LONGPORT, N.J.--Many residents of the New Jersey coast woke up to a gray windy morning with no electricity, swamped homes, water surging in the streets -- and another high tide threatening additional flooding.
The Jersey Shore, including Atlantic City, remained under water, without power and was “completely unsafe,” said Gov. Chris Christie during a televised news conference. He recited a litany of destruction including homes knocked off their foundations, beach erosion and amusement park rides pushed into the sea.
“The level of devastation on the Jersey Shore is unthinkable,” he said.
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Cyclone Sandy blew ashore just south of Atlantic City, demolishing a section of the city's famous boardwalk and scattering some of the planks through the city's streets.
Historic high tidal surges filled the downtown streets with knee-high water, and other roads were inundated by up to 6 feet of water at the height of the storm.
More than 2.4 million people were without electricity throughout the state and it could take eight days or longer for full power to be restored, Christie said.
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The state's transit system remains closed with "major damage on each and every one of the New Jersey" rail lines, the governor said. Large sections of track are washed or blocked with downed power lines and debris.
South Jersey, a part of the state that includes small beach towns and farming communities, was particularly hard hit.
"This area is pretty devastated," said James Lees of Longport, a beachfront town south of Atlantic City. "There's sand everywhere, a lot of water in garages. Down toward the southern end, they got hammered."
Lees, who rode out the storm at home, said the gusts were fierce as the storm came ashore last night. But what was really scary, he said, was the water.
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"It just came up very quickly," he said. "That was amazing."
National Guard units and water rescue teams helped pull people to safety on Tuesday. The Press of Atlantic City reported that 10 people were rescued from the roofs of two homes in Atlantic City.
There was one reported death in Atlantic County. A woman died, possibly from a heart attack, as she was being taken from Atlantic City to a shelter, said Linda Gilmore, a county spokeswoman.
The tidal surge swamped Atlantic City's water treatment plant and residents were told to boil water to ensure safety. Statewide, Christie said, 10 water treatment facilities had "minor to major problems."
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Emergency workers headed out at dawn Tuesday to begin assessing damage. Away from the shore, the storm's effects were scattered, with some neighborhoods escaping relatively unscathed, and with the power still on.
The evacuation effort ended in some controversy after Atlantic City officials allowed some residents to stay at a shelter in the city, which is on a barrier island.
Christie, who had ordered a mandatory evacuation for those towns, publicly blasted Mayor Lorenzo Langford's decision as irresponsible.
Langford, who has had a long feud with Christie, defended his decision to keep the shelter open as a backup for those who decided to ride out the storm but changed their minds at the last minute.
"We are in the throes of a major catastrophe and the governor chooses this moment to play politics," Langford said.
Most of the region remained shut down on Tuesday, and trick or treating on Wednesday might also have to be delayed. Christie announced via Twitter that, depending on conditions, he might sign an executive order rescheduling Halloween.
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