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Sandy: Obama surveys storm damage as normalcy slowly returns to the East Coast (UPDATE)

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UPDATE 1:06 p.m.: President Barack Obama on Wednesday toured areas of New Jersey damaged when Hurricane Sandy made landfall. With  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie by his side, he told  residents impacted by the massive storm that "we're going to be here for the long haul."

The president flew over the region, getting an overhead view of flooded neighborhoods and streets covered with sand. At a shelter, Obama said one of his top priorities is getting power back on. About 6 million remain without electricity from as far west as Wisconsin to as far south as the Carolinas.

Progress was slow in coming: Two major airports reopened and the New York Stock Exchange got back to business Wednesday, while across the Hudson River in New Jersey, National Guardsmen rushed to feed and rescue flood victims. The death toll attributed to Sandy has risen to at least 62 people in the U.S. 

National Guard trucks rolled into heavily flooded Hoboken, N.J. to deliver ready-to-eat meals and other supplies and to evacuate people from their condo high-rises, brownstones and other homes. The mayor of the city of 50,000 issued an appeal for people to bring boats to City Hall to help with the evacuation.

Natural gas fires raged Wednesday in a section of Brick Township, N.J., where dozens of houses were devastated by the storm's surge. No injuries were reported.

New York's subway system was still down, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said parts of it will begin running again on Thursday. And he said some commuter rail service between the city and its suburbs would resume Wednesday afternoon.

Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports began handling flights again just after 7 a.m. New York's LaGuardia Airport, which suffered far worse damage and still had water on its runways, remained closed.

PREVIOUSLY: The East Coast is slowly beginning to come back to normal as the region digs out from the damage left behind by Hurricane Sandy.

Two major airports reopened and the floor of the New York Stock Exchange came back to life Wednesday, but across the river in New Jersey, the National Guard searched for flood victims and fires still raged two days after the super storm .

LAX and other Southern California airports are beginning to get arrivals from those airports. But while there are more flights from the Northeast on the schedule, there are still cancellations. The website flightstats.com has the latest on flight delays nationwide.

For the first time since the storm  smashed into the Northeast, killing 55 people and doing billions of dollars in damage, brilliant sunshine washed over New York City – a striking sight after days of gray skies, rain and wind. But more than 6 million remain in the dark – some as far away as Michigan – down from a peak of more than 8 million who were without power.

RELATED: How to donate to Sandy storm relief efforts

Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight predicted the storm will end up causing about $20 billion in damages and $10 billion to $30 billion in lost business. Another firm, AIR Worldwide, estimated losses up to $15 billion – big numbers probably offset by reconstruction and repairs that will contribute to longer-term growth.

It was clear that restoring the region to its ordinarily frenetic pace could take days – and that rebuilding the hardest-hit communities and the transportation networks that link them together could take considerably longer.

The scale of the challenge could be seen across the Hudson River in New Jersey, where National Guard troops arrived in the heavily flooded city of Hoboken to help evacuate thousands still stuck in their homes. And new problems arose when firefighters were unable to reach blazes rekindled by natural gas leaks in the heavily hit shore town of Mantoloking.

As New York began its second day after the megastorm, morning rush-hour traffic was heavy as people started returning to work. There was even a sign of normalcy: commuters waiting at bus stops.

The storm later moved across Pennsylvania and is now headed toward New York State and Canada. Earlier, it moved through the Caribbean and was blamed for 71 deaths.

Below is a list of websites with more information:

Official News:

Media Reports:

Below is a damage assessment compiled by the Associated Press organized by states and the Caribbean islands that Sandy swept through before hitting the East Coast:

CONNECTICUT

Widespread damage to homes on Long Island Sound. Deaths: 3. Power outages: 475,000, down from a peak of more than 620,000.

DELAWARE

Some southern coastal areas remain underwater, but officials say the damage is far less than anticipated. Power outages: 7,400, down from more than 45,000.

ILLINOIS

High waves and flooding are possible on the Lake Michigan shore on Wednesday in Chicago.

KENTUCKY

As much as a foot of snow fell in higher elevations of Appalachian Kentucky.

MAINE

Port of Portland reopened, but ocean conditions remain dangerous with high winds. Power outages: More than 16,000, down from more than 90,000.

MARYLAND

Eastern Maryland cleaned up from storm surge, while western Maryland dealt with as much as 29 inches of snow. Dueling disasters are straining emergency resources. Deaths: 2. Power outages: About 299,100, down from 290,000.

MASSACHUSETTS

Continued cleanup from fallen trees and damage to homes and businesses, but relief that storm wasn't worse. Many schools remained closed. Power outages: 106,000, down from 400,000.

MICHIGAN

Cargo shipping on the Great Lakes is at a standstill because of waves of up to 20 feet. Power outages: 40,600, down from more than 150,000.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

A construction worker checking on a job site in Lincoln was killed in a landslide. Deaths: 1. Power outages: 81,000, down from 210,000.

NEW JERSEY

Fires that destroyed several homes in a shore town rekindled, fueled by natural gas. National Guard arrived to evacuate residents of Hoboken and distribute supplies. Storm renewed debate about whether to rebuild shoreline sand dunes. Deaths: 6. Power outages: 2.1 million, down from 2.7 million.

NEW YORK

Traffic has choked city streets as residents try to return to work in a New York City whose subway system remains crippled. Security concerns abound at night in areas without power but the city is promising vigilance. Utilities say it could be days before power is fully restored there and on Long Island. Deaths: 29, including 22 in New York City. Power outages: 2.04 million, down from 2.2 million.

NORTH CAROLINA

The search continues off the coast for the captain of a tall ship that sank as Sandy headed north. Parts of western North Carolina are seeing continued snow. Deaths: 2. Power outages: Fewer than 400, down from 126,000.

OHIO

High winds uprooted trees in northern Ohio. Schools are closed and major commuter arteries along Lake Erie have flooded. Deaths: 2. Power outages: 147,000, down from more than 250,000.

PENNSYLVANIA

The core of Sandy made its way north through western Pennsylvania into western New York, causing wind and flooding that closed roads. Deaths: 7. Power outages: 850,000, down from 1.2 million.

RHODE ISLAND

Residents may not be able to return to their homes for another day in some coastal communities. Power outages: About 64,000, down from more than 115,000.

TENNESSEE

A route across the Smoky Mountains has closed as heavy, wet snow accumulated to as much as 2 feet.

VERMONT

Winds have knocked down trees and power lines, and schools are closed, but damage was not as severe as feared in a state still recovering from Tropical Storm Irene. Power outages: 3,550, down from more than 10,000.

VIRGINIA

Utilities brought in crews to help restore power after high winds and snow. Deaths: 2. Power outages: about 40,000, down from more than 180,000.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Federal and local governments have asked people to return to work Wednesday, and transit systems have resumed full service although some bus routes are dealing with detours. Power outages: About 467, down from 25,000.

WEST VIRGINIA

Some areas have been buried under more than a foot of snow. Deaths: 1. Power outages: 235,566, down from about 268,000.

WISCONSIN

Dangerously high waves and flooding are expected along Lake Michigan.

In the Caribbean:

HAITI

The storm did not directly hit Haiti but it brought several days of drenching rains, causing rivers to overrun their banks across much of southern Haiti. Officials say as much as 70 percent of crops were destroyed in some areas. The official death toll was 54 as of Wednesday, with 21 people still unaccounted for.

CUBA

Officials say the storm killed 11 people, including an infant, damaged more than 200,000 homes, and destroyed about 15,000 homes in eastern Cuba.

JAMAICA

One elderly man was killed when a boulder rolled onto his property and crushed him as the eye of Sandy traveled over eastern Jamaica. Officials say floodwaters and winds flattened farms, destroyed 71 houses and severely damaged 348 more. The government has put the preliminary price tag at $16.5 million.

BAHAMAS

Police say the hurricane apparently killed two people, including the CEO of a bank who fell from his roof while he was trying to repair a window shutter as Sandy approached Thursday. The total cost of damage could be as high as $300 million, according to a report from the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, a risk pool for 16 governments in the Caribbean.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

The storm killed two young men who drowned while attempting to cross rivers in separate incidents. Nearly 30,000 people were evacuated due to widespread flooding in the south of the country, including parts of the capital.

— Puerto Rico: The U.S. island territory was spared a direct hit but heavy rains caused flooding on the island. One death was reported, a man who was swept away in a rain-swollen river near the southern town of Juana Diaz.

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