The Empire State Building towers in the background of an apartment buliding in Chelsea, New York City, with the facade broken off October 30, 2012 the morning after Hurricane Sandy. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY
NEW YORK - The battered city was in recovery mode Tuesday, struggling with widespread power outages, flooding and fires after a massive storm that left at least 10 dead here.
"Make no mistake about it, this was a devastating storm. Maybe the worst we have ever experienced," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
He said the city has dealt with 23 "serious" fires, including one in Queens that consumed at least 80 homes in the Breezy Point neighborhood. Firefighters had to use a boat to make rescues.
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About 750,000 Con Ed customers are still without power as of noon Tuesday, Bloomberg said. The utility said customers in Brooklyn and Manhattan who are served by underground electrical equipment should have power in four days. But it will take at least a week to restore power to those in areas served by overhead power lines.
"This is the largest storm-related outage in history," Banda says.
Bloomberg said the city had opened 76 emergency evacuation centers and these remain open, some on generator power. Approximately 6,100 people were housed in the shelters by midday Tuesday.
Taxis have been authorized to pick up multiple passengers and livery cars, known as black cars, are also allowed to do the same.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said limited bus service would resume on a limited schedule at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Full bus service will hopefully resume Wednesday, he said.
"A ray of light is that no fare will be charged on the buses today or tomorrow as New Yorkers are struggling to get their lives back in gear," he said.
-- NYC schools will be closed for a third day Wednesday, but the New York Stock Exhange will open Wednesday.
-- Most bridges were reopening Tuesday. The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, linking the Battery with Brooklyn, and the Holland Tunnel linking Lower Manhattan and Jersey City, N.J., remained closed because of flooding. And the Queens Midtown Tunnel is also closed because of less serious flooding.
-- JFK Airport could reopen Wednesday but not LaGuardia, which had more flooding.
-- The Army Corps of Engineers is sending a "national un-watering team" to the city to help deal with flooding in tunnels and facilities with flooded basements.
"This is not going to be a short term situation," Cuomo said.
Although all areas of the city were hard hit, one of the storm's 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 Con Ed spokesman Allan 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.
"Practically speaking, everyone is out" in the area, Drury said.
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," Drury said. "We do not have a firm estimated time of (electrical) restoration. Obviously, it's going to be a multiday process."
Getting around the city and restoring mass transit service that was halted ahead of the storm Sunday seemed likely to prove arduous.
"My guess is it will come up in pieces and be restored over a period of time," Cuomo said.
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.
The Metro-North commuter train system was without power from Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan deep into stops in the northern suburbs, said MTA spokeswomen Judy Glave and Deidre Parker.
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. ET Monday, a time that roughly coincided with high tide and the full moon that also strengthens tides. Joe
Pollina, a National Weather Center meteorologist, said the record shattered the mark of 10.02 feet set during Hurricane Donna in 1960.
Wind gusts from the storm registered as high as 96 mph at an elevated location at Eatons Neck on Long Island, Pollina said. JFK Airport in Queens clocked a 79-mph gust, while Newark Airport was right behind at 78 mph and even Central Park was buffeted with a high gust of 62 mph, he said.
The back end of the huge but now weakening storm was expected to continue affecting the New York City area Tuesday as Sandy's center lumbered into Pennsylvania, he said.
In fact, after a brief glimpse of sunshine in Lower Manhattan around 9 a.m., scattered rain showers started anew.
Contributing: Haya El Nasser; the Associated Press