(RNN) – Superstorm Sandy’s strike on the Eastern Seaboard area has left at least 39 reported dead and caused hospital evacuations, flooded streets and raging fires in New York City and other areas.
More than 8.4 million are without power across 15 states and Washington after the storm hit late Monday with sustained winds around 85 mph. Emergency officials said it could be days before service is restored to many people, and damage is expected to be in the billions of dollars.
Many of the fatalities came from falling trees, according to the Associated Press. The deaths include 10 in New York, two in Maryland, two in Connecticut, three in New Jersey, two in Pennsylvania, one in West Virginia and one from a ship off the coast of North Carolina, CNN reported.
President Barack Obama visited the American Red Cross Washington headquarters Tuesday. He said he instructed federal agencies to figure out how they can solve problems in the storm’s aftermath, not come up with reasons why they can’t.
“I want you to cut through red tape, I want you to cut through bureaucracy,” Obama said. “There is no excuse for inaction at this point. I want every agency to lean forward and to make sure we are getting the resources where they are needed as quickly as possible.”
New Jersey may have suffered the worst property damage, taking a direct hit from the storm. Gov. Chris Christie said in a news conference Tuesday that 2.4 million were without power in the state.
He said the priorities for emergency officials were search and rescue and restoring power. Christie warned people who live near the Jersey Shore they would not be able to return and assess the damage in the near future.
“To prepare the public for what they are going to see – it is beyond anything I ever thought I would see,” Christie said. “It is a devastating sight right now.”
He also said transit would be shut down for the remainder of the day. Christie reported 24 rail cars had been picked up by the storm surge and deposited onto the New Jersey Turnpike near Carteret.
In Moonachie County, NJ, rescues are under way for an estimated 800 people after a levee reportedly broke, allowing waters to flood in. Bergen County chief of staff Jeanne Baratta told CNN on Tuesday that crews were working to get those who have been trapped, including some who were forced to the roofs of their houses.
Meanwhile, pockets of fire remain in Queens, according to the Fire Department of New York. More than 80 homes were completely destroyed by fire.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also reported around 750,000 in the city were without power.
“Given the extent of the damage, power should be out for two to three days, and maybe even longer than that,” Bloomberg said.
He added there was no firm timeline for the reactivation of bus and train service, but he believed roads would be clear of water by Wednesday. Bloomberg signed an executive order stating cab drivers could pick up multiple passengers and stop to pick up people even if they already had someone in the vehicle.
The Metro Transit Authority announced that bus service will begin limited run again at 5 p.m. and fares will be waved.
In another sign of life trying to return to normal, the New York Stock Exchange will open on Wednesday.
Weakening to a “post-tropical cyclone” Tuesday, Sandy remained a danger as it moved into Pennsylvania. The National Weather Service reported the storm about 145 miles west of Philadelphia at 11 a.m. ET.
Sustained winds had dropped to around 45 mph, and the storm was moving west at 10 mph. The NWS stated gale-force winds would continue early Tuesday through the mid-Atlantic states from Virginia through New England.
Also, the combination of the storm surge and tide could cause more flooding, especially during high tide.
In Hartford, CT, Gov. Dannel Malloy has lifted the travel ban, according to WFSB.
“Use your heads when it comes to driving,” Malloy said. “If a road appears impassable because of water, downed wires, fallen trees or other debris, do not attempt to drive through it.”
Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating, the state’s two largest utility companies, reported 634,446 customers were left in the dark Monday and Tuesday as a result of Sandy.
Public transportation services are resuming in Washington, and officials plan to open federal agencies in the capital as well. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett said 38 counties remained under emergency declarations, but interstate restrictions have been lifted.
Off the coast of North Carolina, the Coast Guard continued the search for a missing ship captain after rescuing the other 14 crew members. The crew was from the HMS Bounty, a three-mast ship that was used in the movies Mutiny on the Bounty and Pirate of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The Coast Guard found one of the crew unresponsive, the woman later died.
New York University’s Langone Medical Center was forced to evacuate more than 260 patients after emergency generators stopped working.
According to CNN, newborn babies were among the patients evacuated, including four newborns who were on respirators and required a nurse to hand-squeeze a bag to get air into the baby’s lungs.
Patients were moved to nearby hospitals.
The New York Daily News reported nearly 200 firefighters were working to quell the fire. Getting to the fire was difficult due to flooding and once there, firefighters had trouble accessing hydrants submerged under the water.
The storm surge flooded Manhattan streets, with several images of flooded subway tunnels going viral throughout the night.
According to NBC News, the water level at Battery Park, located at the southern tip of Manhattan, rose to as high as 13.88 ft. That broke the previous record of 11.2 ft., set in 1821.
Joseph Lhota, chairman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that runs NYC’s subway system, claimed the storm was the strongest the transit system has ever dealt with.
“The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night,” Lhota said. “Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region. It has brought down trees, ripped out power and inundated tunnels, rail yards and bus depots.”
The subway system is expected to be shut down for several days.
FEMA has announced “major disaster declarations” for parts of New York and New Jersey, and emergency declarations for Virginia and West Virginia. Federal emergency aid has been made available to supplement state and local response efforts, according to FEMA.
Further inland, the winter storm that merged with Sandy to create the “Frankenstorm” could cause more issues.
The NWS declared winter storm warnings for the southern Appalachians, from Maryland to Tennessee, through Wednesday morning. As much as two to three feet of snowfall is expected in the mountains of West Virginia.
Snow has been reported in some parts of eastern Ohio and south of Cleveland. Snow and icy roads also were reported south of Columbus.
The White House announced Obama canceled campaign stops in Ohio Wednesday to stay in Washington and focus on storm aftermath. Mitt Romney announced a campaign stop in Ohio would be changed to a “storm relief event,” according to the Washington Post.
Outside the U.S., one death in Canada was recorded, as well as 67 in the Caribbean, including 51 in Haiti, when Sandy passed through that area last week.
Article Courtesy of WOIO 19 Action News