Sandy devastates states from Maine to Wisconsin

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Local,News,Ben Giles,Liz Essley

Flood waters, wind and fire ravaged the East Coast early Tuesday as Superstorm Sandy submerged lower Manhattan under a record 13-foot storm surge, wrapped West Virginia in a blanket of snow and wreaked havoc from Maine to North Carolina to Wisconsin.

"Make no mistake about it, this was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday.

(See a photo gallery of storm images)

At least 50 people died in the storm that combined the remnants of a tropical hurricane with an Arctic cold front. More than 8 million were left without power, most of them in New York and New Jersey.

The storm caused as much as $50 billion in damage, according to economic forecaster IHS Global Insight. That's more than the $15.8 billion in damage done by Hurricane Irene last year but only half of the $108 billion in damages done in 2005 by the nation's most brutal hurricane, Katrina.

(Watch storm videos from the D.C. region and the latest videos from around the country)

Water poured through lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, flooding the Ground Zero memorial and nearby neighborhoods. At Breezy Point in Queens, a storm-spawned fire destroyed at least 80 houses.

Cesar Razuri, 32, was walking in Manhattan on Monday night when a Consolidated Edison power substation exploded.

"Two big explosions lit up the entire sky," he told The Washington Examiner. "At that point, everyone screamed and started running the opposite way, and in a matter of seconds all of 14th Street was just full of smoke."

In New Jersey, Sandy flung boardwalk debris and sand inland, flooded homes and flattened trees.

"The level of devastation at the Jersey Shore is unthinkable," Gov. Chris Christie said. "We are going to make sure that we do everything we can to get through this as quickly as possible."

Heather Hulteen, 23, of Neptune, N.J., fled her house after a tree fell across nearby wires and firefighters warned her family that the house could go up in a gas explosion.

"The damage in [my neighborhood] Shark River was pretty intense," Hulteen told The Examiner. "There were boats in people's yards. The boardwalk that was part of the marina was on the other side of the town."

As state and local officials began cleaning up Tuesday, President Obama warned that dangers remained.

"This storm is not yet over," the president said at the Red Cross in Washington. "I want to emphasize, there is still risks of flooding, there is still risks of downed power lines, risks of high winds, and so it is very important for the public to continue to monitor the situation in your local community."

After ravaging the coast, Sandy was downgraded from a hurricane but continued to wreak havoc as it blew inland. Snow and sleet pelted Ohio and Michigan, while a blizzard caused white-out conditions in West Virginia. Two feet of wind-driven snow fell in some areas, with forecasters predicting more.

Fayetteville, W.Va., canceled Halloween trick-or-treating after about 15 inches of snow covered the town. But Lori Tabit and her mother, their house powered only by a portable generator, were still passing out candy and grilled cheese sandwiches to neighbors willing to trudge through the snow to visit.

"It's snowed all day," Tabit told The Examiner. "The last holiday, Fourth of July -- the [derecho] totally ruined it. So now we're here at Halloween, and the kids don't get to go trick-or-treating."

The Washington area was largely spared the kind of damage Sandy inflicted elsewhere, though a rising Potomac River flooded Old Town Alexandria.

"It's just cleanup. Trash from the rising waters," said Neale Hergenrather, Old Dominion Boat Club's manager. "That's all we have to worry about."

Forecasters expect Sandy to push through the Midwest on Wednesday, delivering more rain and snow before turning north for Canada.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com, bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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