Sandy's Death Toll Climbs; Millions Without Power

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Associated Press + More

By ALLEN G. BREED and TOM HAYS, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke Tuesday without electricity, and an eerily quiet New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air as superstorm Sandy steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain. The U.S. death toll climbed to 39, many of the victims killed by falling trees.

[PHOTOS: Cleaning Up From the Superstorm.]

The full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore Monday night with hurricane-force winds of 80 mph, was unclear. Police and fire officials, some with their own departments flooded, fanned out to rescue hundreds.

"We are in the midst of urban search and rescue. Our teams are moving as fast as they can," Gov. Chris Christie said. "The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we've ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point."

More than 8.2 million people across the East were without power. Airlines canceled more than 15,000 flights around the world, and it could be days before the mess is untangled and passengers can get where they're going.

The storm also disrupted the presidential campaign with just a week to go before Election Day.

[READ: Was Hurricane Sandy Caused by Global Warming?]

President Barack Obama canceled a third straight day of campaigning, scratching events scheduled for Wednesday in swing state Ohio. Republican Mitt Romney resumed his campaign, but with plans to turn a political rally in Ohio into a "storm relief event."

Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the U.S., according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.

Lower Manhattan, which includes Wall Street, was among the hardest-hit areas after the storm sent a nearly 14-foot surge of seawater, a record, coursing over its seawalls and highways.

[PHOTOS: Superstorm Brings Dangerous Floods.]

Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Center, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather since the Blizzard of 1888. The NYSE said it will reopen on Wednesday.

A huge fire destroyed as many as 100 houses in a flooded beachfront neighborhood in Queens on Tuesday, forcing firefighters to undertake daring rescues. Three people were injured.

New York University's Tisch Hospital evacuated 200 patients after its backup generator failed. About 20 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit were carried down staircases and were given battery-powered respirators.

A construction crane that collapsed in the high winds on Monday still dangled precariously 74 floors above the streets of midtown Manhattan, and hundreds of people were evacuated as a precaution. And on Staten Island, a tanker ship wound up beached on the shore.

Most major tunnels and bridges in New York were closed, as were schools, Broadway theaters and the metropolitan area's three main airports, LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark.

With water standing in two major commuter tunnels and seven subway tunnels under the East River, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was unclear when the nation's largest transit system would be rolling again. It shut down Sunday night ahead of the storm.

Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the damage was the worst in the 108-year history of the New York subway.

Similarly, Consolidated Edison said it could take at least a week to restore electricity to the last of the nearly 800,000 customers in and around New York City who lost power.

Millions of more fortunate New Yorkers surveyed the damage as dawn broke, their city brought to an extraordinary standstill.

"Oh, Jesus. Oh, no," Faye Schwartz said she looked over her neighborhood in Brooklyn, where cars were scattered like leaves.

Reggie Thomas, a maintenance supervisor at a prison near the overflowing Hudson River, emerged from an overnight shift, a toothbrush in his front pocket, to find his Honda with its windows down and a foot of water inside. The windows automatically go down when the car is submerged to free drivers.