Obama en route to NJ and Sandy destruction

NBC's Lester Holt reports from New Jersey, where Superstorm Sandy ripped apart the coastline, leaving millions without power.

By Miguel Llanos, NBC News

President Barack Obama was en route to New Jersey's battered coastline on Wednesday, as the state and 15 others dealt with cleanup and power outages two days after Superstorm Sandy tore through.

Obama's guide will be N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican and vocal backer of presidential challenger Mitt Romney who has nevertheless has praised Obama and the federal response to the storm.

Christie said he plans to ask the president to assign the Army Corps of Engineers to work on how "to rebuild the beach to protect these towns."

But, he added, "it won't be the same because some of the iconic things are washed into the ocean."

Christie on Wednesday ordered that Halloween trick-or-treating be moved to Nov. 5 due to unsafe conditions. Aerial footage of the coastline Wednesday morning showed mile after mile of destruction: a neighborhood on fire, others swamped by sand and evacuations still happening in places with high water.

Recovery operations on Wednesday got a boost from the Navy, which ordered three helicopter carrier ships to the New Jersey and New York coasts, officials told NBC News.

The USS Wasp, USS Carter Hall, and USS Mesa Verde will provide landing platforms for Coast Guard, National Guard and civilian agency helicopters if needed, the officials said, adding that the Atlantic Fleet command made the decision in the name of "prudent planning."

Amazing footage shows New York Police rescue crews plucking five adults and one child from rooftops in a flooded section of Staten Island. NBC's Lester Holt reports.

Wall Street reopened Wednesday, as did some airports and businesses, but transit in New Jersey and New York City remained severed and Sandy's vast reach cut power in 20 states.

Two days after landfall, Sandy was still impacting areas from the Atlantic coast to as far inland as Chicago:

  • Fueled by natural gas leaks, fires that destroyed more than a dozen homes in a New Jersey shore town hit hard by Sandy have rekindled, NBCNewYork.com reported. Other communities up and down the coast also saw fires destroy homes.
  • National Guard troops were helping evacuate flooded neighborhoods in Hoboken, N.J., NBCNewYork.com reported. "About 20,000 people still remain in their homes, and we're trying to put together an evacuation plan, get the equipment here," Mayor Dawn Zimmer told MSNBC Tuesday night. 
  • New Jersey's barrier islands were literally reshaped by the surge of water, NBC's Al Roker reported.
  • More than three feet of snow fell in parts of West Virginia, where 270,000 homes and businesses were without power Tuesday night, NBC station WSAZ reported. Red House, Md., saw 30 inches of snow.
  • In Chicago, forecasters warned that high waves and flooding are possible on the Lake Michigan shore on Wednesday. Sandy caused waves up to two-stories high on the Great Lakes Tuesday, forcing massive cargo ships -- some longer than three football fields -- to seek shelter. "We don't stop for thunderstorms and flurries," said Glen Nekvasil, spokesman for lake cargo association. "But this was just too much."
  • In New Haven, Conn., Sandy blew down a tree that uprooted human remains and what appeared to be a time capsule. 

Winter storm warnings and advisories remained in effect for parts of southwestern Pennsylvania, western Maryland, West Virginia, eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, and extreme western North Carolina. An additional 2 to 4 inches of snow were expected in the mountains of West Virginia into western Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania.

Interactive storm tracker
Sandy leaves trail of destruction, disbelief

Sandy has claimed at least 47 lives in the U.S., NBC News reported Wednesday, after killing 68 in the Caribbean.

Some 6 million homes and businesses in 16 states -- two thirds in New Jersey and New York -- were still without power Wednesday morning. 

In New Jersey, footage from a helicopter flying over the coastline showed fires raging among storm-damaged homes and sand pushed inland, with TODAY's Natalie Morales reporting that she counted some 25 separate points of flame.

Boats that Morales said had been "tossed as if toys" could be seen piled up next to wrecked houses in the area. 

Sandy by the numbers
BreakingNews.com's coverage of Sandy

In Hoboken, across from Manhattan, live wires dangled in floodwaters that Zimmer said were rapidly mixing with sewage.

In New York City, subway tracks and commuter tunnels were under several feet of water. The lower half of Manhattan remained without power after a transformer explosion at a Con Edison substation Monday night.

Hit with a record storm surge of nearly 14 feet of water, New York City likely will struggle without subways for days, authorities said. Buses were operating on a limited basis.

Officials with New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority said they would release a timetable of their recovery plans sometime on Wednesday.

Sandy leaves NYC subway system, infrastructure licking its wounds

Two of the area's three major airports -- John F. Kennedy International in New York and Newark Liberty International -- planned to reopen with limited service on Wednesday.

New York's LaGuardia Airport was flooded and remained closed. Nearly 19,000 flights have been canceled since Sunday, according to flight tracking service FlightAware.com.

Sunday's New York Marathon is still on, but flying in runners from out of town will be tricky.

NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski as well as Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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