People in the heavily populated U.S. East Coast corridor battered by superstorm Sandy took the first cautious steps to reclaim their upended daily routines, even as rescuers combed neighbourhoods strewn with debris and scarred by floods and fire.
But while New York City buses returned to darkened streets eerily free of traffic and the New York Stock Exchange was set to reopen its storied trading floor Wednesday, it became 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.
"We will get through the days ahead by doing what we always do in tough times, by standing together, shoulder to shoulder, ready to help a neighbour, comfort a stranger and get the city we love back on its feet," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
As the city began its second day after the megastorm, New Yorkers noticed an uptick in traffic and a small sign of normalcy: people waiting at bus stops.
On the Brooklyn Bridge, closed earlier because of high winds, joggers and bikers made their way across the span before sunrise. One cyclist carried a flashlight. Car traffic on the bridge was busy, and slowed as it neared Manhattan.
President Barack Obama was planning to visit New Jersey on Wednesday to see the area near Atlantic City where the violent storm made landfall two days before. With the presidential election just six days away, Obama was canceling campaign events for the third straight day to focus on coordinating the response to the superstorm. His Republican rival Mitt Romney planned to resume full-scale campaigning in Florida on Wednesday..
By late Tuesday, the winds and flooding inflicted by the fast-weakening Sandy had subsided, leaving at least 55 people dead along the Atlantic Coast and splintering beachfront homes and boardwalks from the mid-Atlantic states to southern New England.
The storm later moved across Pennsylvania on a predicted path toward western New York State and Canada.
At the height of the disaster, more than 8.2 million customers lost electricity, some as far away as Michigan. Nearly a quarter of those without power were in New York, where lower Manhattan's usually bright lights remained dark for a second night.
But, amid the despair, talk of recovery was already beginning.
"It's heartbreaking after being here 37 years," Barry Prezioso of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, said as he returned to his house in the beachfront community to survey the damage. "You see your home demolished like this, it's tough. But nobody got hurt and the upstairs is still livable, so we can still live upstairs and clean this out. I'm sure there's people that had worse. I feel kind of lucky."
Much of the initial recovery efforts focused on New York City, the region's economic heart. Bloomberg said it could take four or five days before the subway, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history, is running again. All 10 of the tunnels that carry commuters under the East River were flooded. But high water prevented inspectors from immediately assessing damage to key equipment, raising the possibility that the nation's largest city could endure an extended shutdown of the system that 5 million people count on to get to work and school each day.
Power company Consolidated Edison said it would be four days before the last of the 337,000 customers in Manhattan and Brooklyn who lost power have electricity again and it could take a week to restore outages in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester County. Floodwater led to explosions that disabled a power substation Monday night, contributing to the outages.