Monster Storm Sandy: Northeast's Staggering Losses Still Being Counted

As much of the U.S. took part in the usual Halloween festivities last night, residents in the Northeast were still coping with the widespread damage caused by the monster storm that hit Monday. By mid-evening Wednesday, the death toll from superstorm Sandy had reached 72 people and about 6 million homes were still without power.

Financial experts predicted an estimated $20 billion in damage and $10 billion to $30 billion in business loss as a result of the storm.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared that Halloween trick-or-treating be postponed until next Monday, saying that it was too dangerous for children to participate in the tradition while floodwaters, downed electrical wires, power outages and fallen trees continued to be a problem, various news agencies reported.

While in New Jersey, President Obama toured the devastation with Christie.

"We are here for you," Obama told residents during a news conference following the tour. "We will follow up to make sure you get the help you need until you rebuild."

In New York City on Wednesday, buses resumed their schedule and the New York Stock Exchange reopened. However, most analysts estimate that it will be days and in some cases much longer for the hardest hit communities to get back to normal.

"We will get through the days ahead by doing what we always do in tough times – by standing together, shoulder to shoulder, ready to help a neighbor, comfort a stranger and get the city we love back on its feet," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

New York's subway system sustained the worst damage in its 108-year history and it may take four or five days before it is fully operational again, said Bloomberg according to a Fox News report. State agency subway officials said service might have to resume on a partial basis at first. The cost of fixing the system that 5 million people use regularly could be incredibly high, say experts.

Yesterday, Consolidated Edison said it would take four days before the last of the 337,000 customers in Manhattan and Brooklyn who lost power have electricity again and it could take a week to restore outages in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester County, according to news agencies. Officials said that part of the reason for the outages was that the flooding led to explosions that crippled a power substation Monday night.

The storm seriously impacted at least 10 states and the District of Columbia. People in Chicago were warned to stay away from the Lake Michigan lakefront, which was expecting waves of 20 feet or higher yesterday, according to a McClatchy Newspapers article.

Editors at USA Today wrote in an opinion article that superstorm Sandy "will almost certainly join the pantheon of 'costliest storms in history.' The impact of the storm has been felt from South Carolina to southern Massachusetts."

The publication's editors took the opportunity to critique the government for the high cost to taxpayers for beach development and infrastructure. They write, "Finally, federal and state taxpayers have spent billions of dollars over the last four decades pumping up beaches in front of coastal properties (beach nourishment) and constructing coastal protection projects. In New Jersey alone, approximately $1 billion in public funds have been spent just to keep beaches in front of homes and oceanfront buildings.

"Even more mind-boggling is the fact that FEMA treats beach nourishment projects as infrastructure. If a storm washes away your beach, taxpayers will put it back. One of the hidden costs of Hurricane Sandy up and down the East Coast will be the federal funds used to put the sand back in front of the houses."