By sundown Tuesday, however, announcements from officials and scenes on the streets signaled that New York and nearby towns were edging toward a semblance of routine.
First came the reopening of highways in Connecticut and bridges across the Hudson and East rivers, although the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan, and the Holland Tunnel, between New York and New Jersey, remained closed.
A limited number of the white and blue buses that crisscross New York's grid returned Tuesday evening to Broadway and other thoroughfares on a reduced schedule — but free of charge. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he hoped there would be full service by Wednesday. Still, school was canceled for a third straight day Wednesday in the city, where many students rely on buses and subways to reach classrooms.
In one bit of good news, officials announced that John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark International Airport in New Jersey would reopen at 7 a.m. Wednesday with limited service. New York's LaGuardia Airport remains closed.
The New York Stock Exchange was again silent Tuesday — the first weather-related, two-day closure since the 19th century — but trading was scheduled to resume Wednesday morning with Bloomberg ringing the opening bell.
Amtrak also laid out plans to resume some runs in the Northeast on Wednesday, with modified service between Newark, N.J., and points south. That includes restoring Virginia service to Lynchburg, Richmond and Newport News, Keystone trains in Pennsylvania, and Downeaster service between Boston and Portland, Maine.
But flooding continues to prevent service to and from New York's Penn Station. Amtrak said the amount of water in train tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers is unprecedented. There will be no Northeast Regional service between New York and Boston and no Acela Express service for the entire length of the Northeast Corridor. No date has been set for when it might resume.
But even with the return of some transportation and plans to reopen schools and businesses, the damage and pain inflicted by Sandy continued to unfold, confirming the challenge posed by rebuilding.
In New Jersey, amusement rides that once crowned a pier in Seaside Heights were dumped into the ocean, some homes were smashed, and others were partially buried in sand.
Farther north in Hoboken, across the Hudson from Manhattan, New Jersey National Guard troops arrived Tuesday night with high-wheeled vehicles to reach thousands of flood victims stuck in their homes. They arrived to find a town with live wires dangling in the floodwaters that Mayor Dawn Zimmer said were rapidly mixing with sewage. At nightfall, the city turned almost completely dark.
About 2.1 million homes and businesses remained without power across the state late Tuesday. When Tropical Storm Irene struck last year, it took more than a week to restore power everywhere. The state's largest utility, PSE&G, said it was trying to dry out substations it had to shut down.
Outages in the state's two largest cities, Newark and Jersey City, left traffic signals dark, resulting in numerous fender-benders at intersections where police were not directing traffic. And in one Jersey City supermarket, there were long lines to get bread and a spot at an outlet to charge cellphones.
Trees and power lines were down in every corner of the state. Schools and state government offices were closed for a second day, and many called off classes for Wednesday, too. The governor said the PATH trains connecting northern New Jersey with Manhattan would be out of service for at least seven to 10 days because of flooding. All the New Jersey Transit rail lines were damaged, he said, and it was not clear when the rail lines would be able to open.
In Connecticut, some residents of Fairfield returned home in kayaks and canoes to inspect widespread damage left by retreating floodwaters that kept other homeowners at bay.