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October 31, 2012

Sandy leaves devastation behind in N.Y., N.J.

Sandy, the hybrid hurricane/nor'easter, began to lose steam Tuesday as it drifted across Pennsylvania and veered toward Canada. But the damage was done, and it will go down as a historic storm, not least because of what it did to New York, where a surge of seawater inundated some of the most valuable real estate in America.

Much of Manhattan, the seat of American finance, is in the dark. Someone standing after dusk Tuesday in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge would see the lighted-up Chrysler Building and other Midtown skyscrapers to the north but darkened buildings to the south — almost all of Lower Manhattan vanishing into the night. Only City Hall was illuminated.

Power could be out for a week — a fact noted by some New Yorkers who packed their bags and headed for the exits.

The storm was blamed for 48 deaths up and down the East Coast, according to the Associated Press. The tempest played havoc with the power grid, knocking out electricity to 7.5 million people. More than 16,000 airline flights have been canceled so far. Eqecat, a firm that models the costs of catastrophes for insurance companies, estimated Sandy's economic impact on the country at $10 billion to $20 billion.

At the point of attack was the New York City, a marvel of infrastructure and civil engineering that rediscovered this week that it is a coastal city, and that nature can be vicious. Sandy's high winds sparked fires that destroyed scores of houses. All the New York City airports remained closed Tuesday, along with the flooded subway. Wall Street never opened for business, the first two-day closure due to weather since the days of horses and buggies. The United Nations will be closed Wednesday for the third straight day.

"The damage we suffered across the city is clearly extensive, and it will not be repaired overnight," said New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

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