U.S. President Barack Obama will visit the storm-battered state of New Jersey Wednesday to view damage with the governor and thank emergency workers struggling to cope with the disaster.
The visit, announced Tuesday by the White House, comes as a vast army of rescue and utility workers confront the wreckage from Hurricane Sandy. The storm hit the New Jersey shore late Monday as a powerful tropical storm, causing massive flooding, raging fires and power outages that crippled the New York metropolitan area.
The storm, which stalked the East Coast for days before coming ashore, has killed at least 43 people.
Earlier Tuesday, the president declared "major disasters" in New York and New Jersey, freeing up federal funds aimed at off-setting billions of dollars in East Coast property damage.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said many of the city's flooded subway tunnels are closed, and warned that the city faces days, if not weeks, of storm recovery challenges.
"The damage we suffered across the city is clearly extensive and it will not be repaired overnight. The two biggest challenges facing our city going forward are getting our mass transit system up and running and restoring power," said Bloomberg.
Trading at the New York Stock Exchange was canceled Tuesday for a second day in a row, marking the first time since 1888 that trading has been suspended for two consecutive days because of weather. It will open on schedule Wednesday.
In neighboring New Jersey, a possible berm breach has caused flooding in several towns, forcing at least 800 people to evacuate. Also, a New Jersey nuclear power plant declared an alert after waters rose to a designated high-level mark. Officials said there were no safety concerns at the plant, which was shut off for maintenance.
In a news conference, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said a popular vacation destination in his state has been hit hard.
"The level of devastation at the Jersey shore is unthinkable," said Christie.
VOA's Daniela Schrier took her camera to the East Village district in Lower Manhattan Monday night to document the damage from flood waters rushing city streets.
Christie, a Republican who has been harshly critical of President Barack Obama, praised the president for his response to the storm. In an interview with the NBC television network's "Today" show, he said the president and federal emergency officials had done an "outstanding" job.
Other U.S. cities along the Eastern Seaboard, including Washington, were also left gasping Tuesday, with public transit systems suspended, airports closed and millions of people forced to stay home from work for a second day.
Unseasonably powerful blizzards struck further inland. As much as a meter of snow was predicted in some places, as the storm spanned some 1,500 kilometers.
Weather forecaster Dan Pydinowski (of the AccuWeather service) said that "Sandy" has been a unique storm.
"This is certainly pretty amazing. Just a number of amazing aspects to this storm, obviously how large it was. The low pressure which made for such a strong and expansive wind field and, of course, having the cold air on the western side of this storm add in an even more unique element to it - that we had a couple feet of snow in the southern Appalachians, the central Appalachians," said Pydinowski.
Federal government offices have been closed since Monday.
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