NEW YORK -Officials say the death toll from Superstorm Sandy has reached 50.
Many of the victims were killed by trees toppled by the storm, including a New Yorker killed in bed by a tree that fell onto an apartment.
More than 8 million, from Maine to the Carolinas, are waiting for the power to return. There are widespread outages in lower Manhattan. Utility officials say it could be days before power is restored and the subway system is running again.
The extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore last night with hurricane-force winds of 80 mph, is still coming into focus. Powerful winds and ocean surge knocked houses off their foundations, demolished boardwalks and wrecked amusement pier rides. President Barack Obama will tour New Jersey tomorrow with Gov. Chris Christie. The Republican has been a harsh Obama critic but praised him for his response to the storm.
A financial forecasting firm predicts Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business. According to HIS Global Insight, Sandy will be one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the U.S.
The storm has moved east into Pennsylvania and is expected to turn into New York State tonight. And while it has weakened, forecasters say it will continue to bring heavy rain and flooding.
In one measure of the storm's size and power, waves on southern Lake Michigan have risen above 20 feet, tying a record. High winds spinning off the edges of the storm clobbered the Cleveland area early today, uprooting trees and cutting power to hundreds of thousands.
Sandy brought blizzard conditions to West Virginia and neighboring states, with more than 2 feet of snow expected in some places.
PHOTOS | Sandy Slams into East Coast
MORE: Obama declares N.Y., N.J. disaster areas
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that 10 people were killed in the city and he expects the city number to rise as emergency workers move through neighborhoods.
The mayor gave a somber account of some of those who died.
They included two who drowned in a home and one who was in bed when a tree fell on an apartment. A 23-year-old woman died by stepping into a puddle near a live electrical wire. A man and a woman were crushed by a falling tree. An off-duty officer on Staten Island who ushered his relatives to the attic of his home apparently became trapped in the basement.
"Make no mistake about it, this was a devastating storm," Bloomberg said at a press conference. "Maybe the worst we have ever experienced."
In the borough of Queens, a fire destroyed at least 80-100 homes early Tuesday morning in a flooded zone. Firefighters reported chest-high water on the street and used a boat to rescue residents. A massive explosion at a power substation in Lower Manhattan on Monday evening contributed to the power outages. No one was injured, and the power company did not know whether the explosion was caused by flooding or by flying debris.
New York University's Tisch Hospital was forced to evacuate 200 patients after its backup generator failed. NYU Medical Dean Robert Grossman said patients - among them 20 babies from neonatal intensive care that were on battery-powered respirators - had to be carried down staircases and to dozens of waiting ambulances.
President Obama declared New York and New Jersey federal disaster areas. The disaster declaration makes federal funding available to residents and businesses in the affected areas.
In New Jersey, where the storm came ashore, hundreds of people were being evacuated in rising water early Tuesday. Officials were using boats to try to rescue about 800 people living in a trailer park in Moonachie.
There were no reports of injuries or deaths. Local authorities initially reported a levee had broken, but Gov. Chris Christie said a berm overflowed.
A hoarse-voiced Christie gave bleak news at a morning news conference: Seaside rail lines washed away. No safe place on the state's barrier islands for him to land. Parts of the coast still under water.
"It is beyond anything I thought I'd ever see," he said. "It is a devastating sight right now."
"The level of devastation on the Jersey Shore is unthinkable," he added.
In New York City, the city was shut down, cut off and in many places dark. A 13-foot storm surge, 3 feet above the previous record, caused flooding and widespread power outages. The city's subway system was shut down due to flooding. The Holland Tunnel, which connects New York to New Jersey, and a tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan, were both closed. High winds forced the closure of the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and several other spans.
More than 696,000 customers were without electrical power in the city's five boroughs and the northern suburb of Westchester County, said Allan Drury, a Consolidated Edison spokesman.
Although all areas were hard hit, one of the storms hardest punches struck lower Manhattan. An estimated 234,000 customers were without power from 31st Street on the West Side and 39th Street on the East Side all the way south to the southern tip of the island, said Drury.
That area includes the New York Stock Exchange, Ground Zero and well-known neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, Soho and Tribeca. The power outages shut down most of the scattering of delicatessens, coffee shops and other small stores that had managed to ride out the storm before darkness fell Monday night. (The stock market plans to reopen Wednesday.)
Con Ed's Monday decision to pre-emptively cut power to parts of lower Manhattan helped spare some underground electrical equipment from catastrophic damage, he said. But that appeared to be a slim silver lining.
"The storm surge and flooding surpassed everybody's expectations," said Drury. "We do not have a firm estimated time of (electrical) restoration. Obviously, it's going to be a multi-day process."
Seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded during the storm Monday night, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. So did the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, a vehicular crossing that links lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Evidence of the storm's power came from a new record high water level of 13.88 feet at the tip of lower Manhattan at 9:24 p.m. Monday, a time that roughly coincided with high tide and the full moon that also strengthens tides. That shattered the mark of 10.02 feet set during Hurricane Donna in 1960.
Wind gusts from the storm registered as high as 96 miles per hour at an elevated location at Eatons Neck on Long Island, said Pollina. JFK Airport in Queens clocked a 79 mile per hour gust, while Newark Airport was right behind at 78 miles per hour and even Central Park was buffeted with a high gust of 62 miles per hour, said Pollina.
LIVE TRACKER: See where Sandy is now, where it's headed
Even though water levels along the coast have been subsiding since Monday evening, the combination of the storm surge and high tide could still cause areas to flood, especially during the next high tide. Flood and flash flood warnings were still in effect over coastal waters in the mid-Atlantic states, New York and New England. The Weather Service was predicting that water could reach between 2 and 4 feet above ground level in Delaware Bay and the upper and middle Chesapeake Bay. The Jersey shore northward to Massachusetts was expected to reach between 1 and 3 feet.
Rainfall of 3 to 8 inches was expected across the mid-Atlantic states, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches possible. Snowfalls of 2 to 3 feet were expected in the mountains of West Virginia.
Sandy will continue into western Pennsylvania Tuesday, with a turn into western New York Tuesday night, the Weather Service predicted. The storm is expected to move into Canada on Wednesday.
The storm first made landfall in New Jersey Monday evening and by Tuesday morning had affected people from the Carolinas to Ohio with power outages. It reached as far as Chicago.
Associated Press and USA TODAY