Obama declares major disaster in New York as Sandy kills 28
(Photo of flooding in New York City's financial district is courtesy of NBC News. For more photos from NBC, click here.)
President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in the New York City area Tuesday as Superstorm Sandy pounded the Northeast, killing at least 28 people, sweeping homes into the ocean, flooding large swaths of coastal areas, crippling public transit, and leaving millions without power.
As the East Coast woke up, residents faced the prospect of up to a week without heat, light or refrigeration, while authorities tried to measure the full wrath of the once-in-a-generation hurricane.
The deaths included at least 10 people in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday, adding "tragically, we expect that number to go up."
Details of the devastation were also becoming clear:
The dollar value of Sandy's destruction was still unclear.
"I think the losses will be almost incalculable," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told NBC's TODAY show.
One disaster forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion, Reuters said .
The historic storm, which made landfall at 6:45 p.m. ET Monday, hurled a wall of water of up to 13 feet high at the Northeast coast.
Tuesday's disaster declaration for New York City means that federal funds will be available to people affected by the storm, according to a White House statement.
"This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced," Bloomberg said, adding that schools would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Seawater surged into lower Manhattan and areas of Brooklyn, submerging entire streets and parks Monday. An all-time record tide level of 13.88 feet was set at The Battery in Lower Manhattan, Monday night, breaking the previous record of 11.2 feet from 1821, as well as Sandy Hook, N.J., shattering the previous record from the Dec. 1992 Nor'easter and Hurricane Donna in 1960, according to weather.com.
New York City's major utility said damage to its power infrastructure was "unprecedented."
On Long Island, 90 percent of homes were without power, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
In New Jersey, two thirds of all utility customers, nearly 2.5 million homes and businesses, were without power.
Around midday, Sandy was about 120 miles east of Pittsburgh, pushing westward with winds of 45 mph, and was expected to make a turn into New York state on Tuesday night. Although weakening, continued heavy rain and flooding is expected over the next day.
In a measure of Sandy's immense size and power, waves on southern Lake Michigan rose to a record-tying 20.3 feet.
High winds clobbered the Cleveland area early Tuesday, uprooting trees, cutting power to hundreds of thousands, closing schools and flooding major roads along Lake Erie.
Blizzard warnings were also posted for the mountains of West Virginia, western Virginia and Garrett County, Md. More than 2 feet of snow was reported in parts of West Virginia.
The powerful storm flooded sections of Atlantic City and other areas of the New Jersey shore. Part of the Atlantic City boardwalk was washed away.
Christie sharply criticized Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, whom he blamed for having "advised people to stay in shelters in the city."
"Despite my admonition to evacuate, he gave them comfort, for some reason, to stay," Christie said, NBCPhiladelphia.com reported.
NBC News has been able to confirm 28 deaths so far along the East Coast:
Before it made its way north, Sandy was blamed for the deaths of 65 people in the Caribbean.