* Obama sees swamped, burning houses on Jersey shore
* New York Stock Exchange cranks up on generator power
* About 6 million customers still without electricity
* New Yorkers commute by foot, bike, car; streets clogged
* Sandy delays Halloween for millions
(Adds Navy ships, paragraph 6; oil spill, 18; Halloween, 29)
By Daniel Bases and Dena Aubin
NEW YORK, Oct 31 New York City and the sodden
U.S. Northeast began an arduous journey back to normal on
Wednesday after mammoth storm Sandy killed at least 64 people in
a rampage that swamped coastal cities and cut power to millions.
Financial markets reopened with the New York Stock Exchange
running on generator power after the first weather-related
two-day closure since an 1888 blizzard. Packed buses took
commuters to work with New York's subway system idle after
seawater flooded its tunnels.
President Barack Obama, who has halted campaigning with the
election six days away, set aside political differences with
New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie for a helicopter
tour of the devastated coast, where they saw flooded and
sand-swept neighborhoods and burning homes.
"The entire country's been watching. Everyone knows how hard
Jersey has been hit," Obama told residents at an evacuation
shelter in the town of Brigantine.
"We're not going to tolerate any red tape. We're not going
to tolerate any bureaucracy," he said of the relief effort.
The U.S. Navy said it was moving ships closer to areas
affected by the disaster in case they might be needed, including
the helicopter carrier USS Wasp.
Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean as a hurricane
before crashing ashore with 80 mile-per-hour (130-kph) winds on
Monday as a rare hybrid superstorm after merging with another
system. It was the largest storm by area to hit the United
States in generations.
Sandy was likely to rank as one of the costliest storms in
U.S. history. One disaster-modeling firm said Sandy may have
caused up to $15 billion in insured losses.
LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY
About 6 million homes and businesses in 15 U.S. states
remained without power on Wednesday, down from a high of nearly
8.5 million, which surpassed the record 8.4 million customers
who went dark from last year's Hurricane Irene.
As markets reopened, floodwaters receded and residents went
back to work by car, bicycle and bus in New York, the country's
most populous city suffered some setbacks. Damage forced
evacuation of Bellevue Hospital, known for psychiatric and
Five hundred patients were being moved, Mayor Michael
Bloomberg said. Evacuations of four other hospitals and 17
chronic-care facilities had already been ordered.
An evacuation order for 375,000 New Yorkers in low-lying
areas remained in effect. With subways down, the mayor said cars
must have at least three passengers to enter Manhattan.
Across the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey, water that
reached chest high on Monday was knee high on Wednesday morning.
"I thought it was the end. I kept telling my sons to pray,"
said Marcelina Rosario, 47, who was trapped in the second floor
of her Hoboken apartment. "Everything happened so fast. The
water started coming up, the refrigerator was floating."
More than half of the gas stations in the New York City area
and New Jersey were closed due to power outages and depleted
fuel supplies, frustrating attempts to restore normal life,
industry officials said.
Tempers flared and horns blared in a line of some 30 cars at
a Getty service station in Gowanus in the New York City borough
of Brooklyn. "I don't have any lights and need this gasoline for
my generator," said Abdul Rahim Anwar as he put two full jerry
cans into his trunk.
Fuel spilled from a northern New Jersey oil facility shut
down by Sandy, according to Motiva, the site's operator. NBC,
citing the U.S. Coast Guard, said 300,000 gallons (115,000
liters) of diesel had been released and 200 people were working
on the cleanup.
The New York area's John F. Kennedy and Newark airports
reopened after thousands of flights had been canceled, leaving
travelers stuck for days. LaGuardia, a third major airport, was
scheduled to reopen on Thursday.
Limited New York subway service was due to start on
Thursday, four days after the system, with daily traffic of
about 5.5 million people, shut down.
Brooklynite Matthew Gessler went to Breezy Point, the New
York neighborhood where fire destroyed 111 homes, to inspect
damage to his mother's house, and was disturbed by what he saw.
"Where the fire happened, you could honestly take that
picture and say it was somewhere in the Middle East, like in
Afghanistan, and no one would doubt you at all," Gessler said.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said more than a
dozen people had been charged with theft and looting in
connection with the storm for targeting businesses in the badly
flooded Far Rockaway neighborhood of the New York City borough.
With six days to go before Tuesday's presidential election,
Obama and Christie put aside politics to tour devastated areas
together. The two boarded the president's Marine One helicopter
and from the air saw wrecked piers, swamped beach homes and
streets under water.
"We are here for you and we will not forget," Obama said.
Christie, a vocal backer of Republican presidential
candidate Mitt Romney, has repeatedly praised Obama and the
federal response to Sandy.
"I cannot thank the president enough for his personal
concern and his compassion," Christie, known for his aggressive
political style, said after the tour.
Obama was scheduled to resume his campaign on Thursday with
visits to battleground states Nevada and Colorado. Romney, who
had also canceled political rallies because of Sandy, limited
his attacks on Obama while campaigning on Wednesday in Florida.
Christie issued an executive order moving his state's
Halloween celebration to Monday, postponing trick-or-treating.
Wednesday's Halloween parade through New York's Greenwich
Village was postponed as well, but some parents in the suburbs
held daytime gatherings for their costumed offspring in parks
and parking lots.
The growing U.S. death toll from the storm reached at least
64, with 30 people killed in New York state, nine in Maryland,
and six each in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Five other states
Remnants of the storm were over Pennsylvania on Wednesday,
forecasters said. Winter storm warnings were in effect along the
central Appalachian mountains and flood watches and warnings
were issued across New England and northern mid-Atlantic states.
Sunday's New York Marathon will go on as scheduled, but
Thursday's National Basketball Association season-opening game
between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets was postponed.
(Additional reporting by Michael Erman, Anna Louie Sussman,
Atossa Abrahamian, Chris Michaud, John McCrank and Scott
DiSavino in New York, Susan Heavey in Washington, Ian Simpson in
West Virginia, and Mark Felsenthal in Atlantic City, N.J.;
Writing by Daniel Trotta and Jim Loney; Editing by Peter Cooney)