ALBANY – Fifteen New Yorkers died during Hurricane Sandy and New York City is struggling to get power and its sprawling transportation infrastructure restored, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said today.
“I don’t think words like catastrophic or historic are too strong,’’ Cuomo said of the effects of the storm and the surge of water that came from the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound and rivers surrounding New York City.
Ten of the 15 deaths were in New York City. Officials expect that total to climb.
Officials also said hundreds of people were rescued in New York City and Long Island during the height of the storm.
The deaths were the result of everything from falling tree limbs to electrocution from downed power lines. Cuomo did not provide specific information on where in New York state the deaths occurred.
All three New York City airports remain closed, which is fueling cancellations throughout the nation’s aviation industry at airports far removed from the East Coast. John F. Kennedy Airport is due to open Wednesday, , but LaGuardia Airport will not reopen until at least Thursday “due to extensive damage,’’ Cuomo said.
Subway tunnels are flooded, which officials worry could cause long-term problems because of the effects of salt water on electrical and other infrastructure within the system. Train and bus service is still curtailed, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s 1.1 million public school children will be and again at least on Wednesday. Bus service is expected to begin later this evening on a limited basis.
Amtrak trains from upstate to New York were halted and power to run commuter trains is out from mid-town Manhattan to the Croton north of the city. In Ossining in Westchester County, a 40-foot boat pushed from the Hudson River still straddles train tracks used by commuter rail and Amtrak tracks.
Cuomo said the East River rose as far west as between 1st and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan and that the Hudson and East rivers merged at the tip of Manhattan, pushing water into the lower part of the borough’s financial district. Markets remain closed again today.
More than two million customers are without power today – 930,000 of them on Long Island, Cuomo said. That means 90 percent of Long Island’s population is without power. He said parts of Long Island were under 10 feet of water during the storm. Ninety percent of Long Island is without power, as are large parts of Westchester County.
He said the state is trying to get utility crews from as far away as California to supplement repair crews already stretched thin.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said parts of the Garden State’s shoreline communities are so devastated his helicopter tour of the devastation would not even be able to touch down in many areas.
Cuomo said he toured the World Trade Center site Monday night and he witnessed a “frightening sight’’ with water from the Hudson River rushing into the construction-area pit at the lower Manhattan site.
The governor said there is a “new reality’’ to weather patterns that are increasingly disturbing. “I said to the president, kiddingly, that we have a 100-year flood every two years now,’’ Cuomo said of Monday’s storm and the two hurricanes that hit upstate last year.
Cuomo said the infrastructure transportation rebuilding must take into account what he said is a change in climate that is producing stronger storms affecting New York.
In a region whose economy depends on public transportation, officials gave a dire assessment of subway lines. Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lohta said the storm “wrecked havoc’’ on the transit system and caused the worst damage in the subway system’s more than 100 year history. He said six subway tunnels, or tubes, into Manhattan are flooded, and two vehicle tunnels remain closed.
Cuomo could not yet provide cost estimates for the various reconstruction and emergency services expenses by the state and localities, but said the federal government should reimburse the “overwhelming’’ majority of those costs. He left a news conference in Manhattan shortly before noon to talk with President Obama about the storm’s impact and its costs.
Given the storm’s hit on the nation’s biggest city, which is a major generator of revenues for the state government and a driver of the state’s economy, Cuomo openly worried about the potential hit on the economy by the closure of small businesses and people who might lose jobs.