Throngs of frustrated commuters endured long lines at bridges, gas pumps and subway transfer points Thursday as parts of the tri-state struggled to return to normal while others were still tallying casualties and assessing the damage from Sandy.
Commuting was rough no matter how people tried to get around. Traffic snarled on bridges leading into Manhattan as police set up checkpoints to make sure three occupants were in cars traveling into the city — a new rule aimed at reducing road congestion. Subway service began for the first time but it was spotty -- there are no trains below 34th Street in Manhattan, an area still largely without power -- and buses are supplementing service between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Lines at bus transfer stations swelled in the morning. Chopper 4 showed more than 1,000 people waiting for buses outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. As buses pulled up, passengers rushed the doors.
The scene was "pure mayhem," said one commuter, Lanisha Harris, who left her Canarsie home at 7 a.m. to get to work in Manhattan. She waited for a bus for nearly 40 minutes before her supervisor at work told her to go back home and try again on Monday.
"It was very chaotic down there, as people are flowing into downtown Brooklyn from various parts of Brooklyn," she said.
The MTA has waived fares on subways, commuter rail and buses through Friday night.
With gasoline supplies scarce, many stations in and around the city closed up shop while stations still open drew long lines of cars that spilled out on to roadways.
"Either they're out of gas or the lines are ridiculous. A lot of places are waiting for deliveries. I have no patience. Places that had gas yesterday, they no longer have gas," said Katie Leggio while she was in her car waiting in line in North Amityville, on Long Island.
Throughout the region, millions of customers are still without power.
Con Edison said it had restored power to a dense part of Lower Manhattan that includes the World Trade Center site, although much of the borough below 39th Street was still dark for a fourth night since Sandy blew through. The utility said most customers without power in Manhattan likely would have it back this weekend.
Others still enduring outages would likely not have service restored until next weekend, Nov. 10 and Nov. 11, Con Edison said. Customers in the hardest hit areas could be without power for a week after that or longer.
The tri-state death toll surpassed a grim milestone on Thursday, surpassing 50 with the confirmation of more fatalities from Sandy on Staten Island.
In coastal communities throughout the tri-state, authorities have barely begun worrying about basic services because they are still focused on rescuing the stranded -- or worse -- the task of recovering bodies.
On Staten Island, rescue workers have been going from house to house in Midland and South Beach, searching for those who did not heed evacuation orders and stayed behind. In many cases, they are not finding anyone alive; many of the dead were elderly or people who lived alone.
The bodies of two young boys, 2 and 4, were among those found Thursday on Staten Island. Their mother told police that they were swept away by rising waters during the storm.
In some places, authorities were just beginning to assess the damage. A source told NBC 4 New York on Thursday that Liberty and Ellis islands sustained serious damage and said "the infrastructure is shot." The Statue of Liberty is OK, but the docks and grounds are in "bad shape." It's expected to take significant time before the islands reopen.
Mayor Bloomberg said the city would distribute meals and bottle water in hard-hit areas beginning Thursday and lasting at least through Sunday. Word of that came as frustrated residents on Staten Island asked why the Red Cross had not been there yet, and as NBC 4 New York found people digging through dumpsters in the East Village.
New Jersey got the brunt of Sandy, which made landfall in the state and killed 12 people there. About 1.7 million customers were without power Thursday, down from a peak of 2.7 million.
Gov. Chris Christie says utility workers from other states will be coming to speed up the restoration of power.
The governor said Thursday he emphasized to state utility leaders that they needed to throw away "whatever playbooks" they had been using.
He says federal authorities are setting up temporary housing for all the out-of-state utility workers.
Christie also announced that the federal government will be providing rail cars to help NJ Transit get train service up and running. But he gave no timetable. He said 25 percent of the system's rail cars were in yards that flooded.
The National Weather Service said Wednesday that the strongest wind gusts reported during Sandy were 90 mph, recorded at Islip on Long Island, on Robbins Reef, just off Staten Island and in Bayonne, N.J.
President Barack Obama arrived in Atlantic City, N.J., to inspect conditions in the area directly in the storm's path Monday night. After surveying the damage in a helicopter tour, Obama and Christie stopped at the Brigantine Beach Community Center, which is serving as an evacuation shelter.
"The entire country has been watching what's been happening," Obama said. "Everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit."
Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports reopened with limited service on Wednesday; LaGuardia Airport, which suffered far worse damage and where water covered parts of runways, reopened Thursday.
NEW YORK CITY
Con Ed said it had about 227,000 customers out in Manhattan, 103,000 in Queens, 83,000 in Staten Island, 59,000 in Brooklyn and 36,000 in the Bronx. The utility said Manhattan customers would be restored this weekend, but most others would not have service until next weekend, Nov. 10 and 11. Customers in the hardest hit areas could be without it for a week after that or longer.
At least 36 storm-related deaths have been reported.
The city will open several food and water distribution sites in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and Manhattan Friday at 1 p.m. See the list of sites here.
LIRR service resumed Wednesday, starting with hourly train service between Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal. Visit www.mta.info for the latest.
Metro-North restored limited service on its Harlem Line between North White Plains and Grand Central Terminal. Visit www.mta.info for the latest.
Very limited subway service resumed Thursday, with buses supplementing service between Brooklyn and Manhattan. There will still be no subway service below 34th Street in Manhattan because of power outages there. Visit www.mta.info for the latest. Fares are waived through Friday.
Amtrak said it will resume service between New York City and Boston on Friday. Limited service between the city and points south resumed Thursday.
Three of the seven flooded East River subway tunnels have been pumped.
Limited bus service resumed Tuesday. Yellow cabs will be able to pick up multiple passengers and livery cabs will be up to pick up curbside fares, Bloomberg said. Riders in both instances should negotiate fares with the driver ahead of time, the mayor said.
The East River Ferry will resume on a modified schedule beginning at 7 a.m. Thursday. Ferry stops in Greenpoint and South Williamsburg remain closed until further notice. Check nywaterway.com for more information.
The Staten Island Ferry remains closed.
Cars entering Manhattan on East River bridges must have at least three passengers as a way to reduce congestion.
Bellevue Hospital was evacuated Wednesday after officials say equipment was too heavily damaged by flooding.
New York City schools are closed for the rest of the week.
FEMA said residents and business owners could begin applying for disaster aid Thursday. Those seeking federal disaster assistance are urged to start here.
The Lincoln Tunnel is open but the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel are closed until further notice. The Holland Tunnel will open one tube Friday for buses only.
City parks are closed. They were being inspected and could open by the weekend, the mayor said.
Liberty and Ellis islands sustained serious damage and National Park Service sources tell NBC 4 New York "the infrastructure is shot." The Statue of Liberty is OK, but the docks and grounds are in "bad shape." It's expected to take significant time before the islands reopen.
PATH Train service remains suspended indefinitely, the Port Authority said.
Long Island Power Authority reported more than 678,000 customers without power.
At least two storm-related deaths have been reported.
The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant was flooded during the storm, and critical infrastructure was damaged, causing sewage to back up into schools and homes. A conserve water order is in effect in Nassau County from the Queens border to the Meadowbrook Parkway, south of the Long Island Expressway.
Authorities say severe delays remain along the Long Island Expressway leading into New York City. They're advising motorists to seek alternate routes.
About 1.7 million customers were without power and 5,500 residents were in shelters. PSE&G estimated it would restore power to 780,000 customers within a week to 10 days. JCP&L said it expected to reconnect the remaining 910,000 of its customers within a week, and Atlantic City Electric, which has 77,000 outages, expects to restore service to customers on the mainland by Sunday.
New Jersey Natural Gas said it would shut off gas to the hurricane-damaged barrier islands south of Point Pleasant Beach to Seaside Park, as well as Long Beach Island, affecting 28,000 customers. Electricity will be restored to the area once the gas is shut down, the company said.
The storm killed at least 14 people.
Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy ordered a curfew starting Wednesday night for all residents. It lasts from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. He also ordered all schools closed until Monday.
A Monmouth County curfew of 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. is still in effect for: Aberdeen, Allenhurst, Asbury Park, Atlantic Highlands, Avon-By-The-Sea, Belmar, Bradley Beach, Brielle, Deal, Interlaken, Hazlet, Highlands, Keansburg, Keyport, Lake Como, Loch Arbour, Long Branch, Manasquan, Matawan, Middletown east of Route 36, Monmouth Beach, Sea Bright, Sea Girt, Spring Lake and Union Beach.
Many towns across the state rescheduled Halloween for the weekend.
All New Jersey Transit train lines remain suspended. Eighty percent of bus routes resumed Thursday. PATH Train service is suspended indefinitely, the Port Authority said.
One tube of the Holland Tunnel will be open Friday for buses only.
FEMA said residents and business owners could begin applying for disaster aid Thursday.
Conditions were still too hazardous Wednesday to allow residents back on Long Beach Island, where cars were buried in 5 feet of sand, crews used heavy equipment to clear the roads and National Guard members went door-to-door, checking on residents who stayed.
Long Beach Island still lacked sewer service, water, gas and electricity. The stench of natural gas hung in the air, indicating broken lines.
The following water companies have issued boil water advisories: Atlantic City MUA, New Brunswick Water Department, Independence MUA - Highland System; Warren County; Fortesque; Ship Bottom; Cedar Bonnet Island; United Water Sunset Ridge, Vernon Township; United Water Highlands Lakes, Vernon Township; United Water Predmore, Vernon Township; United Water Sammis, Vernon Township; United Water Woodridge Wantage; Brant Beach
In Brick Township, as many as 10 homes caught fire during the storm, when they were knocked from their foundations, rupturing gas lines, said Brick Township Police Sgt. Keith Reinhard. Some gas lines continued to burn Wednesday.
About 350,000 customers were without power Thursday, down from a peak of more than 620,000.
Connecticut Light & Power said it expects restoration to be "substantially complete" by Monday or Tuesday, with about 2 percent of customers still without power then.
United Illuminating said it expects to restore power to 95 percent of its customers before midnight on Monday.