Wherever it's headed in Canada, everyone still in the track of the storm needs to take any evacuation order very seriously. The tragedy of Breezy Point, in Queens, New York, which I'll discuss at length in another post, is a cautionary tale. As awful as it was, there were no deaths because 85 percent of the residents obeyed Mayor Bloomberg's evacuation order ahead of Sandy. Even so, firefighters had to risk their lives under the most terrible conditions -- 79 mph winds, lashing rain, flooding -- to rescue some people who didn't evacuate then got trapped by the fires that engulfed row after row of houses.
[snapping her fingers] Yet it happened just like that. One minute it was flooding and rain that residents thought they could ride out; the next minute there was a conflagration.
Same for some New Jersey towns where residents didn't obey the evacuation order ahead of Sandy. One minute the streets were dry; the next minute they were trapped by flooding.
Pundita is very sensitive to this issue because of what happened in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I will never forget an ABC reporter coming out of the hotel with his crew early the next morning -- confusion, then shock, then a dawning horror passing over his features as he stepped into water rushing down the street. The water wasn't even ankle-deep at that point but the street outside the hotel had been dry when the crew had turned in for the night.
Where was the water coming from? Everyone thought the city had escaped a nightmare. The nightmare was just beginning. The water, it turned out, was coming from a massive breach in a levee in the city's Lower Ninth Ward.....
All right, end the PSA. Here's the USA Today report
Superstorm Sandy moves northward, still packs punchElizabeth Weise [with contributing reports from Associated Press and Asbury Park Press
3:47AM EDT October 31, 2012 - Superstorm Sandy continues its relentless path across the United States Wednesday, even as millions begin the task of putting their lives, homes and towns back together after one of the worst storms in the nation's history.
The storm remains enormous, reaching from the Great Lakes to New England. Its center just after midnight was 40 to 50 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pa. It is expected to turn north across western New York and into the Canadian province of Ontario on Wednesday.
As it courses north, the threat of heavy rains, snow and flooding could linger over a huge swath of the Northeast and Midwest for several days.
Sandy has caused at least 50 U.S. deaths so far — 25 in New York, including 18 in flood- and wind-ravaged New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he expected rescue workers to find more as they combed through the wreckage.
Wednesday marks the first day back at work for many in the hardest-hit areas, with days and weeks of cleanup ahead. Two of the nation's busiest airports, New York's Kennedy Airport and New Jersey's Newark Airport, are scheduled to reopen at 7 a.m. for limited service. LaGuardia Airport will stay closed because of extensive damage caused by runway flooding. This should begin to relieve the backlog of the more than 18,100 flights cancelled since Sunday.
Tuesday night in New Jersey, the state hardest hit by the storm, Gov. Chris Christie said "Tomorrow recovery begins. Today was a day of sorrow." He went on: "There's nothing wrong with that. So long as sorrow doesn't replace resilience, we'll be just fine."
President Obama is expected to survey damage in hard-hit areas of New Jersey Wednesday. "We're going to do everything to help you get back on your feet," he said.
Millions of people faced a second day without power Wednesday as temperatures stayed in the 30s and 40s. At its peak more than 8.5 million people were without power Tuesday.
Looting in some areas has been a problem, with reports of robbers posing as electric workers to gain entrance to closed off areas.
In New York City, officials warned that power might not be back until the weekend. While some bus service resumed and bridges reopened Tuesday, transit officials said they couldn't predict when the subway would run again.
Bloomberg promised "a very heavy police presence" in darkened neighborhoods, including much of Manhattan south of the Empire State Building, from the East River to the Hudson River. Police brought in banks of lights and boosted patrols to deter crime. Some businesses hired private security.
But despite the problems, the New York Stock Exchange will reopen at 9:30 a.m., with Bloomberg ringing the opening bell.
At least 17 states suffered intense effects from the storm. Estimated property losses are put at $20 billion 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.
Flood watches remain over parts of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states.The combination of the storm surge and high tide could result in flooding of one to three feet in the Chesapeake Bay, and the tidal Potomac river. Coastal flooding along the Great Lakes was possible due to strong and persistent northerly winds.
The mountains of West Virginia could get a dumping of up to ten inches of more snow, bringing totals to between two and three feet in places. Surf conditions along the Atlantic, from Florida through New England, are expected to remain dangerous through Friday.
Along the storm's path, many communities are postponing Halloween celebrations until streets are once again safe. In New Jersey, Christie vowed to reschedule Halloween if it was too dangerous for children to go trick-or-treating Wednesday night. In a tweet, he pledged to sign an Executive Order rescheduling the holiday.
Contributing: The Associated Press, Asbury Park Press.