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    Many streets in the Silver Lake section of Belmar, N.J., were still underwater Saturday. AP Photo

    With coastal communities in New York and New Jersey still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, the last thing the area needs is another storm. But that's exactly what it might get.

    A nor'easter is predicted to potentially hit the East Coast next Wednesday (Nov. 7), and beach erosion experts are concerned about further damage to shorelines devastated by Sandy.

    As Sandy came ashore, its record surge and pounding waves tore apart or eroded hundreds of miles of dunes and protective sea walls along the East Coast. Hundreds of homes and buildings, which also provided some protection, were destroyed.

    The lack of protective dunes and damage to sea walls could lead to lowland flooding near the coast, depending on the wind direction and storm surge from the new storm, even one that isn't expected to approach Sandy's strength.

    "The beaches and sand dunes are the first line of defense for coastal communities against storm surge and waves. They're going to take the first brunt of the storms," said Hilary Stockdon, a research oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va. [Infograpic: Timeline of Sandy's Week of Destruction]

    First line of defense

    Many of the sandy beaches along the Atlantic Coast have become increasingly vulnerable to significant impacts due to erosion during past storms, including Hurricanes Ida (2009) and Irene (2011), as well as large storms in 2005 and 2007, according to the USGS.

    Stockdon said Sandy caused extensive erosion to beaches and dunes. The USGS and other agencies are now running aerial and ground surveys to assess the damage.

    "There are dunes that have been eroded away completely, so now their protection is gone," Stockdon told OurAmazingPlanet. "That will make these communities more vulnerable to future storms that may not be as strong."

    Quick repair and restoration of the coast could be essential to minimizing damage from future storms, whether the one currently brewing or any others that could develop later in the winter. In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation is issuing emergency permits for storm-related repairs in coastal areas and wetlands.

    Natural repair weakened

    Farther north, front-end loaders are already pushing sand back onto the beach, said Greg Berman, a coastal geologist with the Woods Hole Institute Sea Grant program in Falmouth, Mass.

    During powerful storms like Sandy, surging waves throw sand up and over the beach, where it remains stuck. The beach can't restore itself without access to sand. However, this is also a natural process; beaches aren't stationary, and their location migrates with time, Berman told OurAmazingPlanet. "When you push it back onto the beach, you're circumventing that migration, and it gets harder and harder to do over time," he said.

    Sandy's late October arrival also increased coastal vulnerability by removing sand that had been naturally stored offshore for summer beach replenishment, Berman said. During the winter, sand is stored in sandbars and comes back in the summer. "After Sandy, instead of going into a nor'easter system at our best, we're going into it at a weakened condition," Berman said.

    Election night downpour

    The new storm's path is predicted to move from the Southeast Tuesday night into New Jersey on Wednesday, said Brian McNoldy, a weather researcher at the University of Miami.

    "It looks like your average Nor'easter that comes in off the coast," he told OurAmazingPlanet. The forecast is from the same European computer model that eyeballed the projected path of Hurricane Sandy. Its precise strength and route is still uncertain, but the storm will be nowhere near the level of Sandy's tropical-force winds.

    Coastal communities hit by the Frankenstorm will see strong onshore winds and waves, though whether the storm will come on land or stay out at sea is still uncertain.

    "I think by far the worst impact will be the coastal flooding and erosion, and that's a concern regardless of how far off the coast it is. You'll get pretty strong winds and enhanced swells and waves. I think that's looking pretty certain," McNoldy said.

    History of erosion

    Beaches on the East Coast have been steadily eroding for 150 years, according to a USGS report released in February 2011. On average, the beaches in New England and the Mid-Atlanticare losing about 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) per year. The worst erosion case was about 60 feet (18 m) per year at the south end of Hog Island, in southern Virginia.

    According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, Rockaway Beach (on a peninsula in New York City's borough of Queens) was almost completely washed away and the boardwalk was destroyed. Jones Beach (a barrier island off Long Island) was overwashed by ocean. Gilgo Beach's dune system (on Long Island) was almost destroyed, and Ocean Parkway (which runs along the southern end of Long Island) was overwashed. [Video: Sandy's Flooding Aftermath]

    In New Jersey, Long Beach Island, a barrier island and popular vacation spot, sustained severe damage, with boats and cars tossed into streets and several feet of sand piled against houses. The island was evacuated before the storm.

    Before Sandy's landfall, USGS scientists predicted different types of coastal erosion. Collision is when waves attack the base of dunes and cause erosion. Overwash is when waves and water from storm surges rush over dunes and carry sand farther inland. Inundation is when the storm surge floods the beach and dunes.

    --Along the Jersey Shore, where Sandy would make landfall, nearly all - 98 percent - of the coast was very likely to experience beach and dune erosion, 54 percent was very likely to overwash, and 21 percent was very likely to be inundated

    -- The south shore of Long Island, including Fire Island National Seashore, was very likely to experience beach and dune erosion along 93 percent of the coast and overwash was very likely to occur along 12 percent of the sandy coast.

    --On the Delmarva Peninsula, which includes Delaware and parts of Maryland and Virginia, 91 percent of the sandy coast was expected to see beach and dune erosion, 55 percent was very likely to overwash, and there was a high likelihood of inundation on 22 percent.

    Reach Becky Oskin at boskin@techmedianetwork.com. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

    Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Before and After Superstorm Sandy


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    Mecca Traynham and Elena Richardson comb through donated warm and clean clothes, children's toys, and blankets Saturday at a distribution point in the Rockaways section of New York, which was still without power in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

    NEW YORK (AP) - Storm victims went to church Sunday to pray for deliverance as cold weather settling in across the New York metropolitan area - and another drenching in the forecast - added to the misery of people already struggling with gasoline shortages and power outages.

    Hundreds of parishioners in parkas, scarves and boots packed the pews and stood in the aisles for Mass at a chilly Church of St. Rose in storm-ravaged Belmar, N.J., where the floodwaters had receded but the streets were slippery with strong-smelling mud. Firefighters and police officers sat in the front rows and drew applause.

    Roman Catholic Bishop David O'Connell said he had no good answer for why God would allow the destruction that Superstorm Sandy caused.

    But he assured parishioners: "There's more good, and there's more joy, and there's more happiness in life than there is the opposite. And it will be back. And we will be back."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 'What Can I Do?' New Yorkers Band Together to Help

    With temperatures dipping into the 30s overnight and close to 700,000 homes and businesses in New York City, its northern suburbs and Long Island still without electricity six days after the storm, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that many homes are becoming uninhabitable and that tens of thousands of people are going to need other places to stay.

    Over the weekend, the city opened warming shelters in areas without power and Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged elderly people without heat to move to them. The city also began handing out 25,000 blankets to those who insisted on staying in their homes.

    "Please, I know sometimes people are reticent to take advantage of services. The cold really is something that is dangerous," Bloomberg said.

    Staten Island resident Sara Zavala had no power and was relying on a propane heater, but she was using it only during the day. She didn't want to go to sleep with it running at night.

    "When I woke up, I was like, 'It's freezing.' And I thought, 'This can't go on too much longer,'" Zavala said. "And whatever this is we're breathing in, it can't be good for you. Mildew and chemicals and gasoline."

    A rainy storm was in the forecast for the middle of the week, worrying those who got slammed by Sandy.

    "Well, the first storm flooded me out, and my landlord tells me there's a big crack in the ceiling, so I guess there's a chance this storm could do more damage," John Lewis said at a shelter in New Rochelle, N.Y. "I was hoping to get back in there sooner rather than later, but it doesn't look good."

    After the abrupt cancellation of Sunday's New York City Marathon, some of those who had been planning to run the 26.2-mile race through the city streets instead headed to hard-hit Staten Island to volunteer to help storm victims.

    Thousands of other runners from such countries as Italy, Germany and Spain poured into Central Park to hold impromptu races of their own. A little more than four laps through the park amounted to a marathon.

    "A lot of people just want to finish what they've started," said Lance Svendsen, organizer of a group called Run Anyway.

    Though New York and New Jersey bore the brunt of the destruction, at its peak, the storm reached 1,000 miles across, killed more than 100 people in 10 states, knocked out power to 8.5 million homes and businesses and canceled nearly 20,000 flights. Damage has been estimated $50 billion, making Sandy the second most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina.

    More than 900,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey were still without electricity.

    With fuel deliveries cut off by storm damage and many metropolitan-area gas stations lacking the electricity needed to operate their pumps, drivers waited in line for hours for a chance at a fill-up, snapping at each other and honking their horns in frustration.

    At a gas station in Mount Vernon, N.Y., north of New York City, 62 cars were lined up around the block Sunday morning even though it was closed and had no fuel.

    "I heard they might be getting a delivery. So I came here and I'm waiting," said the first driver in line, Earl Tuck. He had been there at least two hours by 9 a.m., and there was no delivery truck in sight. But he said he would stick it out.

    The cashier at the station, Ahmed Nawaz, said he wasn't sure when the pumps might be running again. "We are expecting a delivery. But yesterday we weren't expecting one, and we got one. So I don't know," he said.

    Bloomberg said that resolving the gas shortages could take days. Across northern New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie imposed odd-even gas rationing that recalled the gasoline crisis of the 1970s.

    Fears of crime, especially at night in darkened neighborhoods, persisted. Officers in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island early Saturday saw a man in a Red Cross jacket checking the front doors of unoccupied houses and arrested him on a burglary charge.

    After complaints about people posing as utility workers to gain access to people's homes, police on Long Island reminded residents that most repair work will be done outside so legitimate workers usually have no need to enter a home.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Before and After Superstorm Sandy


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    Hurricane Sandy churns over coastal Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina in this Oct. 30 image from NASA's Suomi NPP weather satellite.

    In sheer power, Hurricane Sandy ranks second among modern hurricanes, beating even Hurricane Katrina, according to Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

    Out in the Atlantic Ocean, Sandy was the most energetic tropical cyclone in history, thanks to its massive wind field.

    Once Sandy ramped up to a Category 1 hurricane and slammed into New Jersey, the storm's integrated kinetic energy was second only to Hurricane Isabel in 2003, McNoldy wrote in a blog post.

    "It stood out to me that this was a pretty unique case of a rather weak storm as wind speeds go, but huge on the impact scale," McNoldy told OurAmazingPlanet.

    Integrated kinetic energy (IKE) is a new scale designed to better convey the destructive power from both a hurricane's wind and storm surge. It's a measure of the wind speed integrated over how wide an area the winds are blowing. The U.S. government patented IKE in 2007. The Saffir-Simpson Scale, used by the National Weather Service, only reports top wind speeds

    The IKE scale helps explain why Hurricane Sandy, which quickly weakened after landfall, created such widespread flooding and damage, McNoldy wrote. The storm surge, combined with a full moon and high tide, affected hundreds of miles of highly populated coastline. The metric also incorporates the storm's enormous size: The wind field was so large that tropical storm force winds (45 mph) extended 485 miles out from the center at landfall. (Out at sea, the wind field reached a maximum extent of 520 miles)

    In modern records, Sandy's IKE ranks second among all hurricanes at landfall, higher than devastating storms like Hurricane Katrina, Andrew and Hugo, and second only to Hurricane Isabel in 2003, McNoldy calculated.

    Sandy's IKE was more than 140 Terajoules, meaning it generated more than twice the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, McNoldy wrote. At any given moment, many hurricanes contain more energy than an atomic bomb in their surface winds alone, he wrote.

    Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

    Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Before and After Superstorm Sandy


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    A Feb. 22, 2005, funnel cloud hovers over the Pacific Ocean off Venice Beach in Los Angeles. AP Photo.

    In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, researchers in California are grappling with their own questions about increasingly extreme weather.

    The Pacific Ocean isn't warm enough to produce a superstorm like Sandy on the West Coast, researchers say, but climate change could give rise to more frequent severe storms in the region.

    "We can see very big storms, and there are a couple of issues related to climate change to think about," said Roger Bales, director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI) at the University of California, Merced. Winter snowstorms, for example, help build up the snowpack in the mountains, which the state depends on for its year-round water supply.

    "But if you warm the climate, those storms become rain events - there's more immediate runoff, less water storage, and the rain will actually melt some of the existing snowpack," Bales said.

    The state already sees a handful of major snowstorms over California's mountains each winter. A series of such storms, however, could unleash destructive flooding and landslides in the state.

    "It's not uncommon during the winter, at least once, that we will see storms coming off the Pacific and drop more than 100 inches of snow in the mountains over short durations," Robert Rice, a researcher with SNRI, said in a statement Thursday. "That could translate into 10 inches of precipitable water - numbers similar to what they're measuring in Hurricane Sandy."

    Scientists are also concerned with "atmospheric rivers" like the so-called Pineapple Express, which drives moisture across from Hawaii to the West Coast and can produce severe, localized damage.

    "We have very large storms that cross into California and affect our region - not with the same widespread damage as Hurricane Sandy, but with water and wind that are comparable to hurricanes and tornados," Rice said.

    The SNRI researchers have advocated for a monitoring system to observe snowpack statewide, which they say would help control California's water resources more efficiently.

    Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

  • Hurricane Sandy: Photos of a Frankenstorm
  • The Reality of Climate Change: 10 Myths Busted
  • 8 Ways Global Warming Is Already Changing the World

  • Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Before and After Superstorm Sandy


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    Worshippers listen to a Sunday service by Diocese of Trenton American Roman Catholic Bishop David M. O'Connell at the Church of Saint Rose in Belmar, N.J., where many are still without power. AP Photo.

    NEW YORK (AP) - Shivering victims of Superstorm Sandy went to church Sunday to pray for deliverance as cold weather settling in across the New York metropolitan region - and another powerful storm forecast for the middle of the week - added to their misfortunes and deepened the gloom.

    With overnight temperatures sinking into the 30s and hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses still without electricity, New York City officials handed out blankets and urged people to go to temporary warming shelters set up during the day at senior citizen centers.

    At the same time, government leaders began to grapple with a daunting, longer-term problem: where to find housing for the tens of thousands of people whose homes could be uninhabitable for weeks or months because of a combination of storm damage and cold weather.

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 30,000 to 40,000 New Yorkers may need to be relocated - a monumental task in a city where housing is scarce and fiercely expensive - though he said that number would probably drop to 20,000 within a couple of weeks as power is restored in more places.

    RELATED ON SKYE: California Also Worries About Extreme Weather After Sandy

    In a heavily flooded Staten Island neighborhood, Sara Zavala spent the night under two blankets and layers of clothing because the power was out. She had a propane heater but turned it on for only a couple of hours in the morning. She did not want to sleep with it running at night.

    "When I woke up, I was like, 'It's freezing.' And I thought, 'This can't go on too much longer,'" said Zavala, a nursing home admissions coordinator.

    On a basketball court flanked by powerless apartment buildings in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, volunteers for the city handed out bagels, diapers, water, blankets and other necessities. Genice Josey filled a garbage bag until it was bulging.

    "Nights are the worst because you feel like you're outside when you're inside," said Josey, who sleeps under three blankets and wears longjohns under her pajamas. "You shiver yourself to sleep." She added: "It's like we're going back to barbaric times where we had to go find food and clothing and shelter."

    Six days after Sandy slammed into the New Jersey coastline in an assault that killed more than 100 people in 10 states, gasoline shortages persisted across the region, though odd-even rationing got under way in northern New Jersey in an echo of the gas crises of the 1970s. More than 900,000 homes and businesses were still without power in New Jersey, and nearly 700,000 in New York City, its northern suburbs and Long Island.

    With more subways running and most city schools reopening on Monday, large swaths of the city were getting back to something resembling normal. But the coming week could bring new challenges, namely an Election Day without power in hundreds of polling places, and a nor'easter expected hit the area by Wednesday, with the potential for 55 mph gusts and more beach erosion, flooding and rain.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Nor'easter Could Bring Wind, Rain to Battered Region

    "Well, the first storm flooded me out, and my landlord tells me there's a big crack in the ceiling, so I guess there's a chance this storm could do more damage," John Lewis said at a shelter in New Rochelle, N.Y. "I was hoping to get back in there sooner rather than later, but it doesn't look good."

    Voting machines in hundreds of locations will be operating on generator power, some polling stations are being moved and there are likely to be delays in reporting election results in a few closely contested races because of extended deadlines for counting ballots cast by mail.

    Churchgoers packed the pews Sunday in parkas, scarves and boots and looked for solace in faith.

    At the chilly Church of St. Rose in Belmar, N.J., its streets still slippery with foul-smelling mud, Roman Catholic Bishop David O'Connell assured parishioners: "There's more good, and there's more joy, and there's more happiness in life than there is the opposite. And it will be back."

    In the heart of the Staten Island disaster zone, the Rev. Steve Martino of Movement Church headed a volunteer effort that had scores of people delivering supplies in grocery carts and cleaning out ruined homes. Around midday, the work stopped, and volunteer and victim alike bowed their heads in prayer.

    In the crowd was Stacie Piacentino. After a singularly difficult week, she said, "it's good to feel God again."

    After the abrupt cancellation of Sunday's New York City Marathon, some of those who had been planning to run the 26.2-mile race through the city streets instead volunteered their time, handing out toothbrushes, batteries, sweatshirts and others supplies on Staten Island.

    Thousands of other athletes from around the world ran anyway inside Central Park, where a little more than four laps around it amounted to a marathon. "A lot of people just want to finish what they've started," said Lance Svendsen, organizer of a group called Run Anyway.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York state is facing "a massive, massive housing problem" for those whose neighborhoods or buildings are in such bad shape that they won't have power for weeks or months.

    "I don't know that anybody has ever taken this number of people and found housing for them overnight," Bloomberg said. "We don't have a lot of empty housing in this city," he added. "We're not going to let anybody go sleeping in the streets. ... But it's a challenge, and we're working on it."

    The mayor and the governor gave no details of where and how the victims might be housed. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita smashed the Gulf Coast in 2005, hundreds of thousands of victims were put up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in trailers, hotels, cruise ships and apartments across several states for months and even years.

    On Staten Island, emergency management officials distributed leaflets urging people to take shelter from the cold. But "people are apprehensive and don't want to leave their houses. It's a definite problem," said Fred Melendez, who helped run a shelter at Tottenville High School that was nearly empty of storm victims Sunday afternoon.

    Fearing looters, Nick Veros and his relatives were hoping to hold out in their storm-damaged Staten Island home until power was restored. He figured the indoor temperature would plunge into the 40s.

    "If we get two consecutive below-freezing days, I'm probably going to have to drain the water out of the pipes," he said, "and then we'll have to get out of the house."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Before and After Superstorm Sandy


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    Updated Monday, Nov. 5, 4:26 p.m. ET
    Breaking Weather: Nor'easter Looms

    POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. (AP) - A week after Superstorm Sandy pummeled the East Coast, wiping out entire communities, residents were bracing for yet another potentially damaging storm.

    A nor'easter taking shape Monday in the Gulf of Mexico was expected to begin its march up the coast, eventually passing within 50 to 100 miles of the wounded New Jersey coastline on Wednesday. The storm was expected to bring winds of up to 55 mph, coastal flooding, up to 2 inches of rain along the shore, and several inches of snow to Pennsylvania and New York.

    One of the biggest fears was that the storm could bring renewed flooding to parts of the shore where Sandy wiped out natural beach defenses and protective dunes.

    "It's going to impact areas many areas that were devastated by Sandy. It will not be good," said Bruce Terry, the lead forecaster for the National Weather Service.

    Some communities were considering again evacuating neighborhoods that were hit hard by Sandy and where residents had only recently been allowed to return. No town had made a final decision to do so as of mid-afternoon Monday.

    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided against a new round of evacuations.

    "When Sandy was coming in, all the signs said that we were going to have a very dangerous, damaging storm, and I ordered a mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas, something that a lot of people don't like to hear," he said. "In this case, we don't think that it merits that. It is a different kind of storm; the wind is coming from a different direction."

    In Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., Laura DiPasquale was frantically going through dozens of black plastic trash bags that volunteers had stuffed full of her household belongings and brought to the curb, trying to make sure nothing she intended to keep had gotten tossed out with debris like waterlogged drywall. Already, she had found treasured Christmas ornaments amid the detritus.

    "I don't know where anything is; I can't even find my checkbook," she said. "I have no idea what's in any of these bags. And now another storm is coming and I feel enormous pressure. I don't know if I can do this again. It is so overwhelming."

    People were advising DiPasquale to just let go of most of the stuff in the bags.

    "I found an ornament that says 'Baby's First Christmas.' People said, 'Laura, you don't need that,'" she said. "Yes, I do need that. I'll wash it, or I'll sanitize it, or I'll boil it if I have to. Money means nothing to me. Sentimental stuff is everything."

    The new storm was expected to move up the coast Tuesday, past Georgia and South Carolina. By Wednesday morning, it was expected to be off Virginia or Cape Hatteras, N.C.

    Terry said the storm could slow down somewhat once it gets off the New Jersey coast, meaning its effects could linger. They include rain, high winds and tidal surges, although less than those that accompanied Sandy.

    Coastal flood and high wind watches were in effect for parts of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

    On Staten Island in New York City, Irina Vainauskas and her husband survived Sandy even as water reached the third step of the staircase from their living room to their second floor. They went upstairs with food, water and their cats.

    They're prepared to do it again, if necessary.

    "Of course we're concerned, but we're just tired to be afraid and to think about everything," she said in her ravaged living room.

    "We're survivors. We're from the former Soviet Union," she added. "If we survive the Soviet Union, we will survive this storm, too."

    Marilyn Skillender was picking through the pile of her belongings at the curb of her home about two blocks from the ocean in Point Pleasant Beach, worrying about the next storm. She instantly flashed back to a December 1992 nor'easter that pummeled the Jersey shore over two days with widespread flooding and property damage. Her house was inundated in that storm, too.

    "Our defenses are down now," she said. "As bad as last week was, if we get new damage, where are they gonna put all the new stuff that's wrecked? If this debris starts floating around, how will we be able to move? All that sand they plowed away, if it comes back again, I don't even want to think about it."

    Jim Mauro was one of the few professing not to be overly concerned about the impending nor'easter. A house he owned in Mantoloking was literally wiped off the map by Sandy last week. It wound up in Barnegat Bay.

    "What more can it do?" he asked. "I mean, the house is literally gone, right down to the bare sand where it used to be."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 20 Images of Strength, Hope and Gratitude After Sandy


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    NEW YORK (AP) - Commuters streaming into New York City on Monday endured long waits and crowded trains, giving the recovering transit system a stress test a week after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the New Jersey and New York coast lines.

    Trains were so crowded Monday on the Long Island Rail Road that dozens of people missed their trains. With PATH trains between New Jersey and Manhattan still out, lines for the ferry in Jersey City quickly stretched to several hundred people by daybreak.

    One commuter in line pleaded into his cellphone, "Can I please work from home? This is outrageous," but many more took the complicated commute as just another challenge after a difficult week.

    "There's not much we can do. We'll get there whatever time we can, and our jobs have to understand. It's better late than absent," said Louis Holmes of Bayonne, as he waited to board a ferry in Jersey City to his job as a security guard at Manhattan's Sept. 11 memorial site.

    The good news in New York City was that, unlike last week, service on key subway lines connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn under the East River had been restored. But officials warned that other water-logged tunnels still weren't ready for Monday's rush hour and that fewer-than-normal trains were running - a recipe for a difficult commute.

    On Long Island, Janice Gholson could not get off her train from Ronkonkoma and Wyandanch because of overcrowding, and ended up overshooting her stop.

    "I've never taken the train before. There were people blocking the doorway so I got stuck on the train," she said.

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the subway to work Monday. He was joined by many of the students returning to class in the nation's largest school system. About 90 percent of the 1,700 schools reopened for the first time since Sandy hit last Monday, the mayor said.

    "You don't really realize how important a routine is until you're out of one," said 17-year-old Anna Riley-Shepard of the Upper West Side as she waited for her yellow school bus to her private school in the Bronx, usually a 15- to 20-minute trip.

    Repair crews have been laboring around-the-clock in response to the worst natural disaster in the transit system's 108-year history, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota said Sunday.

    "We are in uncharted territory with bringing this system back because of the amount of damage and saltwater in our system," Lhota said. "It's an old system ... and it's just had a major accident."

    World Trade Center steam fitter Scott Sire got to Manhattan on time, at 6:05 a.m. off a regular Academy bus that took him from home in Hazlet, N.J., in 40 minutes. He normally takes a PATH train, but it's not running.

    "Every day gets a little bit better," said the 49-year-old worker. "But we had a setback last night; we lost power, again, after a transformer blew - and the Cowboys lost, just after our lights went out!"

    The MTA planned to take the unusual step of using flatbed trucks to deliver 20 subway cars to the hard-hit Far Rockaway section of Queens and set up a temporary shuttle line.

    Sandy - which killed more than 100 people in 10 states, caused massive power outages and left tens of thousands in need of emergency housing - also created a fuel shortage that has forced New Jersey to enforce odd-even rationing for motorists. But there was no rationing in New York City, where the search for gas became a maddening scavenger hunt over the weekend.

    Manhattan doorman Iver Sanchez, who lives in Queens, waited at an Upper West Side gas station for three hours and still had a long line of cars ahead of him.

    "If I don't get gas today, I won't be able to get any for the rest of the week," he said.

    In New Jersey, Monday promised to begin the return to some everyday activities. About half the school districts reported they will reopen and New Jersey Transit said it would have more train and bus service restored in time for the workweek. Philadelphia's transit authority loaned 31 buses that New Jersey Transit planned to use to support shuttle service for commuters traveling to New York City.

    The coming week could bring other challenges - namely an Election Day without power in polling places, and a nor'easter expected hit the area by Wednesday, with the potential for 55 mph gusts and more beach erosion, flooding and rain.

    In New York, power has been restored to nearly 80 percent of its customers who were blacked out in the storm, but efforts to get everyone back on line could be hampered by more wet, windy weather.

    "Restoration crews love blue sky days," said John Miksad, Con Edison's senior vice president of electric operations. "When the wind gets high and the weather gets ugly ... It just slows things down."

    The weather forecast was more bad news for people still without power and other necessities.

    In Far Rockaway Sunday, on a basketball court flanked by powerless apartment buildings, emergency volunteers handed out bagels, diapers, water and blankets. Organizers said several hundred people had come through the playground distribution center.

    Genice Josey made sure to fill her bulging garbage bag with a blanket now the nights are getting frigid.

    "Nights are the worst because you feel like you're outside when you're inside," she said. "You shiver yourself to sleep."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Before and After Superstorm Sandy


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    Heavily damaged, the Matisse restaurant is seen near the broken boardwalk on Sunday in Belmar, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - "We are tied to the ocean," an avid sailor and president named John F. Kennedy once said. "And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch, we are going back from whence we came."

    Humans have an affinity for water. It is in the genetic makeup of a species first nurtured in the watery womb. We evolved, scientists tell us, from the primordial deep. In America, it is clear: We instinctively find comfort where water flows over the earth.

    But in these recent jumbled days, the collapsed houses, flooded subway tunnels and washed-out roads left in Superstorm Sandy's wake remind us once again: Our deep-seated human desire to be near the water - to be attracted and comforted by it, to build alongside it and crave its attractions - has an undeniable dark side.

    Whether it is Sandy, the unprecedented winds and floods of Katrina that wiped away much of New Orleans or rivers overflowing their banks after torrential rains in a small upstate New York community, the joy of living near the water is often counterbalanced by the increasing devastation water can bring.

    "The water surrounding some of our cities is starting to be a liability," says Daniel Stokols, the chancellor's professor at the School of Social Ecology at the University of California-Irvine.

    We know that - at least, many of us do. We see the scientists show us ample data that the planet is warming, oceans are rising and weather is becoming more volatile. Yet still we are fiercely attracted to the water. And after disaster, wisely or not, we rebuild beside it, be it in New Orleans, on the New Jersey coast or in Binghamton, N.Y.

    Contractors were busy during the weekend repairing the home of Jay Shaw in Westport, Conn., after Sandy blew through. His colonial house, a picturesque Long Island Sound and lighthouse view, suffered an estimated half-million dollars damage. But he wasn't complaining.

    "It sort of goes with the territory," he said. "I just sort of expect every five years to have a week of disaster to deal with."

    The weekend also found rocker Jon Bon Jovi singing in a concert to raise money for Sandy's victims and saying this: "The entire Jersey Shore that I knew is gone." Already there was wide talk of rebuilding - and ample cautions that what rises again may be far different than what existed before.

    Almost a quarter century ago, people said similar things after Charleston's quaint alleys and quiet gardens were ravaged by Hurricane Hugo, a Category 4 storm that tossed boats into piles like toys, broke houses on the barrier islands into matchsticks and left residents in the dark for weeks.

    Now bigger, plusher vacation homes line many of the streets on those palmetto-shaded islands, and among the only vestiges of the hurricane are stands of still-broken trees in nearby Francis Marion National Forest.

    Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, leaving 80 percent of the city underwater and killing 1,800 people. Many areas have since been rebuilt, though in poorer neighborhoods, like the 9th Ward, the road to recovery has been far slower. The city's population of about 360,000 is still about 120,000 fewer than before the storm.

    Despite such disasters for many - particularly those who can afford it - water is a place to relax, touch nature and enjoy a side of life that the cubicle and the 9-to-5 commute can't offer.

    The U.S. Travel Association reports that, of the nation's $1.8 trillion travel business, American people hit the road to reach water more than any other reason except to visit relatives or sightsee. In Southern California alone, there are 100 million visits a year to the beach each year.

    The lure of water is why Americans are willing to wait in traffic, sometimes for hours, on stifling summer Fridays to reach the shore or the family lake house. Boating industry figures show Americans own 17 million boats, and 83 million of us went out in a boat last year.

    But while the water itself is the primary attraction, there is more to it than that. There is the culture of the water, too.

    It's walking by the dunes at the Cape Cod National Seashore, riding roller coasters on the Jersey Shore or taking a spin on the Skywheel in Myrtle Beach. It's sticky salt-water taffy and overpriced french fries splashed with acidic malt vinegar. It's the smell of suntan lotion and teenagers wearing T-shirts with suggestive pictures and sayings that will get them kicked out of any high school in America once September rolls back around.

    In the mountains of North Carolina, visitors are lured to the state's hundreds of waterfalls, walking deep into the woods simply to see water falling over weathered rocks. We try to bring water home with radios that play the sound of rushing waves as we fall asleep and are transported to days at the shore simply hearing the Beach Boys sing "Surfin' USA" driving down an interstate in the middle of Tennessee.

    Water seems a reflection of our lives, constantly changing but in ways always the same. Walking the ocean shore at night, one can see in the distant stars unpolluted by the lights of man. Your cellphone signal is often weak or nonexistent, as if civilization extends no farther. You marvel at your place in the universe.

    Man has studied these feelings attracting us to nature. It's a field of research called restorative environment..

    "Natural environments often provide an opportunity to reflect on one's connections to things that are larger than themselves and to natural cycles," Stokols says. "They provide a kind of sense of mystery in a sense that there is a lot of natural beauty and processes that are hard to fathom."

    On average, about 70 percent of our body weight is made up of water. We need water to flush the toxins out of our bodies and to carry nutrients to cells. Mom told us to drink eight glasses of water a day.

    "We all come from salt water on an individual and evolutionary basis," said David Helvarg, president of the ocean advocacy group Blue Frontier Campaign. "There is this deep connection. ... You go to the beach and you're a little kid and you're knocked down by a wave, and you get up amazed and a little scared and for the first time you realize there is this world that is more powerful."

    The story of America is one of European settlers making their livings as fishermen and traders on the coast and entering the wilderness using rivers for roads and the water that supported life. The revolution that built our nation into an economic superpower took root at the river fall lines, where waterfalls comprised the fledging nation's first power grid.

    With modern technology, it's not necessary to live close to water anymore. But most of us do. The Census Bureau tells us that more than half of the American population is clustered within 50 miles of the coasts. And many of the rest of us live near where people originally settled along a river, lake or bay.

    The poet doesn't study such feelings, just tries to get them down on paper.

    "The sight of the ocean always brings me home," South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth wrote in her collection, appropriately entitled "What the Water Gives Me."

    "My childhood was one long day with the sea," she writes. "I even believed that the souls of the dead swam beneath the water until it touched an edge of the sky and became heaven."

    Eloquent words, infused with a darker meaning in the past week for a coastline of Americans still trying to figure out precisely what the water they love has taken from them, and whether things will ever be the same.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Before and After Superstorm Sandy


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    A man cleans mud and debris from his flooded garage in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Thursday, in Little Ferry, N.J. (AP Photo)

    LITTLE FERRY, N.J. (AP) - The lives of the residents of Lamker Court lie in heaps on lawns and curbs.

    A stuffed Shrek doll sits atop a dining room chair. A gas stove rests in a driveway, a washer and dryer nearby. A computer monitor is wedged against a recliner. White couch cushions are piled high. Red and green Monopoly houses form a trail down the street.

    "All I have downstairs is heat," said Loretta Cirillo, 81, whose power was turned back on Saturday. "Everything else is on the front lawn."

    The streets of Little Ferry, a borough of 10,000 people about 7 miles from Manhattan, are lined with black trash bags and once-prized possessions destroyed by a swell of water from Superstorm Sandy that rushed into town late on Oct. 29. Dressers, rugs and children's toys sit outside, ready to be carted away. Neighborhoods smell like must. The hum of pumps fills the air as people try to suck out water that still sits in houses.

    Like the neighboring towns of Carlstadt and Moonachie, also near the Hackensack River, Little Ferry was devastated when six dirt berms broke from the pressure of a tidal surge, sending water rushing into the towns. The water rose five feet in 45 minutes, officials said.

    "It was the worst sound you could ever imagine," said Little Ferry Mayor Mauro Raguseo. "Just water rushing in from everywhere."

    The water also went into Lamker Court.

    It's a place Raguseo knows well. He and his wife moved in to a home earlier this year on the horseshoe-shaped street filled with neat, split-level houses built in the 1960s.

    "My life is on the curb, ready to be picked up by a garbage truck," Raguseo said. "I haven't even had the chance to mourn the loss of my house. Everything I own. I have to be here for the people of my community."

    Many residents have lived on Lamker Court for decades after moving out of New York City and into the epitome of the American dream: houses with yards on a quiet street where kids played cops and robbers after school.

    But there's one thing that long-time residents have never seen: water in a house on Lamker Court.

    "Never. Never. We've been here almost 40 years and not a drop in our house," said Lola Palmerini, 79.

    Palmerini was at home with her husband, Silvano, and son, Cory, when the waters rushed into their yellow aluminum-sided home. Cory was sitting downstairs, reading "The Count of Monte Cristo," when he heard a gurgling. Water started pouring into the house. It swirled up about three feet, destroying the first floor. The family huddled on the second floor. Lola and Silvano were rescued by the National Guard.

    "When is it going to end, this bad dream?" Lola Palmerini said, fighting back tears. She tries to hide her emotions from her husband, who is sick and requires kidney dialysis. "It's a bad dream. I woke up this morning and cried and cried."

    Family photos still hung on the tops of walls where the bottom was knocked out. Two cookbooks written in Italian, sent from Lola's mother in Italy in the 1950s, lay soaked in plastic bags. Crystal glasses sat on the dining room table. Palmerini instructed her son to throw them out.

    "I said throw away everything, because I don't want to see anything," she said.

    Palmerini stood outside her house on a sun-splashed fall afternoon and spoke in Italian with two of her neighbors, Barbara Spadavecchia, 69, and Lucrezia Gagliardi, 72. Gagliardi's husband was cleaning their backyard; Spadavecchia's son was hosing out the garage, which he had just cleaned with bleach. The first floors of each of their houses were empty, the wet contents removed.

    Like others who have owned their homes on Lamker Court for years, the women and their husbands paid off their homes years ago. Because they have no mortgage, they are not required to have flood insurance. And because they all said the street never flooded, they did not opt to spend the money.

    "In the beginning, I had it, yes," Spadavecchia said. "But we received no water and I said, 'Why do we have to pay so much money for nothing?'"

    Raguseo said many others do not have it, as well. He only has structural flood insurance as required by his mortgage.

    "There are a lot of people in this town who don't have a mortgage anymore," Raguseo said. "They're not required to have flood insurance."

    The three women walked down to Gagliardi's driveway. As they chatted, a FEMA representative approached them, asking if they had registered with the agency.

    "Are you looking to take us to dinner?" Palmerini asked as the women laughed.

    "We've been through a lot," Palmerini said. "We'll get through this."

    Down the street, Cirillo cleaned out her house with the help of her granddaughter, grandson and son, John. She has lived in the house for 50 years.

    "I always wanted my garage cleaned out, and this is not the way I wanted to do it," she said.

    John Cirillo said the street has come together; people brought around trays of hot dogs for people who were cleaning up and everyone was lending neighbors a hand.

    "You know everyone down here," he said. "It happened to everyone and you just look at each other and say, 'What can you do?'"

    Each September, the street has a huge block party - enough hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, salads and Italian cookies to feed everyone for weeks, kegs of beer and a DJ who spins well into the night. Cirillo believes that the block party will even bigger next year - and that no one will leave Lamker Court.

    "You can't find a better neighborhood," he said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Before and After Superstorm Sandy


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    Sporting a goofy wig, faux mustache and "old school" '80s-era graphics, weatherman "Chuck Steak" (more commonly known to viewers as JD Rudd) brought Halloween flair to his Fox Kansas news program. Rudd donned the attire in Halloween tribute to his meteorological forebears, and spent days researching and perfecting the now old-fashioned graphics used in the broadcast.

    Think that's hilarious? Watch at 3:45 as "Steak" has his mind blown by the Internet.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Most Weathery Weather Forecaster Names


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    Early voters wait in line to vote in the presidential election on the first day of early voting at a polling station setup at the City of Miami City Hall on Oct. 27 in Miami, Florida.

    By Renny Vandewege

    The presidential election is only a day away, and many voters will go to the polls with the economy, foreign policy and healthcare reform on their minds. But there's one factor unrelated to politics that can affect who goes to the polls and even the outcome of the election: weather.

    In 2007, a study published in the Journal of Politics evaluated presidential elections from 1948 to 2000 to determine if hypothetical dry and wet weather would affect Electoral College votes. For decades, experts believed that so-called peripheral voters - those who vote less often and sometimes against soft partisan allegiances - fell in line with the Democratic Party. This research found that heavy rain or snow would most likely limit peripheral voters from casting a ballot, thus helping the Republican Party by reducing some Democrats' votes.

    However, two of the three researchers published another study in 2010 in the American Political Science Review that suggests peripheral voters are more likely to be anti-incumbent and vote for change. Since this election features an incumbent Democrat president, peripheral voters may fall more in line with the Republican Party, thus making inclement weather a favorable voting day factor for Democrats. Of course, all that remains to be seen.

    But with that in mind, here is the weather forecast for voters in seven swing states Tuesday:


    Weather won't be a factor in Colorado on Tuesday with mostly sunny skies and highs near 70 in Denver. It will come down to traditional politics for voters in the Centennial State.


    Rain may play a big factor in voter turnout in Florida on Tuesday. Rain is likely in the northern two-thirds of the state, including Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee and Tampa. Lesser chances of rain exist in Miami and other cities in the state's southern third but could affect voters at scattered times throughout the day. Temperatures are expected to be in the 70s and 80s.


    Morning Iowa voters may be out in the rain, especially in Des Moines, the Quad Cities and the northern half of the state. Rain will exit throughout the afternoon leaving voters with a mostly cloudy sky, temperatures in the 40s and a breezy northwest wind around 15-30 mph.

    New Hampshire

    High pressure will build into this high-pressure voting state and leave a chilly but sunny day. In the state capital of Concord, expect chilly highs in the low 40s but brilliant blue skies.


    This traditional swing state will be full of political drama, but the weather should remain mostly quiet. There is a small chance of rain in the western part of the state as voting hours end, but most of the day should feature a mostly sunny sky and highs in the 40s.


    After dealing with Sandy just a week ago, the weather is expected to be pleasant on Tuesday. In the capital city of Richmond, high temperatures will top out in the mid-50s, with a mix of sun and clouds.


    Rain is likely during voting hours much of Tuesday in the Badger State and even a few snowflakes are possible early in the day in the far northern part of the state. Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay all have likely chances of rain in their forecast with temperatures in the mid-40s.

    Meteorologist Renny Vandewege has worked as a television meteorologist at WTOK in Meridian, MS and KCTV in Kansas City, MO. He's an instructor of broadcast meteorology at Mississippi State University. He has covered Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita on television, and as a storm chaser, he has witnessed more than 40 tornadoes.


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    "Saturday Night Live" had some fun Friday night with the press conferences held during and after Superstorm Sandy. Meet New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and their two extremely enthusiastic sign language interpreters.


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    Red-billed tropicbird. (Thinkstock)

    Gannets in New York Harbor, jaegers at Cape May, N.J., storm petrels on the Hudson River and even a red-billed tropicbird are just some of the rare birds sighted along the Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy.

    Though common over the open ocean, where they spend most of their lives fishing, and though they rarely come ashore, these seabirds represent a fraction of the birds blown off course by the storm.

    Birds are well equipped to deal with stormy weather, even hurricanes, said Terry Root, an ornithologist at Stanford University in California. "They can sense even the slightest changes in barometric pressure, which alerts them that a storm is coming well before it hits," she told OurAmazingPlanet.

    Out to sea

    While most birds sense severe weather and stay grounded, seeking shelter may not be an option for birds that live on the open ocean, or those migrating across the seas.

    Yet many birds prove adept at navigating stormy skies, even if that means heading right into the eye of a hurricane, according to Barry Truitt, chief conservation scientist at the Nature Conservancy in Virginia. Truitt has used satellites to help track more than 20 Whimbrels, wading shore birds that migrate semi-annually between breeding grounds in Arctic Canada and winter grounds on the coast of South America. [Top 10 Most Incredible Animal Journeys]

    Hurricanes can quickly exhaust birds flying into the storms' high headwinds, but the tempests can also provide great tailwinds, said Truitt. Last year, he tracked one Whimbrel, dubbed Hope, through Tropical Storm Gert off the coast of Nova Scotia. Hope averaged only 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) an hour into the storm's head winds, but once past the center, she enjoyed a stiff tailwind that sent her zipping along at 90 miles (145 km) per hour.

    Carried off course

    Not all birds make it through the center of a hurricane with ease. "Ocean-going and migratory birds have evolved to deal with inclement weather, but younger birds, especially those who may be making the passage for the first time, might not know what they are doing," said Frank Moore, an ornithologist at the University of Southern Mississippi. "A hurricane could have traumatic, negative consequences."

    For one thing, birds face a big risk of becoming entrained, or pulled along, in the strong, circulating winds around the center of a hurricane; the birds could get carried long distances off course, said Paul Sweet, collections manager in the ornithology department at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

    Those birds that do get blown far off course often face an uphill battle for survival, said Glenn Phillips, executive director of the New York City Audubon Society. "They are often weak and exhausted when they land, which makes them an easy target for predators," he said in an interview.

    Previous studies have found that bird species in a hurricane's path may experience long-term population losses. One report found that species as far as 60 miles (97 km) from a hurricane's path took up to five years to rebound from the destruction of their forested habitat.

    A Canadian study found that the total Chimney Swift population in Quebec fell by as much as 50 percent after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 battered many of them on their southward migration, sending some as far off-course as Western Europe.

    Late arrival lessens blow

    The Eastern Seaboard of the United States serves as a major migratory route, known as the Atlantic Flyway, for birds passing between breeding grounds in Canada and wintering habitat at points to the south.

    While Hurricane Sandy has already affected some birds, Sweet expects that its arrival late in the migration season will help lessen the blow.

    "September and October are really the peak months of fall migration in and around the New York City area. Most groups, such as warblers and vireos, that make the big trans-ocean flight to Central and South America have already gone," he said.

    Even if most migratory birds dodged a bullet this time, the prospect of bigger and more frequent hurricanes, fueled by warmer ocean waters, doesn't bode well for many species already facing pressure from habitat loss at both tropical winter grounds and northern breeding areas, said Truitt, the scientist at the Nature Conservancy.

    "It's hard enough for birds to make a living," said Moore, the Mississippi ornithologist. "Big storms don't help."

    Follow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

    Quest for Survival: Incredible Animal Migrations
    On the Ground: Hurricane Sandy in Images
    Video: Extraordinary Birds

    Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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    An American flag flies from the front steps of a home that was washed away by Superstorm Sandy in Staten Island, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 5. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    By Dennis Waszak Jr.

    EDITOR'S NOTE - AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak and his family had moved into their Staten Island 'dream house' just weeks before Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of the New York City borough. These are his recollections a week after the storm hit and upended life for Waszak, his wife and their three children.

    NEW YORK (AP) - I was the first to cry.

    Not my wife. Not our three kids.

    I was standing in our pitch-black basement as water streamed through the broken windows like a waterfall. A bathtub drain gurgled, the slimy sewage quickly pooling in an ominous mess. Just eight weeks after we'd bought our dream house - three bedrooms, big kitchen, pool, white fence and a finished basement - Superstorm Sandy was ripping it apart with a fury that was hard to comprehend, along with the rest of our Staten Island neighborhood.

    At 9 p.m. Monday, I sent my sister Christina a text message saying our basement was still dry.

    Minutes later that all changed. The man cave I couldn't wait to show off to my buddies, the one I'd spent hours working on, was fast being covered in rancid brown muck, beginning with what was once a white carpet. Watching it methodically swallow up the mementos that took us a lifetime to gather, I lost it.

    Family photos, clothes, thousands of CDs, furniture. Thirty years of Topps baseball cards my dad gave me each and every Christmas. A copy of nearly every story I'd ever written - as a budding sports reporter at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, from the Super Bowl and World Series, during 16-plus years with The Associated Press - all gone.

    My wife, Daria, urged me to stop, if only for the sake of our kids. I ran up the stairs toward the living room, struggling to compose myself. Behind me, all the while, the sludge kept rising. At 9:16 p.m., I texted my sister again: "The basement is completely covered in raw sewage. It's destroyed."

    Some 10 hours earlier, I was on a conference call with New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, hearing him describe the challenges his disappointing team still faced. Now I was swept up in the biggest natural disaster to hit the New York area in decades, wondering how to protect my family.

    It's funny the places your mind wanders sometimes, even in moments of crisis. So the fact that my mother's name is Sandy was at least good for a rueful smile. Even she can't believe now how much death and destruction will be attached to it for, well, forever.

    Our neighborhood in the Eltingville section of Staten Island was designated a Zone C area, at very low risk for evacuation during a storm. That's why so few of us were alarmed earlier in the day, when the water from a creek that was part of a planned park poured out onto Arthur Kill Road and up our street at high tide. We thought that would be the worst of it.

    Then the wind began whipping up, right around 4 p.m., and that picture-postcard white fence was blown to pieces. Soon after, with everything else we could tie down, board up or cover already secured, and roof tiles flying around like the occasional Frisbee, my neighbors and I headed inside to ride the storm out.

    The power was on for two more hours, gone just as Daria was cooking dinner for the kids. They thought it was fun to eat and play by candlelight. But I looked out the window, saw the water from the creek halfway up the street, and it struck me that Sandy hadn't even really hit yet. Then came a frantic knock at the door.

    "Dennis!" yelled a neighbor. "Your house is leaking gas!"

    The hissing outside was louder than the shrill howl of the wind. A man I'd never seen before was walking around in the storm, heard the leak and smelled the gas. Out of nowhere, a neighbor showed up with a wrench and shut off the main valve. Someone else called National Grid and three minutes later, two workers from the power company turned up to make sure everything was locked down.

    I'm still not sure who the first of those guardian angels was, but I promised myself to find out soon. When I do, I'm going to hug him. But there were still more pressing concerns first.

    Around 7 p.m., our next-door neighbor, a sweet Italian grandmother named Grace, ran outside crying that the water in her basement was already a few feet high. Ours was still dry. But the water rushing faster and faster up the street now licked at the door of Daria's car in the driveway. I grabbed the keys and drove five blocks, parking it up on a hill. Then I jogged back home, with rain pelting my face, my arms over my head to protect myself from the tree branches swirling around, and moved my car. When I returned the second time, the water was even with the first step of our house. And it kept coming.

    Another step, then another. Two more and the water would be level with the first floor. What then?

    That reverie was broken the second the alarm system tripped in response to the water bursting through the basement windows. Soon enough, the electrical outlets were submerged and there was no chance to reach the fuse box in the corner and switch off the circuits. We were running out of options, and fast. In a panic, I started reviewing one nightmare scenario after another.

    What if water fills the first floor? Do we huddle upstairs? Punch a hole through to the attic and climb up there? Do we even try to stay in the house, and if so, for how long? Could we swim to safety out the front door?

    Incredibly, the longest few hours of my life ended almost as suddenly as they began. Almost too subtle to notice at first, the water lost its surging power and began to subside. Our kids, oblivious to all that was going on, were already fast asleep. Daria and I sat in the living room for hours in the dark, save for the glimmer of a few candles, listening to the splash, like clockwork every few minutes, as our possessions fell into the water. Just when we started making a list of what was lost beneath the two feet of sewage in the basement came the biggest splash of all - our huge refrigerator.

    I took a few steps downstairs and stopped. A sea of sewage was sloshing side to side and the stench - I can still smell it. I doubt it will leave me anytime soon.

    Somehow, I slept about three hours that night. When I stepped back outside, I could see the same wear and tear on the faces of my neighbors. But we quickly took stock of one another and our families and began comparing notes. The damage on every side was heartbreaking. Grace and husband, Nicky, had nearly six feet of water in their basement and lost everything, including her father's ashes. But we were all alive.

    We had no power, gas, heat, even cellphones with a charge - and no way to communicate with anyone outside our tiny corner of the world. The bakery and the deli across the street were flooded. Three 20-foot-long heavy metal box containers that sat in front of the Walgreen's were scattered down the block, one finally settling in front of a restaurant more than 100 yards away.

    Finally, we turned our attention to cleaning up. A neighbor named Ben, who is Grace's son-in-law and works as a construction contractor, came over and began pulling up the carpeting in our basement, then the flooring, before turning his attention to the walls. In the "dream" kitchen we felt so fortunate to have just a few nights earlier, a FEMA inspector sat, compiling a list of the damage.

    You learn a lot about people in bad times and what we learned is how neighbors opened their arms to each other, offering food, water, clothes - anything that might help someone else. We were the new family in town, but we've forged bonds and relationships that will make exchanging "Hello" or "Have a good day" feel genuine in a way they didn't always before.

    A long, tiring road lies ahead, but the doubts that crop up will be easier to deal with knowing we're going through it together. Just a few miles away, people died and homes were completely destroyed. Seeing the scale of destruction in TV reports from my parents' home in Brooklyn broke my heart all over again.

    I spent three days digging through those things I'd cherished all my life. I put nearly all of them on the side of the house, saying a sort of goodbye to so many material things.

    And yet, once the sun managed to peek through the clouds, it hit me: We were blessed. We turned out to be among the truly lucky ones.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Images of Strength, Hope and Gratitude After Sandy


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    Updated Tuesday, Nov. 6, 1:47 p.m. ET

    NEW YORK (AP) - Weather experts had good news for beleaguered northeast coastal residents Tuesday: A new storm that threatened to complicate Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts on Wednesday now looks like it will be weaker than expected.

    As the storm moves up the Atlantic coast from Florida it now is expected to veer farther offshore than earlier projections had indicated. Jeff Masters of the private weather service Weather Underground says that means less wind and rainfall on land.

    Even so, he said winds could still gust to 50 mph in New York and New Jersey Wednesday afternoon and evening.

    And Lauren Nash, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, said wind gusts might blow down tree limbs weakened from Sandy and cause more power outages. On Wednesday night, gusts may occasionally reach 60 mph in coastal Connecticut and Long Island, she said.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie warned Tuesday that high winds may mean some residents who regained power will lose it again, and the wind could also slow efforts to restore power. There is "nothing we can do to stop the storms," he said.

    Storm surges along the coasts of New Jersey and New York are expected to reach perhaps 3 feet, only half to a third of what Hurricane Sandy caused last week, Masters said. While that should produce only minor flooding, he said it will still cause some erosion problems along the New Jersey coast and the shores of Long Island, where Sandy destroyed some protective dunes.

    Coastal Virginia could also get a surge of 2 or 3 feet, causing minor flooding on the east side of Chesapeake Bay during high tides Wednesday morning and evening, he said.

    However, most of the storm's rain will stay offshore, with maybe an inch or two expected in Massachusetts and less than an inch elsewhere along the coast, he said.

    Up to an inch of snow may fall in northeastern New Jersey and the lower Hudson River valley, weather service meteorologist Mike Layer said. Central Massachusetts and western Connecticut also could get an inch or two of snow, according to Masters.

    Along the Jersey shore, which was devastated by last week's superstorm, there was some relief that damage projections from the nor'easter have been scaled back. But there was still concern about the ocean barreling past beaches and dunes that were largely washed away.

    High winds might be "pushing that water right back across flat dunes and flooding the town again," said Dan Friendly, who lives on Ocean Avenue in Point Pleasant Beach in a neighborhood hard-hit by Sandy.

    In neighboring Bay Head, heavy machinery was used to hastily push sand piles back into where well-rooted dune systems once stood.

    "We no longer have a dune system; there are just piles of sand back on the beach," said Councilwoman D'Arcy Rohan Green. "Hopefully, they will hold."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 20 Images of Strength, Hope and Gratitude After Sandy


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    Residents line up for bundles of food at an American Red Cross station in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn on Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

    NEW YORK (AP) - Voting in a the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history.

    The campaigns of both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have long assumed that the heavily Democratic region would support Obama, but determined voters were taking special election shuttles from storm-hit areas and voting by affidavit from any polling place they could reach after officials put emergency measures in place.

    Early turnout appeared high, despite some malfunctioning machines and confusion over where to go.

    Some polling places were in tents, and some voters were in tears.

    "Oh my God, I have been so anxious about being able to vote," said 73-year-old Annette DeBona of hard-hit Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, who was there at dawn. "This is the happiest vote I ever cast in my life."

    Tens of thousands of people along the Atlantic coast, many of them in public housing projects, continued to scramble for housing options a week after the storm as nighttime temperatures remained near freezing and power had not yet returned. A few desperate people burned their furniture.

    And officials worried about the approach of yet another storm Wednesday, smaller than Sandy but with the potential for more power outages, rising waters, heavy rain and gusts of up to 60 mph (96 kph).

    Forecasters on Tuesday said the storm would be weaker than first expected, but winds could gust to 50 mph (80 kph) in New York and New Jersey on Wednesday afternoon and evening. Storm surges are expected to reach perhaps 3 feet (0.9 meters).

    As hourslong lines at gas stations eased, housing remained the region's most pressing problem.

    "It's not going to be a simple task. It's going to be one of the most complicated and long-term recovery efforts in U.S. history," said Mark Merritt, president of Witt Associates, a Washington crisis management consulting firm founded by former Federal Emergency Management Agency director James Lee Witt.

    FEMA said it has already dispensed close to $200 million in emergency housing assistance and had put 34,000 people in New York and New Jersey up in hotels and motels. But local, state and federal officials have yet to lay out a specific, comprehensive plan for finding them long-term places to live in an already densely developed region around the largest U.S. city.

    Sandy killed more 100 people in 10 states, almost all of them in New York and New Jersey. More than 1 million homes and businesses remained without power.

    Because so many people have been displaced, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order allowing people to vote in Tuesday's elections at any polling place in the state. New Jersey had already taken similar measures.

    "Just because you are displaced doesn't mean you are disenfranchised," Cuomo said. "Compared to what we have had to deal with in the past week, this will be a walk in the park when it comes to voting."

    As for long-term housing for the homeless, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday that the government is looking into using everything from hotels and motels to FEMA trailers and prefab homes.

    "Given the extent of need, no option is off the table," she said.

    Officials had yet to even establish the magnitude of the problem.

    In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday that officials were going door-to-door in hard-hit areas to assess the need for shelter. He said the worst-case estimate is 40,000 people, half of them in public housing.

    But he said as many as 20,000 will probably get their heat and power back within a few days. Ultimately, the number of people who need longer-term housing could be under 10,000, he said.

    In New Jersey, state officials said they were still trying to figure out how many people will need long-term housing. At least 4,000 residents were in New Jersey shelters.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 20 Images of Strength, Hope and Gratitude After Sandy


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    Credit: U.S. Geological Survey.

    Even the second-most powerful hurricane on record can't cause an earthquake. A small quake that rattled already frayed nerves Monday morning in New Jersey wasn't sparked by Sandy-caused flooding.

    "It's very possible that the earthquake this morning would have occurred anyway, even if we hadn't had Sandy come through," said John Ebel, a geophysicist and director of the Weston Observatory seismic network at Boston College in Massachusetts.

    Researchers have documented cases where flooding caused earthquakes, Ebel told OurAmazingPlanet. But those instances involved filling large reservoirs behind dams, where at least 100 feet of water lay over an earthquake fault, he said. These settings allow water to trickle down miles underground through fractures in the Earth, until it reaches the fault beneath the reservoir. There, water acts as a lubricant for the fault, making it easier to slip and trigger an earthquake.

    The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy was about 10 feet, and has receded.

    Weston's seismic network does monitor the impact of big storms on earthquakes in the Northeast, and didn't see earthquake activity after Hurricane Irene or other heavy rainstorms, Ebel said. "When we have large rainstorms in New England we don't see an uptick in earthquake activity, and the same is true in other parts of the world," Ebel said.

    However, in the Himalayas, where the monsoons bring a year's worth of water in the form of rain, there could be a link between the storms and earthquakes. There are twice as many small earthquakes during the winter months (December to February) as during the summer. Some scientists think changes in groundwater levels linked to the monsoon supply trigger these small quakes.

    Seismometers in northern Pennsylvania did detect the punishing waves of Sandy's storm surge, though.

    The 1:19 a.m. New Jersey quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 2.0, was centered 2 miles south-southeast of Ringwood, N.J.

    In sheer power, Hurricane Sandy ranks second among modern hurricanes, beating even Hurricane Katrina.

    Reach Becky Oskin at boskin@techmedianetwork.com. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

    A History of Destruction: 8 Great Hurricanes
    Video: Earthquake Magnitude Explained
    50 Amazing Hurricane Facts

    Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 20 Images of Strength, Hope and Gratitude After Sandy


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    A man walks along a street where electrical lines hang damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on Oct. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

    HAVANA (AP) - Cuba's second city is still struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Sandy even as streetlamps in hard-hit lower Manhattan shine brightly and its subways begin rumbling through tunnels again.

    Two weeks after the storm blasted through Santiago, Cuba, the electrical grid has been restored to just 28 percent of normal as workers labor around the clock to replace power lines downed by thousands of fallen trees, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported Monday.

    "Sources in (state-run power company) Empresa Electrica emphasized that the task is titanic since it means building practically all of the secondary networks from the ground up," the agency said, and those are the ones "that deliver energy to homes and were the most impaired."

    Much of the storm debris has been cleared from the streets, and students went back to classes there Monday in a sign of some return to normalcy for the city of about 500,000 people.

    Residents said stores are offering early sales of basic foods that had been planned for distribution later in the year. People unable to cook in their darkened homes are relying on canned food, and the lucky few who have power are giving neighbors a hand by boiling their water or letting them charge cellphones.

    "Things have been getting better, but we still don't have electricity. Near my house there are streets that do ... I'm anxiously awaiting it," Berta Serguera, 82, told The Associated Press by phone from Santiago.

    "The situation is very tough," said her sister, Mirta Serguera, 79.

    A naval helicopter carrier arrived from the capital carrying enough roofing material for 37,000 homes and more than 6,000 public buildings, the Santiago newspaper Sierra Maestra reported.

    A Venezuelan naval vessel docked in Santiago on Monday carrying 227 tons of humanitarian aid for storm victims.

    State-run website Cubadebate published photos of a cleaned up Parque de Cespedes, Santiago's main square, stripped of trees but well groomed as workers soldered ornamental metal fences and hauled off shrubbery ripped out by the gale-force winds.

    Sandy hit southeastern Cuba on Oct. 25 as a Category 2 hurricane, killing 11 people, damaging more than 200,000 homes and causing major losses to coffee and other crops. Authorities have not yet given an estimate of the total economic toll.

    Some 895 schools in Santiago were also damaged, according to a report by Communist Party newspaper Granma.

    Many were repaired and functioning again Monday, but 129 were badly damaged, leaving students to gather in private homes, libraries, cultural centers and movie theaters, or be sent to other schools.

    Some classes were also held in homes in neighboring Holguin province, Granma said.

    In Santiago, hospitals, fire and water stations, bakeries and tall buildings were receiving priority power service, and electrical grid repairs were expected to finish by Nov. 15 with the help of crews drafted from across the country.

    President Raul Castro remained in the city on his tour of the hardest-hit zones and promised to personally ensure that recovery efforts proceed apace.

    "We all know the problems you have. Do not lose faith in the revolution," Castro said in remarks broadcast on television over the weekend. "I will remain here until the electricity returns."

    Yolanda Tabio, a 67-year-old resident of central Santiago, said that after 12 days in the dark, she's hopeful the lights will come back on soon. Her gas was restored three days ago, though phone service is still intermittent.

    "The most important thing is to be able to boil water, because it comes out really cloudy and you have to take measures to avoid disease," Tabio said.

    John Ging, the operations chief for the U.N. humanitarian office, told a news conference Monday that the agency is mobilizing efforts to help both Cuba and Haiti.

    Ging said in Haiti 27,000 homes have been destroyed, crops have been damaged, 50 people have died and "hundreds of thousands are now going to depend on our assistance."

    "Cuba is also badly affected," he said. "2,000 schools there are damaged ... and we estimate now 500,000 people in need of assistance, food and other items, so again we are mobilizing response on both of those countries."


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    Coastal damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. (Credit: U.S. Geological Survey)

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Climate change likely made Hurricane Sandy much worse than it otherwise would have been, scientists said yesterday at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.

    For one thing, rising sea levels set the stage for a more damaging storm surge, as Hurricane Sandy broke records with a 13.2-foot storm surge in New York City's Battery Park, said Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann.

    "At least 1 foot of those 13.2 feet was arguably due to sea-level rise," he said. That's because sea levels are 1 foot higher than they were a century ago, he continued.

    Sea surface temperatures off the East Coast also contributed to the flooding. Giving rise to above-average levels of water vapor, they helped intensify the storm and produce more rain, he said.

    Warmer-than-usual temperatures over Greenland also played a role, said George Stone, a researcher at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

    A high-pressure system over the huge island helped to "block" the North Atlantic, pushing the hurricane toward the East Coast, according to researchers. Typically, scientists say, the jet stream instead carries hurricanes eastward into the Atlantic Ocean.

    Temperatures in the Arctic have increased dramatically in recent years, scientists say. This summer, a record-breaking, Arctic sea-ice melt stretched across a larger area than any previously measured. Greenland also set records in August with massive melting of its glaciers.

    "If [Sandy's] left turn was indeed due to re-distribution of air masses and position of the jet stream, and that in turn was due to Arctic warming, then we might attribute a large part of Sandy to climate change," Stone said.

    Of course, climate change did not create Hurricane Sandy, Mann said. Hurricanes and tropical storms would occur with or without global warming. But many climate models suggest that such storms will become more intense as the planet warms, he said.

    Researchers at a special session on Sandy added that the effects of Hurricane Sandy may be felt for quite some time. Several researchers mentioned that the geography of New York made it more susceptible to storm surges. The long and narrow shape of the Long Island Sound, for example, helped to channel the storm surge and make it bigger. Additionally, areas like Battery Park were built from landfill and thus are low-lying and flat. [On the Ground: Hurricane Sandy in Images]

    Reach Douglas Main at dmain@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @Douglas_Main. Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

    Hurricane Sandy: Photos of a Frankenstorm
    The Reality of Climate Change: 10 Myths Busted
    8 Ways Global Warming Is Already Changing the World

    Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 20 Images of Strength, Hope and Gratitude After Sandy


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