by Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY
NEW YORK - The battered city was in in recovery mode Tuesday, struggling with widespread power outages, flooding and fires following a massive storm that left at least 10 dead here.
"It was an extremely devastating and destructive storm, hopefully one that people will only see once in their lifetime," said Joe Pollina, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg put the city death toll at 10 early Tuesday.
"Make no mistake about it, this was a devastating storm. Maybe the worst we have ever experienced," 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, firefighters told WABC-TV. They climbed an awning to reach about 25 trapped people and take them down to a boat.
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.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced limited NYC bus service would resume on a Sunday schedule at 5 p.m. this evening. 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.
Other Cuomo updates:
-- NYC schools will be closed for a third day Wednesday.
-- The New York Stock Exhange may reopen Wednesday. An update is expected later today.
-- 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 due 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 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.
"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. Pollina 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 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, 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: Associated Press
Copyright 2012 USATODAY.com