Sandy's aftermath causes nightmare commute, housing crisis

Mon Nov 5, 2012 5:19pm EST
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By Daniel Trotta and Philip Barbara

NEW YORK/BELMAR, New Jersey (Reuters) - Commuters battled unruly crowds on the trains and snarled traffic on the highways Monday at the start of the first full work week since superstorm Sandy devastated the U.S. Northeast.

Many of Sandy's victims were still suffering, and living conditions were harsh for tens of thousands of people unable to return to their homes. Some 1.4 million homes and businesses were due to endure another night of near-freezing temperatures without power or heat.

The devastation could also send ripples through Tuesday's presidential election, with President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney locked in a close race.

An exhausted region now faces the prospect of a new storm. A strong "Nor'easter" was forecast to bring freezing temperatures and more rain and wind by the middle of the week, possibly flooding coastal areas that have yet to recover from Sandy.

The U.S. death toll rose to at least 113, and thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged by the gigantic storm, which slammed into the U.S. East Coast a week ago, bringing a record storm surge that flooded low-lying areas with seawater.

Hurricane Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean before turning its 80 mph winds on the United States. More than 217,000 people have registered for assistance from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency and about $199 million in has been provided, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said.

With the ground in coastal New Jersey towns still saturated with ocean water, officials feared the Nor'easter could flood them again.

In Belmar, Lake Como and Spring Lake, they were taking the precaution of pumping three lakes in these towns nearly to the bottom so groundwater would leak into them and lawns could better absorb the rain.   Continued...

A view of the remains of a beach front home, torn in half by the force of the water in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, at Bay Head, New Jersey November 4, 2012. REUTERS/Tom Mihalek