandy Leaves Path of Devastation

    Verizon Communications Inc., the biggest phone company in the region, had some of its nodes in downtown Manhattan flooded, shutting down phone and Internet service.

    Further uptown, data centers hosted in a "telecom hotel" that spans a whole block and houses Google's New York headquarters were reporting outages as well, apparently because backup power failed when commercial power was cut Monday evening.

    Renesys Corp., which monitors the pathways of the Internet, said the storm caused major outages in New Jersey and New York. The city is a major transit point for international telecommunications traffic, and the firm said carriers were scrambling to route traffic around it.

    Cablevision Systems Corp., which serves parts of Long Island, New York City and New Jersey, said it's experiencing widespread outages due to the loss of power. The company said it doesn't yet know the extent of outages in New Jersey, which bore the brunt of the storm.

    Time Warner Cable Inc., the other big New York-area cable company, said it had no reports of significant damage to its network, but customers without power had no cable service.

    AT&T Inc. said there are "issues" in hard-hit areas, and it's in the early stages of checking for damage and restoring service.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    A YouTube user caught it all on video as Sandy blew over three large trees, one of which came close to crushing an SUV. Another downed tree started a fire at a neighbor's house. Location unknown. (Note strong language).

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen of the New Jersey National Guard took this video Tuesday as the 1-150th Assault Helicopter Battalion toured Seaside Heights, the location of the MTV hit reality show, "Jersey Shore." The Guard was on the lookout for displaced residents.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Carol Mason mops her flooded floor with towels after returning to her home in Atlantic City, N.J., on Tuesday. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

    Millions of people are looking for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, whether they're figuring out how to cope without electricity or addressing more significant property losses.

    As damage reports come in, it's a good time to review your situation. How much coverage you can expect for hurricane-related losses from standard homeowners, renters and automobile policies? Here are seven insurance tips:

    1. TAKE A PROPERTY INVENTORY

    It's easier to file a damage claim if you know exactly what you own, and can document it. Free online software is available from the Insurance Information Institute to help ease the process, visit www.knowyourstuff.org. The software enables users to upload photos of their belongings as well as receipts for major purchases. Homeowner can also simply write down a list of major property in a notebook, and take photos, noting key information about each item on the back.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Twitter Captures the Megastorm

    2. CHECK COVERAGE TERMS

    Read your insurance documents and review the scope of your coverage. Know where to find your policy numbers, and how to file a claim. Call your agent or insurer with any questions. If you don't have hardcopy of your policy, be sure to check it online before the storm hits - you may not have power for a while after the storm.

    3. KNOW YOUR POLICY'S HURRICANE DEDUCTIBLE

    A standard homeowners policy includes a deductible, meaning the homeowner must pay for a portion of the damages before insurance covers the rest. Typically, that's either $500 or $1,000. However, out-of-pocket expenses for hurricane damages can be much higher. In 18 states on the East and Gulf coasts, insurers are allowed to include hurricane deductibles in homeowners policies. These amounts apply only to hurricane-caused damage, and typically range from 1 percent to 5 percent of the insured value of a home. Deductibles may be higher in some coastal areas. For example, a policyholder whose home is insured for $200,000 with a 2 percent hurricane deductible would have to pay the first $4,000 to repair hurricane damage.

    The hurricane-prone states that allow insurers to assess hurricane deductibles include: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. The District of Columbia is included.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Watch: Aerial View of Devastated 'Jersey Shore' Town

    Hurricane deductibles within those states may vary from insurer to insurer. Homeowners who live closer to the coast may also face a higher deductible. Look for the deductible percentage and other details on a "declarations" page, the first page of a homeowners policy. Policies also indicate how severe a hurricane must be before a hurricane deductible applies to a damage claim. Often, the trigger is whether the National Weather Service officially names a tropical storm, as it has in the case of Sandy. Or, a named hurricane may have to reach a specific level of intensity on a scale that runs from a low-level Category 1 to the most severe, Category 5. Sandy's 80 mph winds registered as a Category 1. Some policies set the bar lower before a hurricane deductible can be assessed, such as the issuance of a hurricane watch or warning.

    The Insurance Information Institute has posted details about hurricane deductibles online here.

    4. DO YOU NEED FLOOD INSURANCE?

    Don't expect flood-related losses from a hurricane to be covered unless you've got flood insurance. Standard homeowners and renters policies cover damage from wind, including hurricane wind damage, and any wind-driven rain entering a home. But damage from water on the ground, or water seeping into a basement from below, isn't covered unless a homeowner has a flood insurance policy. Flood coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program and from a few private insurers. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that fewer than one in five homeowners have a flood insurance policy, although four out of five natural disasters involve flooding. Consumers can find out their risk of a flood and the cost of a policy by going to the NFIP's website at: www.floodsmart.gov . There's typically a 30-day waiting period from the purchase date before a flood policy takes effect.

    5. WHAT IF YOU DON'T HAVE FLOOD INSURANCE?

    Homeowners who live in a federally declared a disaster area may be eligible for federal disaster assistance in the form of grants and loans. Anyone who receives assistance will need to purchase flood insurance as a requirement to the aid. The policy will need to be maintained for the life of the loan. President Barack Obama has signed disaster declarations for New York City, other parts of the metro area and parts of New Jersey, making federal aid available to both states and individual residents.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Tweets Capture the Shock and Horror of Sandy

    6. ARE YOU COVERED FOR WATER DAMAGE TO A CAR?

    If your car is damaged by flood waters from a hurricane or other disaster, expect to be covered if you've purchased a comprehensive auto insurance policy. About 80 percent of U.S. drivers have comprehensive coverage. If you only have liability coverage, flood damage to a car won't be covered.

    7. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A TREE FALLS?

    Standard homeowners policies cover damage to a house from a fallen tree, and tree damage to garages, sheds, fences and outdoor pools. Comprehensive auto insurance will cover damage to a car. It gets trickier when a tree in your yard falls onto a neighbor's property. Generally, the neighbor's homeowners policy will cover those damages. However, you could be liable if your neighbor warned you that the tree was weak before the storm, and you didn't do anything about it.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Anthony Lewis takes photos as strong waves created by superstorm Sandy roll past the Chicago skyline, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

    CHICAGO (AP) - Hundreds of miles from its turbulent center, superstorm Sandy's outer bands were violent enough to rip up near-record high waves Tuesday on Lake Michigan, sending a community of avid surfers in Chicago into the cold, churning waters despite warnings from city officials.

    Wave heights out in the middle of the lake reached 20 feet, short of the 23-foot record set last year by a strong storm pushing down from Canada. The difference this time is the winds are from the edges of what had been a tropical storm, one vast enough to reach hundreds of miles inland.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Sandy Leaves Path of Devastation

    The enormous storm pummeled the East Coast, leaving millions without power, toppling trees and killing dozens. More than 600 miles away, the storm's winds could still be felt, blasting across Lake Michigan at 54 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

    "Oh, most people wouldn't even come to the beach today, right?" said Jim Hoop, 50, who was among four surfers at a Chicago beach. "Good day to stay home. ... These are the days we're looking forward to."

    Ocean-like waves of around 10 feet crashed into the shoreline around Chicago, where the water can be as flat as glass on calm days and almost a tropical hue under a bright summer sky. On Tuesday, the water was dark, the color of slate.

    At the 57th Street Beach, Hoop had just waxed up his board and was about to take a shortcut into the surf by scrambling from a promontory that juts out into the water. Hoop has surfed the spot since he was a young lifeguard in the early 1980s. But waves this high are a rare, maybe once-a-year occurrence, and he knew he had to take the day off from his real-estate job and hit the water. He wasn't even deterred by the ache in his shoulder from recent surgery - or his wife's worries.

    RELATED PHOTOS ON SKYE: Twitter Captures the Megastorm
    "She thinks I'm crazy, but I met her at a lifeguard party, so she knew what she was getting into," he said with a laugh.

    Describing the feeling of catching such high waves on his home beach, he said, "those few moments ... seem like forever. You're going down that wave," he said.

    And then he paddled off, disappearing between the swells before catching a smooth ride to shore and diving into the foam with his arms outstretched.

    Officials warned residents to stay away from the lakefront, and portions of the bicycle path along the shore were closed. Police officers had to chase a few runners off the path.

    Meteorologist Andrew Krein with the National Weather Service said such high winds over the lake typically come with strong winter storms.

    "The more unprecedented thing about this is that it's the outskirts of a former tropical system," he said. "... That's very unusual. The fact that the system is covering such a large area. I can't recall another system like this."

    RELATED PHOTOS ON SKYE: Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Updated Tuesday, Oct. 30, 5:20 p.m. ET


    People gather outside a shuttered Starbucks in the hopes of using its wireless signal to communicate. NowThisNews tweeted this photo on Tuesday, writing, "Why are these New Yorkers clustered outside a closed Starbucks? Two words: working wifi. #sandy pic.twitter.com/PTjtnJ63"

    NEW YORK (AP) - Hurricane Sandy knocked out a quarter of the cell towers in an area spreading across ten states, and the situation could get worse, federal regulators said Tuesday.

    Many cell towers that are still working are doing so with the help of generators and could run out of fuel before commercial power is restored, the Federal Communications Commission said.

    The landline phone network has held up better in the affected area, which stretches from Virginia to Massachusetts, the FCC said, but about a quarter of cable customers are also without service.

    The FCC did not have an estimate for the number of people in the affected area.

    Call centers for 911 service have held up relatively well, with only a few failures, according to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. Calls to those centers are being rerouted, but operators may not be getting the automatic location information that 911 centers normally receive.

    Sandy left widespread destruction, but the water welling into southern Manhattan drenched one of the world's densest communications nodes, taking out popular websites and forcing telecom carriers to reroute international traffic.

    As commercial power was cut to the southern tip of Manhattan on Monday, data centers and phone-companies facilities in the Wall Street area were forced to switch to diesel generators. Data centers that failed to keep running on backup power brought down news and gossip sites Gawker, Huffington Post and many popular New York-based blogs.

    Gawker was still down Tuesday afternoon, but Huffington Post was back online. Their webhost, Datagram Inc., said power was out and flooding in their basement was preventing their backup generators from pumping fuel. Internet connectivity from three providers was also down.

    Verizon Communications Inc., the biggest phone company in the region, had some of its facilities in downtown Manhattan flooded, shutting down phone and Internet service.

    Further uptown, data centers hosted in a "telecom hotel" that spans a whole block and houses Google's New York headquarters were reporting outages as well, apparently because backup power failed when commercial power was cut Monday evening.

    Renesys Corp., which monitors the pathways of the Internet, said the storm caused major outages in New Jersey and New York. The city is a major transit point for international telecommunications traffic, and the firm said carriers were scrambling to route traffic around it.

    Cablevision Systems Corp., which serves parts of Long Island, New York City and New Jersey, said it's experiencing widespread outages due to the loss of power. The company said it doesn't yet know the extent of outages in New Jersey, which bore the brunt of the storm.

    Time Warner Cable Inc., the other big New York-area cable company, said it had no reports of significant damage to its network, but customers without power had no cable service.

    AT&T Inc. said there are "issues" in hard-hit areas, and it's in the early stages of checking for damage and restoring service.


    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Fallon, Letterman Perform Shows To Empty Audiences Because of Sandy

    Many New York City-based shows cancelled television tapings Monday night because of the storm, but David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon took to the stage, performing to empty theaters. Both managed to find some humor in the moment.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    A man makes his way down a sand-covered and partially flooded street in Long Beach, N.Y., on Tuesday in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. AP Photo

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Superstorm Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damages and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.

    In the long run, the devastation the storm inflicted on New York City and other parts of the Northeast will barely nick the U.S. economy. That's the view of economists who say a slightly slower economy in coming weeks will likely be matched by reconstruction and repairs that will contribute to growth over time.

    The short-term blow to the economy, though, could subtract about 0.6 percentage point from U.S. economic growth in the October-December quarter, IHS says. Retailers, airlines and home construction firms will likely lose some business.

    The storm cut power to more than 8 million homes, shut down 70 percent of East Coast oil refineries and inflicted worse-than-expected damage in the New York metro area. That area produces about 10 percent of U.S. economic output.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Twitter Captures the Megastorm

    New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air. The superstorm overflowed the city's waterfront, flooded the financial district and subway tunnels and cut power to hundreds of thousands. Power is expected to be fully restored in Manhattan and Brooklyn within four days.

    The New York Stock Exchange will reopen for regular trading Wednesday after being shut down for two days. There's no evidence that the shutdown had any effect on the financial system or the economy. But Jim Paulsen, chief strategist at Wells Capital Management, said further delays might have rattled consumers and dampened their spending.

    "It's about confidence," Paulsen said. "We're watching these horrific images of the storm, and people are thinking whether they should ahead with that big purchase ....It doesn't do any good to have another day with headlines saying the U.S can't figure out how to open its stock exchange."

    Most homeowners who suffered losses from flooding won't be able to benefit from their insurance policies. Standard homeowner policies don't cover flood damage, and few homeowners have flood insurance.

    But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said they will offer help to borrowers whose homes were damaged or destroyed, who live in designated disaster areas and whose loans the mortgage giants own or guarantee. Among other steps, mortgage servicers will be allowed to reduce the monthly payments of affected homeowners or require no payments from them temporarily.

    Across U.S. industries, disruptions will slow the economy temporarily. Some restaurants and stores will draw fewer customers. Factories may shut down or shorten shifts because of a drop in customer demand.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Cell Phone Service May Worsen as Generators Fail

    Some of those losses won't be easily made up. Restaurants that lose two or three days of business, for example, won't necessarily experience a rebound later. And money spent to repair a home may lead to less spending elsewhere.

    With some roads in the Northeast impassable after the storm, drivers won't be filling up as much. That will slow demand for gasoline. Pump prices, which had been declining before the storm, will likely keep slipping. The national average for a gallon of regular fell by about a penny Tuesday, to $3.53 - more than 11 cents lower than a week ago.

    Shipping and business travel has been suspended in areas of the Northeast. More than 15,000 flights across the Northeast and the world have been grounded, and it will take days for some passengers to get where they're going.

    On Tuesday, more than 6,000 flights were canceled, according to the flight-tracking service FlightAware. More than 500 flights scheduled for Wednesday were also canceled.

    The three big New York airports were closed Tuesday. New York has the nation's busiest airspace, so cancellations there drastically affect travel in other cities.

    Economists noted that the short-term hit to the economy was worsened by the size of the population centers the storm hit.

    "Sandy hit a high-population-density area with a lot of expensive homes," said Beata Caranci, deputy chief economist at TD Bank.

    Hurricane damage to homes, businesses and roads reduces U.S. wealth. But it doesn't subtract from the government's calculation of economic activity.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Watch: Aerial View of Devastated 'Jersey Shore' Town

    By contrast, rebuilding and restocking by businesses and consumers add to the nation's gross domestic product - the broadest gauge of economic production. GDP measures all goods and services produced in the United States.

    Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, expects the storm to shave 0.1 to 0.2 percentage point from annual economic growth in the October-December quarter. He thinks the economy will grow at an annual rate of 1.5 percent to 2 percent in the fourth quarter. It grew at a 2 percent annual rate last quarter.

    But Ashworth said any losses this quarter should be made up later as rebuilding boosts sales at building supply stores and other companies.

    "People will load up on whatever they need to make repairs - roofing, dry wall, carpeting - to deal with the damage," he said.

    In the short run, Caranci said the economic damage could be worst for small businesses that lack the money and other resources to withstand lost sales.

    "It will remain to be seen how long disruptions to electricity and infrastructure persist," she said.

    But she noted that the storm should help the construction industry, which shed millions of workers after the housing bust. Many who lost construction jobs were skilled employees with disproportionately high pay, and the loss of those jobs hit the economy hard.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Storm Damage? 7 Tips for Filing a Claim

    Major retailers began trying Tuesday to ramp up their operations before the critical holiday shopping period.

    Sears Holdings Corp., which operates Kmart and Sears, said 80 of its stores were still closed at midday Tuesday, down from 187 Monday. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's biggest retailer, said it was working to reopen the 168 stores it closed. And Darden Restaurants Inc., parent of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, by Tuesday afternoon had reopened roughly 160 of the 260 restaurants it closed Monday.

    Retailers collect up to 40 percent of their annual revenue in November and December. Retailers, excluding restaurants, could lose at least $25 billion in sales this week, estimates Burt Flickinger III of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group. Because of the storm, he's reduced his forecast for holiday sales to a 2.1 percent increase over last year from the 3.2 percent increase he had predicted earlier.

    Reopening is often difficult after a storm. Because New York's subways and buses remained closed Tuesday, it was hard for many employees to get to work. Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue flagship stores stayed closed Tuesday - bad news for those retailers, because major department stores can derive 10 percent of annual sales from their Manhattan locations.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Tweets Capture the Shock and Horror of Sandy

    Still, those stores that could open for business did. A Westside Market in Manhattan remained open 24 hours a day throughout the storm, even though only about 20 percent of workers managed to show up Monday and Tuesday.

    "They found a way to get here - I don't know how," store manager Jay Bilone said.

    Insured losses from the superstorm will likely total $5 billion to $10 billion, the forecasting firm Eqecat estimates. Insurance losses are typically a fraction of the overall cost.

    Chubb, Allstate and Travelers are the insurers most likely to suffer losses, said Greg Locraft, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. Those companies claim a major share of the affected areas.

    But "as an insurance event, Sandy is going to be a blip on the balance sheet," said Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader at Marsh, the insurance broker. "2012 has been a relatively catastrophe-free year."

    Economists expect actual property damages from Hurricane Sandy to exceed those caused last year by Hurricane Irene, which cost $15.8 billion. Irene had little effect on the nation's growth.

    Sandy will likely be among the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history. It would still be far below the worst - Hurricane Katrina, which cost $108 billion in 2005.

    But "there is every reason to believe that the hurricane won't kick the legs out of an already-fragile U.S. economy," Caranci said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy makes landfall at 8p.m. ET on Tuesday about 5 miles southwest of Atlantic City, N.J., as seen in this NOAA GOES-13 satellite colorized infrared image. (NOAA)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer stood along the Hudson River and watched his research come to life as Hurricane Sandy blew through New York.

    Just eight months earlier, the Princeton University professor reported that what used to be once-in-a-century devastating floods in New York City would soon happen every three to 20 years. He blamed global warming for pushing up sea levels and changing hurricane patterns.

    New York "is now highly vulnerable to extreme hurricane-surge flooding," he wrote.

    RELATED ON SKYE: New Yorkers Carry On in Storm-Ravaged City

    For more than a dozen years, Oppenheimer and other climate scientists have been warning about the risk for big storms and serious flooding in New York. A 2000 federal report about global warming's effect on the United States warned specifically of that possibility.

    Still, they say it's unfair to blame climate change for Sandy and the destruction it left behind. They cautioned that they cannot yet conclusively link a single storm to global warming, and any connection is not as clear and simple as environmental activists might contend.

    "The ingredients of this storm seem a little bit cooked by climate change, but the overall storm is difficult to attribute to global warming," Canada's University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver said.

    Some individual parts of Sandy and its wrath seem to be influenced by climate change, several climate scientists said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Twitter Captures the Megastorm
    First, there's sea level rise. Water levels around New York are a nearly a foot higher than they were 100 years ago, said Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann.

    Add to that the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean, which is about 2 degrees warmer on average than a century ago, said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University. Warm water fuels hurricanes.

    And Sandy zipped north along a warmer-than-normal Gulf Stream that travels from the Caribbean to Ireland, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director for the private service Weather Underground.

    Meteorologists are also noticing more hurricanes late in the season and even after the season. A 2008 study said the Atlantic hurricane season seems to be starting earlier and lasting longer but found no explicit link to global warming. Normally there are 11 named Atlantic storms. The past two years have seen 19 and 18 named storms. This year, with one month to go, there are 19.

    After years of disagreement, climate scientists and hurricane experts have concluded that as the climate warms, there will be fewer total hurricanes. But those storms that do develop will be stronger and wetter.

    Sandy took an unprecedented sharp left turn into New Jersey. Usually storms keep heading north and turn east harmlessly out to sea. But a strong ridge of high pressure centered over Greenland blocked Sandy from going north or east, according to the National Hurricane Center.

    Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, an expert in how a warming Arctic affects extreme weather patterns, said recent warming in the Arctic may have played a role in enlarging or prolonging that high pressure area. But she cautioned it's not clear whether the warming really had that influence on Sandy.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Sandy Leaves Path of Devastation

    While components of Sandy seem connected to global warming, "mostly it's natural, I'd say it's 80, 90 percent natural," said Gerald North, a climate professor at Texas A&M University. "These things do happen, like the drought. It's a natural thing."

    On Tuesday, both New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said they couldn't help but notice that extreme events like Sandy are causing them more and more trouble.

    "What is clear is that the storms that we've experienced in the last year or so, around this country and around the world, are much more severe than before," Bloomberg said. "Whether that's global warming or what, I don't know. But we'll have to address those issues."

    Cuomo called the changes "a new reality."

    "Anyone who says that there's not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality," Cuomo said. "I told the president the other day: 'We have a 100-year flood every two years now.'"

    For his published research, Oppenheimer looked at New York City's record flood of 1821. Sandy flooded even higher. This week's damage was augmented by the past century's sea level rise, which was higher than the world average because of unusual coastal geography and ocean currents. Oppenheimer walked from his Manhattan home to the river Monday evening to watch the storm.

    "We sort of knew it could happen, but you know that's different from actually standing there and watching it happen," Oppenheimer said from a cell phone. "You don't really imagine what this looks like until you see it."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    The MTA released dramatic video from inside the South Ferry - Whitehall St. Subway station in Battery Park. The footage shows widespread flooding.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Updated Wednesday, Oct. 31, 1:04 a.m. ET

    A firehouse is surrounded by floodwaters in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, in Hoboken, N.J. (AP)

    HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) - The New Jersey National Guard arrived Tuesday evening in Hoboken to help residents of the heavily flooded city on the Hudson River across from New York City.

    Officials announced the Guard's arrival in messages on the city's Twitter and Facebook accounts. It says Guard members will use high-wheeled vehicles to help evacuate residents and deliver supplies to flooded areas in the mile-square city.

    Hoboken was hard hit by Superstorm Sandy, which flooded roughly half the town of 50,000 people.

    Mayor Dawn Zimmer had asked for the Guard's help late Monday, saying thousands of residents were stuck in their homes.

    "We have two payloaders and we're trying to go in where we can to help people, but we have small city streets and payloaders cannot fit down" them, Zimmer said Tuesday night on MSNBC.

    "We've got live wires in the waters, and the waters are completely contaminated and getting more contaminated," she said. "It's rain water mixed with sewage water; it's becoming more sewage water."

    Hoboken resident Polina Pinkhasova, a 27-year-old engineering student, has been volunteering at a shelter in the city, where water is still 3 feet deep in spots and the power remains out.

    "Once the sun sets, complete darkness," she told The Associated Press. "You really can't see anything."

    Her house is on dry land, but she has seen evidence of price-gouging, saying she paid $14 at one store for three small bags of chips and a small bottle of cranberry juice, both expired.

    P.J. Molski, a 25-year-old graphic designer who lives in Hoboken, said that his place is dry but that his car, which he left parked on a flooded street, won't start.

    Almost every basement apartment he has seen in the small city, which makes the most of its housing stock, is flooded, he told the AP.

    "There are just pumps going all over the city of people trying to get the water out of their basement apartments," he said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Updated Wednesday, Oct. 31, 7:20 p.m. ET

    A man boards his home in the aftermath of a storm surge from Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

    NEW YORK (AP) - People along the battered U.S. East Coast took the first cautious steps to reclaim their daily routines Wednesday, even as about 20,000 people remained trapped at home in a single New Jersey city and the search for victims continued. The superstorm's death toll rose to at least 63.

    The New York Stock Exchange came back to life, and two major New York airports reopened to begin the long process of moving stranded travelers around the world.

    President Barack Obama landed in New Jersey, which was hardest hit by Monday's hurricane-driven storm, and he took a helicopter tour of the devastation with Gov. Chris Christie. "We're going to be here for the long haul," Obama told people at one emergency shelter.

    For the first time since the storm pummeled the heavily populated Northeast, doing billions of dollars in damage, brilliant sunshine washed over New York City, for a while.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Twitter Captures the Megastorm
    At the stock exchange, running on generator power, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a thumbs-up and rang the opening bell to whoops from traders. Trading resumed after the first two-day weather shutdown since a blizzard in 1888.

    New York's three major airports were expected to be open Thursday morning with limited flights. Limited service on the subway, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history, would resume Thursday.

    It was clear that restoring the region to its ordinarily frenetic pace could take days - and that rebuilding the hardest-hit communities and the transportation networks could take considerably longer.

    There were still only hints of the economic impact of the storm.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Watch: Aerial View of Devastated 'Jersey Shore' Town

    Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight predicted it would cause $20 billion in damage and $10 billion to $30 billion in lost business. Another firm, AIR Worldwide, estimated losses up to $15 billion.

    About 6 million homes and businesses were still without power, mostly in New York and New Jersey. Electricity was out as far west as Wisconsin in the Midwest and as far south as the Carolinas.

    In New Jersey, National Guard troops arrived in the heavily flooded city of Hoboken, just across the river from New York City, to help evacuate about 20,000 people still stuck in their homes and deliver ready-to-eat meals. Live wires dangled in floodwaters that Mayor Dawn Zimmer said were rapidly mixing with sewage.

    Tempers flared. A man screamed at emergency officials in Hoboken about why food and water had not been delivered to residents just a few blocks away. The man, who would not give his name, said he blew up an air mattress to float over to a staging area.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Watch: Facade of NYC Building Collapses During Superstorm

    As New York crept toward a semi-normal business day, morning rush-hour traffic was heavy as buses returned to the streets and bridges linking Manhattan to the rest of the world were open.

    A huge line formed at the Empire State Building as the observation deck reopened.

    Tourism returned, but the city's vast and aging infrastructure remained a huge challenge.

    Power company Consolidated Edison said it could be the weekend before power is restored to Manhattan and Brooklyn, perhaps longer for other New York boroughs and the New York suburbs.

    Amtrak said the amount of water in train tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers was unprecedented, but it said it planned to restore some service on Friday to and from New York City - its busiest corridor - and would give details Thursday.

    In Connecticut, some residents of Fairfield returned home in kayaks and canoes to inspect widespread damage left by retreating floodwaters that kept other homeowners at bay.

    "The uncertainty is the worst," said Jessica Levitt, who was told it could be a week before she can enter her house. "Even if we had damage, you just want to be able to do something. We can't even get started."

    In New York, residents of the flooded beachfront neighborhood of Breezy Point returned home to find fire had taken everything the water had not. A huge blaze destroyed perhaps 100 homes in the close-knit community where many had stayed behind despite being told to evacuate.

    John Frawley, who lived about five houses from the fire's edge, said he spent the night terrified "not knowing if the fire was going to jump the boulevard and come up to my house."

    "I stayed up all night," he said. "The screams. The fire. It was horrifying."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Workers clear debris outside the Consolidated Edison power sub-station on 14th Street in Manhattan on Tuesday. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo, File)

    NEW YORK (AP) - Blame a very high tide driven by a full moon, the worst storm surge in nearly 200 years, and the placement of underground electrical equipment in flood-prone areas for the most extensive storm-related power outage in New York City's history.

    It's like what happened at the Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan last year - without the radiation. At a Consolidated Edison substation in Manhattan's East Village, a gigantic wall of water defied elaborate planning and expectations, swamped underground electrical equipment, and left about 250,000 lower Manhattan customers without power.

    Last year, the surge from Hurricane Irene reached 9.5 feet at the substation. ConEd figured it had that covered.

    The utility also figured the infrastructure could handle a repeat of the highest surge on record for the area - 11 feet during a hurricane in 1821, according to the National Weather Service. After all, the substation was designed to withstand a surge of 12.5 feet.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Twitter Captures the Megastorm
    With all the planning, and all the predictions, planning big was not big enough. Superstorm Sandy went bigger - a surge of 14 feet.

    "Nobody predicted it would be that high," said ConEd spokesman Allan Drury.

    At one point, nearly 1 million ConEd customers lost electricity in and near the city - a record number for the utility. And the troubles didn't end as the storm slowly moved off. Con Ed said problems to its high-voltage systems caused by the hurricane forced the utility to cut power to about 160,000 customers in Brooklyn and Staten Island on Tuesday night.

    But the signature event came when a surge of water pushed forward by the storm's winds poured over the banks of the East River near the substation on 13th Street.

    As water poured into the substation Monday night, the blinding flash of an explosion lit the most famous skyline in the world. A huge section of the city that never sleeps fell into darkness.

    It's exactly what a proactive ConEd hoped to avoid by shutting down three similar power networks in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn in advance of the storm surge.

    However, the combination of circumstances, notably an extraordinary high tide, pushed massive amounts of water deep into the city. The underground infrastructure was suddenly vulnerable.


    RELATED ON SKYE: Mapping the Megastorm - Track it Live
    As the storm's predicted path zeroed in on New York City, ConEd brought on extra work crews and laid plans to shut down some underground equipment in lower Manhattan and other parts of the city.

    By late Monday afternoon, the utility started to notify Manhattan customers south of 36th Street that power might be shut off if underground equipment was flooded with corrosive, destructive seawater. The company gave the same heads-up to some customers in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

    By mid-evening, though, conditions had worsened. More than 150,000 customers in New York City and Westchester County were already off grid. The utility began turning off the power, as a precaution, to a section of lower Manhattan, including Wall Street, in an attempt to stem damage. Shortly afterward, the company began cutting electricity in parts of Brooklyn too; a total of 220,000 other customers were already in the dark.

    Less than an hour later, more equipment flooded, sparks flew, and the blast boomed across the East River and throughout lower Manhattan from what ConEd believes was a circuit breaker at its flooded substation.

    The flooded equipment had failed.

    When live electric equipment is inundated with salt water, electricity escapes every which way, sending sparks flying and damaging equipment. "You see a huge blast just from the short circuit," says Arshad Mansoor, senior vice president for research and development at the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry-funded research group.

    As day broke Tuesday, the company was busily assessing damage and fixing equipment. But downed trees and wires, as well as lingering flood waters, made it hard for repair crews to reach some areas. The utility was able to get at least 140,000 customers back on the grid within several hours.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Watch: Facade of NYC Building Collapses During Superstorm

    But hundreds of thousands of others hunkered down for a longer outage. ConEd said customers served by underground equipment should be restored to service in four days. Those who get power from overhead lines are expected to wait a week. That's because there are so many fallen lines.

    The most densely populated parts of the city, mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn, are served by underground transmission wires. These offer protection from wind and falling tree limbs that plague overhead wires and make the suburbs far more vulnerable to outages.

    But underground wires can flood and be more difficult to repair, especially in low-lying areas. It can be harder for workers to get to the wires because manholes flood. When water recedes, it can be harder to find problems, pull out wires and equipment, dry them, fix them, and slide them back into place.

    The damage assessment could take days to complete.

    To engineers like Joannes Westerink, a University of Notre Dame researcher who is working on a computer model for future New York City storm surges, this was all predictable.

    "You build infrastructure too low, and you run into trouble," he said. "It's a recipe for disaster."

    He said it's well known that New York City had spread to ever-lower zones in modern history. He cited Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan as a dramatic example.

    ConEd could likely have shut down more networks served by the 13th Street substation before the storm arrived, but that would have meant cutting power to tens of thousands of people and critical facilities like hospitals. Even though hospitals have backup power generators, they too can fail. Generators at New York University Langone Medical Center went down Monday night, and patients were evacuated.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Tidal Surge Overruns Two NJ Towns with Floodwaters

    "You have to make the decision to shut off power to a substation very, very carefully, especially if it serves critical facilities," Mansoor said. The decision can turn into a lose-lose situation.

    Despite the latest damage, Mansoor called the New York City system the most reliable in the world because it's normally well protected from weather and set up with backup equipment. That protects the city from minor disruptions and helps keep major disruptions from cascading through the city.

    No system, he said, can be designed to withstand every storm, no matter how severe.

    Carol J. Friedland, a Louisiana State University engineer who has studied the impact of flooding on electrical systems, said more measures should be taken to protect equipment in low-lying places. For example, sea walls can be raised, and equipment can sometimes be relocated.

    "My personal opinion ... is that there should be more resilience built into these types of infrastructure, because when the power goes out, it disrupts the entire community," she said.

    Massoud Amin, a University of Minnesota electrical engineering professor who has studied power outages, said the storm underscores the need to improve the nation's electric grid by stringing more high-voltage wire and using modern sensor technology to spot problems sooner, isolate damage, and speed recovery from outages.

    "Our electrical infrastructure system is a marvel of engineering for the last century," Amin said. "The grid operators and the power companies are doing the best they can."

    It is too soon to say if anything more could have been done to keep the New York City grid working. Under state regulations, ConEd will be required to file a report on the outage to the New York State Department of Public Service within 60 days of power restoration. That agency's staff will evaluate how problems were handled and if improvements can be made for the future, according to agency spokeswoman Pamela Carter.

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    Updated Wednesday, Oct. 31, 4:33 p.m. ET

    People board a bus in New York City, as partial bus service was restored on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Patrick Cashin)

    NEW YORK (AP) - Flights resumed, but slowly. The New York Stock Exchange got back to business, but on generator power. And with the subways still down, great numbers of people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan in a reverse of the exodus of 9/11.

    Two days after Superstorm Sandy rampaged across the Northeast, killing at least 62 people, New York struggled Wednesday to find its way. Swaths of the city were still without power, and all of it was torn from its daily rhythms.

    At luxury hotels and drugstores and Starbucks shops that bubbled back to life, people clustered around outlets and electrical strips, desperate to recharge their phones. In the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, a line of people filled pails with water from a fire hydrant. Two children used jack-o'-lantern trick-or-treat buckets.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Twitter Captures the Megastorm
    Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that parts of the subway would begin running again Thursday, and that three of seven tunnels under the East River had been pumped free of water, removing a major obstacle to restoring full service.

    "We are going to need some patience and some tolerance," he said.

    On Wednesday, both were frayed. Bus service was free but delayed, and New Yorkers jammed on, crowding buses so heavily that they skipped stops and rolled past hordes of waiting passengers.

    New York City buses serve 2.3 million people on an average day, and two days after the storm they were trying to handle many of the 5.5 million daily subway riders, too.

    As far west as Wisconsin and south to the Carolinas, more than 6 million homes and businesses were still without power, about 4 million of them in New York and New Jersey.

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 500 patients were being evacuated from Bellevue Hospital because of storm damage. The hospital has run on generators since the storm. About 300 patients were evacuated from another Manhattan hospital Monday after it lost generator power.

    Still, there were signs that New York was flickering back to life and wasn't as isolated as it was a day earlier.

    Flights resumed at Kennedy and Newark airports on what authorities described as a very limited schedule. Nothing was taking off or landing at LaGuardia, which suffered far worse damage.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mapping the Megastorm - Track it Live
    The stock exchange, operating on backup generators, came back to life after its first two-day weather shutdown since the blizzard of 1888. Mayor Michael Bloomberg rang the opening bell to whoops from traders below.

    "We jokingly said this morning we may be the only building south of midtown that has water, lights and food," said Duncan Niederauer, CEO of the company that runs the exchange, in hard-hit lower Manhattan.

    Most Broadway shows returned for Wednesday matinees and evening shows.

    Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, National Guardsmen in trucks delivered ready-to-eat meals and other supplies to heavily flooded Hoboken and rushed to evacuate people from the city's high-rises and brownstones. The mayor's office put out a plea for people to bring boats to City Hall for use in rescuing victims.

    Natural gas fires erupted in Brick Township, where scores of homes were wrecked by the storm. And some of the state's barrier islands, which took a direct hit from Sandy on Monday night, remained all but cut off.

    President Barack Obama took a helicopter tour of the ravaged coast with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

    "The entire country has been watching what's been happening. Everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit," Obama said at a shelter in Brigantine, N.J. He promised people there that the federal government was "here for the long haul."

    In New York, masses of people walked shoulder-to-shoulder across the Brooklyn Bridge to get into Manhattan for work, reminiscent of the escape scenes from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and the blackout of 2003.

    They entered an island sharply divided between those who had power and those who did not.

    In Manhattan at night, it was possible to walk downtown along an avenue and move in an instant from a mostly normal New York scene - delis open, people milling outside bars - into a pitch-black cityscape, with police flares marking intersections.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Watch: Facade of NYC Building Collapses During Superstorm

    People who did have power took to social media to offer help to neighbors.

    "I have power and hot water. If anyone needs a shower or to charge some gadgets or just wants to bask in the beauty of artificial light, hit me up," Rob Hart of Staten Island posted on Facebook.

    A respected New York steakhouse in the blackout zone, Old Homestead, realized its meat was going to go bad and decided to grill what was left and sell steaks on the sidewalk for $10. A center-cut sirloin usually goes for $47.

    Simon Massey and his 9-year-old son, Henry, took one last walk near their powerless apartment in downtown Manhattan before decamping to a friend's place in Brooklyn where the electricity worked.

    "We're jumping ship," he said. "We gorged on eggs and sausage this morning before everything goes bad. We don't want to spend another three or four days here."

    They live on the 10th floor of a 32-floor building, where they were flushing the toilet with water from their filled tub and cooking on their gas stove. They found their way down the stairs with glowsticks and flashlights, and rationed iPad and phone use.

    "I'm feeling scared," said Henry, who was home from third grade for a third straight day. "It just feels really, really weird. New York's not supposed to be this quiet."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    Updated Wednesday, Oct. 31, 10:47 a.m.


    Superstorm Sandy grounded more than 18,000 flights across the Northeast and the globe, and it will take days before travel gets back to normal.

    According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, more than 7,000 flights were canceled on Tuesday alone, with traffic resuming slowly on Wednesday. Delays rippled across the U.S., affecting travelers in cities from San Francisco to Atlanta. Some passengers attempting to fly out of Europe and Asia also were stuck.

    Authorities closed the three big New York airports because of the storm. New York has the nation's busiest airspace, so cancellations there can dramatically affect travel in other cities.

    It was possible that John F. Kennedy airport would re-open for flights on Wednesday, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It wasn't known when the LaGuardia and Newark, N.J. airports would reopen.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Twitter Captures the Megastorm
    Flying began to resume at other airports. Delta restarted flying from Boston and Washington Dulles and Reagan on Tuesday. Airline spokesman Morgan Durrant said it would resume domestic flights from JFK on Wednesday. Service was slowly returning to Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

    Traffic from Europe and Asia to the East Coast was beginning to resume.

    Air France is scheduled to fly again from Paris to New York and Washington on Wednesday, subject to the reopening of the airports there. It resumed flights to Boston the day before. However, ten of 13 scheduled flights between Spain and the U.S. east coast were canceled Wednesday.

    Traffic from Tokyo's Narita International Airport to New York and to Washington, D.C., resumed as of Wednesday morning. From Tokyo's Haneda airport, the JAL/American Airlines flight to and from New York was cancelled.

    Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific, which canceled seven flights to Kennedy airport through Wednesday, said service would resume Thursday.

    South Korean airlines Korean Air and Asiana Airlines said they will resume normal service to East Coast cities starting late Wednesday or Thursday.

    Travelers stuck overseas made the best of the delays they faced.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mapping the Megastorm - Track it Live
    Peter and Sheryl Knight were scheduled to fly home to Washington from Hong Kong on Wednesday, but their Cathay Pacific Airways flight via New York's Kennedy airport was canceled. The airline put them on a flight for Chicago on Thursday, where they would board another flight home.

    The delay gave them an extra day to enjoy Hong Kong, Knight said.

    "We're very anxious to get back and were very much hoping that the flight would be on time, but once we learned it was delayed and once we learned our delay would be only one day - Hong Kong's not a bad place to be for another day," said Knight.

    Hurricane Sandy converged with a cold-weather system and slammed into New Jersey on Monday evening with 80 mph winds. The monstrous hybrid of rain and high wind - and even snow in some mountainous inland areas - has killed more than three dozen people in the U.S.

    Airlines anticipated the storm's impact and began canceling flights on Saturday. By Tuesday they had scrapped more than 18,000.

    In years past, airlines would have operated many of those flights - and left airplanes and crews stranded in the wrong cities when a blizzard or thunderstorm shut things down.

    But airlines have gotten aggressive about canceling because it makes restarting flights easier.

    "It's kind of like dominoes - when one aircraft is out of place, it means the flight crew is out of place, and that has a ripple effect throughout the rest of the day," said Lance Sherry, who runs the Center for Air Transportation Systems Research at George Mason University.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Watch: Facade of NYC Building Collapses During Superstorm

    The number of cancellations from Sandy was roughly on par with other major storms that airlines deal with. A major winter storm in early 2011 caused 14,000 cancellations over four days.

    Airlines face a large task in getting things back to normal. Workers had to clear garbage and downed tree limbs from runways at JFK. Water was on the runway at LaGuardia, according to a letter from United CEO Jeff Smisek to workers. At one point, some airlines hoped to restart some New York flights by late Tuesday, but that idea went out the window right along with the travel plans of their passengers.

    Flooded roads and closed subways will keep some workers from the airport. Reservations workers at other airports and at call centers are busy dealing with stranded passengers.

    Some travelers hunkered down and waited, while others looked for a new way home.

    Orbitz said car rates jumped 14 percent in New York from last week. Rates jumped even higher in Boston and Washington, including a 50 percent spike in Philadelphia.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Tidal Surge Overruns Two NJ Towns with Floodwaters

    Orbitz said hotel room rates rose 55 percent in Newark, where cancellations accelerated earlier than other New York-area airports. They rose 9 percent in one week in Washington, but fell 8 percent in Boston and New York City.

    Some travelers figured they could do better the further away they got from the coast.

    Wedding photographer Josh Saran was in Washington D.C. to shoot a Saturday wedding. His Southwest flight home to Seattle was canceled, so he rented a car and headed toward Columbus, Ohio. When snow closed the highway, he turned his rented Chevy Aveo toward Pittsburgh to catch a US Airways flight.

    "I have a really loving and smart girlfriend in Seattle that sits in front of a computer and calls the airlines and sees where I can go," he said.

    Airline reservations systems are so complex that one department might cancel a flight even while a reservations worker is trying to shift a traveler onto that same flight, said Joe Brancatelli, a travel expert who runs a newsletter for business travelers.

    Travelers don't have any choice but to be patient, he said.

    "Where are they gonna go? They hate United today, they go to Delta next week," he said. "Delta screws them, they go to American, and then it's a big circle."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    A patient is wheeled to an ambulance in the rain during an evacuation of New York University Tisch Medical on Tuesday in New York. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

    NEW YORK (AP) - Evoking harrowing memories of Hurricane Katrina, 300 patients were evacuated floor by floor from a premier hospital that lost generator power at the height of superstorm Sandy.

    Rescuers and staff at New York University Langone Medical Center, some making 10 to 15 trips down darkened stairwells, began their mission Monday night, the youngest and sickest first, finishing about 15 hours later.

    Among the first out were 20 babies in neonatal intensive care, some on battery-powered respirators.

    "Everyone here is a hero," Dr. Bernard Birnbaum, a senior vice president at Tisch Hospital, the flagship at the NYU medical complex, told exhausted crews as he released all but essential employees late Tuesday morning. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

    More than two dozen ambulances from around the city lined up around the lower Manhattan block near the East River to transport the sick to Mount Sinai Hospital, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, St. Luke's Hospital, New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Long Island Jewish Hospital.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Twitter Captures the Megastorm
    Margaret Chu, 36, of Manhattan, gave birth to a son, Cole, shortly before noon Monday.

    "Then, a couple of hours later, things got a little hairy. The electricity started to flicker and the windows got shaky," she said from LIJ's Lenox Hill, where she was transported after backup generators failed and NYU was plunged into darkness.

    Chu, accompanied by husband Gregory Prata, was able to walk 13 flights into a waiting ambulance with help from staff and first responders lighting the way by flashlight. She said other women who had given birth during the storm were carried down on sleigh-like gurneys.

    "Everybody was pretty calm. I would call it organized chaos," she said.

    Meanwhile, other New York hospitals canceled outpatient appointments and elective surgeries. And several closed and evacuated patients, including New York Downtown Hospital, a Manhattan campus of the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System and other NYU-affiliated facilities. Coney Island Hospital was evacuating Tuesday afternoon.

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg was clearly angry about the NYU Medical Center crisis when he addressed reporters late Monday, saying hospital officials had assured the city they had working backup power.

    Last year, NYU evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irene on the order of city officials, spokeswoman Allison Clair said. "This year we were not told to evacuate by the city."

    Without power, there are no elevators so patients - some of whom were being treated for cancer and other serious illnesses - were carefully carried down staircases. As the evacuation began, gusts of wind blew their blankets while nurses and other staff huddled around the sick on gurneys, some holding IVs and other equipment.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mapping the Megastorm - Track it Live
    Luz Martinez, 42, of Roosevelt Island off midtown Manhattan in the East River, was home recuperating from a cesarean section when she got her first inkling that her 3-week-old daughter was being transferred out of NYU's neonatal intensive care unit.

    The baby, Emma, had been born prematurely. Martinez had been calling the hospital for regular updates but at one point Monday night, the phones were busy every time she called. Then she heard Bloomberg on television talking about the evacuation and soon after lost power at home.

    "I went crazy. I wanted to come to the hospital," Martinez said.

    She and her husband hopped in the car but could find no way into Manhattan because of storm damage and bridge closings. That's when NYU called her on her cellphone to say Emma was being taken to Mount Sinai.

    But the terrified parents couldn't get there, either. They called Mount Sinai through the wee hours for regular updates and finally reached their baby around noon Tuesday.

    "It was a nightmare," Martinez said by phone. "I've been doing a lot of crying."

    Emma is doing fine. Martinez praised the staff at both hospitals. "They all handled everything as smoothly as they could," she said.

    NYU sent home about 100 of its 400 patients earlier Monday to lighten its load, starting the evacuation of the remaining 300 patients at about 7:30 p.m. when backup generators began to fail, Clair said. There were no injuries during relocation.

    The scene was reminiscent of hospital evacuations in New Orleans after Katrina, with patients being carried down stairs on stretchers because elevators were out, and nurses squeezing oxygen bags for them because of lack of power to run breathing machines.

    The difference is that in New Orleans, patients were trapped in flooded hospitals; in New York, dozens of ambulances could get through to move patients to safety.

    The hospital blamed the severity of Sandy and the higher-than-expected storm surge that flooded its basement but had little else to say beyond a short statement emailed to reporters after the evacuation was complete.

    "At this time, we are focusing on assessing the full extent of the storm's impact on all of our patient care, research and education facilities," the statement said.

    Most of the power outages in lower Manhattan, where the NYU hospital complex is located, were due to an explosion at an electrical substation, Consolidated Edison said. It wasn't clear whether flooding or flying debris caused the explosion, said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Con Edison.

    At NYU, sporadic telephone service made it difficult for the hospital to notify relatives where patients were taken. It relied instead on receiving hospitals to notify families.

    Until the generators failed, Chu considered herself and her new baby out of harm's way. By the time she was evacuated, the streets were eerily silent and the night sky lit up by emergency lights of waiting ambulances.

    "My son will appreciate this someday," she said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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    This photo made available by the New Jersey Governor's Office shows damage to the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J., on Tuesday. (AP Photo/New Jersey Governor's Office, Tim Larsen)

    Hurricane Sandy, after killing at least 69 people in the Caribbean, streamed northward, merged with two wintry weather systems and socked the U.S. Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes with wind, waves, rain and snow. Some figures associated with Sandy's rampage through the U.S., as of Tuesday evening:

    - Maximum size of storm: 1,000 miles across

    - Highest storm surge: 13.88 feet, at New York

    - Number of states seeing intense effects of the storm: At least 17

    - Deaths: At least 55

    - Damage: Estimated property losses at $20 billion, ranking the storm among the most expensive U.S. disasters

    - Top wind gust on land in the U.S.: 140 mph, at Mount Washington, New Hampshire.

    - Power outages at peak: More than 8.5 million

    - Canceled airline flights: More than 18,100

    - Most rainfall: 12.55 inches, at Easton, Maryland

    - Most snow: 28 inches, at Redhouse, Maryland

    - Evacuation zone: Included communities in more than 400 miles of coastline from Ocean City, Maryland, to Dartmouth, Massachusetts

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Rare Superstorm Slams East Coast

     

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