New York struggles to recover after killer storm

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Updated: October 31, 2012, 9:17 PM

 
photoA barge with a piling driver rests on its side at the bottom of a canal on Chincoteague Island, Va. on Wednesday, Oct. 31. The barge sank during superstorm Sandy.

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NEW YORK — Flights resumed, but slowly. The New York Stock Exchange got back to business, but on generator power. And with the subways still down, great numbers of people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan in a reverse of the exodus of 9/11.

Two days after Superstorm Sandy rampaged across the Northeast, killing more than 70 people, New York struggled Wednesday to find its way. Swaths of the city were still without power, and all of it was torn from its daily rhythms.

At luxury hotels and drugstores and Starbucks shops that bubbled back to life, people clustered around outlets and electrical strips, desperate to recharge their phones. In the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, a line of people filled pails with water from a fire hydrant. Two children used jack-o’-lantern trick-or-treat buckets.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that parts of the subway would begin running again today, and that three of seven tunnels under the East River had been pumped free of water, removing a major obstacle to restoring full service.

“We are going to need some patience and some tolerance,” he said.

On Wednesday, both were frayed. Bus service was free but delayed, and New Yorkers jammed on, crowding buses so heavily that they skipped stops and rolled past hordes of waiting passengers.

New York City buses serve 2.3 million people on an average day, and two days after the storm they were trying to handle many of the 5.5 million daily subway riders, too.

As far west as Wisconsin and south to the Carolinas, more than 6 million homes and businesses were still without power, including about 650,000 in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The mayor said 500 patients were being evacuated from Bellevue Hospital because of storm damage. The hospital has run on generators since the storm. About 300 patients were evacuated from another Manhattan hospital Monday after it lost generator power.

Bloomberg also canceled school the rest of the week, and the Brooklyn Nets, who just moved from New Jersey, scratched their home opener against the Knicks today.

Still, there were signs that New York was flickering back to life and wasn’t as isolated as it was a day earlier.

Flights resumed at Kennedy and Newark airports on what authorities described as a very limited schedule. Nothing was taking off or landing at LaGuardia, which suffered far worse damage. Amtrak said trains will start running in and out of New York again Friday.

The stock exchange, operating on backup generators, came back to life after its first two-day weather shutdown since the blizzard of 1888. Bloomberg rang the opening bell to whoops from traders below.

Most Broadway shows returned for Wednesday matinees and evening shows.

Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, National Guardsmen in trucks delivered ready-to-eat meals and other supplies to heavily flooded Hoboken and rushed to evacuate people from the city’s high-rises and brownstones. The mayor’s office put out a plea for people to bring boats to City Hall for use in rescuing victims.

Natural gas fires erupted in Brick Township, where scores of homes were wrecked by the storm. And some of the state’s barrier islands, which took a direct hit from Sandy on Monday night, remained all but cut off.

President Barack Obama took a helicopter tour of the ravaged coast with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“We are here for you,” Obama said in Brigantine, N.J. “We are not going to tolerate red tape. We are not going to tolerate bureaucracy.”

In New York, masses of people walked shoulder-to-shoulder across the Brooklyn Bridge to get into Manhattan for work, reminiscent of the escape scenes from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and the blackout of 2003.

They entered an island sharply divided between those who had power and those who did not.

In Manhattan at night, it was possible to walk downtown along an avenue and move in an instant from a mostly normal New York scene — delis open, people milling outside bars — into a pitch-black cityscape, with police flares marking intersections.

People who did have power took to social media to offer help to neighbors.