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Obama to Storm Victims: 'America is With You'

President Barack Obama speaks during visit to Red Cross in Washington Oct. 30, 2012President Barack Obama speaks during visit to Red Cross in Washington Oct. 30, 2012
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President Barack Obama speaks during visit to Red Cross in Washington Oct. 30, 2012
President Barack Obama speaks during visit to Red Cross in Washington Oct. 30, 2012
Margaret Besheer
U.S. President Barack Obama has told Americans affected by the superstorm that ravaged parts of the East Coast of the United States that “America is with you.”  Recovery efforts began Tuesday in hard-hit areas, particularly in New York and New Jersey, which were impacted by the storm known as Sandy.  The storm caused billions of dollars in damage and killed at least 32 people in the United States.

The president spoke from the Washington D.C. headquarters of the American Red Cross.  He said the country would stand behind storm victims and help them recover.

“My message to the governors and the mayors - and through them the communities that have been hit so hard - is that we are going to do everything we can to get resources to you and make sure that any unmet need that is identified, we are responding to it as quickly as possible,” Obama said.

  • Homes devastated by fire and effects of Hurricane Sandy at the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough of New York, October 30, 2012.
  • Water reaches the street level of the flooded Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, October 30, 2012, in New York. Superstorm Sandy arrived along the East Coast putting more than 7.5 million homes and businesses in the dark and causing a number of deaths.
  • One World Trade Center and large portions of lower Manhattan and Hoboken, New Jersey, are seen without power from Jersey City, New Jersey, October 30, 2012, the morning after a powerful storm flooded the subway system, shuttered financial markets and left hundreds of thousands without power.
  • Residents, including a young child, are rescued by emergency personnel from flood waters brought on by Hurricane Sandy in Little Ferry, New Jersey, October 30, 2012.
  • A woman is lifted into a National Guard vehicle after leaving her flooded home at the Metropolitan Trailer Park in Moonachie, New Jersay, October 30, 2012, after superstorm Sandy.
  • Elaine Belviso, 72, is rescued from her flooded home by Suffolk County police after being trapped there overnight by superstorm Sandy, October 30, 2012, in Babylon, New York.
  • A car is crushed under a fallen tree in the Lower East Side in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York, October 30, 2012.
  • A dead deer is pictured with driftwood and debris left by a combination of storm surge from Hurricane Sandy and high tide in Southampton, New York, October 30, 2012.
  • Boats lie piled up as people work to secure a fuel dock in the wake of superstorm Sandy, October 30, 2012, in West Babylon, New York.
  • Sand and debris cover a part of town near the ocean in Atlantic City, New Jersey, October 30, 2012, a day after Sandy made landfall.
  • Large chunks of the boardwalk are piled near an apartment building on the ocean in Atlantic City, New Jersey, October 30, 2012.
  • Kim Johnson looks at the destruction left by Sandy near her seaside apartment in Atlantic City, New Jersey, October 30, 2012.
  • Snow falls in Elkins, West Virginia, October 30, 2012, a day after Sandy slammed the eastern coast of the Unites States. In some parts of West Virginia, the collision of multiple storm systems could produce up to 3 feet of snow.
  • A man takes a picture of calm seas and sun-dappled clouds in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, at sunrise on Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, October 30, 2012.
  • An uprooted tree lies on top of a home after being pushed over by winds from Hurricane Sandy in Westhampton Beach, New York, October 30, 2012.
  • Consolidated Edision trucks are submerged on 14th Street near the ConEd power plant, October 29, 2012, in New York. Sandy knocked out power to at least 3.1 million people.
  • Sandy also impacted Canada, where flowers are left at the Toronto site where a woman was killed after being hit by a flying sign that shook loose due to high winds from the remnants of the hurricane, October 30, 2012.
  • This CCTV photo released by the official Twitter feed of The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey shows flood waters from Hurricane Sandy rushing in to the Hoboken PATH station through an elevator shaft on October 29, 2012 in Hoboken, New Jersey.
  • This photo provided by MTA Bridges and Tunnels shows floodwaters from Sandy entering the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel (former Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel), which was closed, October 29, 2012.
  • Rising water from the Hudson River overtakes a bank drive-through in Edgewater, New Jersey, October 29, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast.
  • The facade of a four-story building on 14th Street and 8th Avenue collapsed onto the sidewalk as FDNY firefighters respond, October 29, 2012, in New York.
  • FDNY inflatable boats travel along 14th street towards the East River on a rescue mission in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, October 29, 2012, in New York.
  • The skyline of lower Manhattan sits in darkness after a preventive power outage in New York, October 29, 2012.
  • Ambulances line up outside New York University Tisch Hospital during an evacuation of the hospital after its backup generator failed when the power was knocked out by Sandy, October 29, 2012.

There are many needs, especially in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, where millions are without power, transit systems have ground to a halt, and roads are littered by fallen trees and other debris.  In one Queens, New York neighborhood, 80 houses were damaged or destroyed by fires sparked by the storm and spread by its winds.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it would be several days before this city of more than eight million people is back to normal.  There is flooding to several subway tunnels and damage to tracks and some 750,000 New Yorkers are without electricity.

“You should expect, given the extent of the damage, power may be out in lots of places for two or three days and maybe even a little bit longer than that,” Bloomberg said.

The mayor said public schools would remain closed through Wednesday.  Area airports also sustained damage, with flooded runways canceling thousands of flights.  John F. Kennedy International Airport was expected to reopen Wednesday, but New York's other major air hub, LaGuardia Airport, was expected to remain closed.

New York is the United States' financial capital and the state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Wall Street will come back online Wednesday.  But as for other services, he warned residents that the cleanup process would not be quick or easy.

“This is not going to be a short-term situation.  This a long-term recovery and reconstruction effort and that is the way we need to think about it,” Cuomo said.

But for the most part, New Yorkers were trying to take Sandy in stride.

In the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, residents were emerging from their homes Tuesday, exploring the area which is close to the East River and assessing damage.

Resident Conor O'Shea said he was grateful that the area escaped the high waters that swept through lower Manhattan. “We really didn't see any of the major flooding that lower Manhattan saw, so we were lucky,” he said.

But he admitted that dealing with no subways and few buses for the coming days would be a challenge.

“Yeah, it is going to be an issue, so we will see how that goes.  Hopefully they will get it back up sooner rather than later,” O'Shea said.

Eric, a tourist from Paris, France, arrived two days before Sandy and said he was impressed by how New Yorkers were handling the storm's aftermath.

“It's beautiful to see how people here are already working to repair, to cut the trees, and everything,” Eric said.

North of New York, in the state of Connecticut, several coastal communities were pounded by the storm.  Severe flooding and downed trees have left nearly 600,000 residents without electricity.

New Jersey was also badly hit.  More than 2.4 million households were without power on Tuesday and roads and rail systems there were shut down.  Many seaside communities sustained severe damage.  Governor Chris Christie told reporters that some beach homes were swept off their foundations and at one amusement park, some of the rides had ended up in the Atlantic Ocean.

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