Sandy's winds had dropped to 45 miles an hour late Tuesday morning as the mega-storm's center plowed through Pennsylvania at a slow 10 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. But along the coastal cities that bore the brunt of Sandy's initial surge, the full impact of its once-in-a-generation flooding and wind damage was just becoming clear.
At least 33 people in eight states were confirmed dead, according to state emergency officials, and the toll was expected to rise. More than 8 million customers had lost electricity, and three nuclear power plants were shut down due to water pump problems and other issues, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
New Jersey appeared to suffer the most severe damage, especially the cities along the Jersey Shore, where portions of the famed Atlantic City boardwalk were reduced to splinters and the Seaside Park rollercoaster lay in the Atlantic Ocean.
At least four people were killed in the state. 5,500 people were in government shelters and more than 2.4 million were without power, Gov. Chris Christie said in a news conference, warning that recovery could take longer than eight days.
"There are no words to describe what so many New Jerseyians experienced over the last 24 hours," Mr. Christie said, adding, "The level of devastation at the Jersey Shore is unthinkable."
New York City was also among the hardest-hit areas, particularly the borough of Queens, where at least 80 homes were destroyed by fire in Breezy Point, a neighborhood at the tip of the Rockaway Peninsula. They included the residence of Republican Congressman Robert Turner, his deputy chief of staff confirmed.
"The clouds were glowing from the intense flames," said Joe Jordan, 59 years old, who spent the night with his three Yorkies on a damp couch as water rose three feet inside his house.
New York State Emergency Management officials confirmed five dead throughout the state, including three outside New York City, but said they did not have a complete tally.
In New Jersey, emergency responders in swift boats were still trying to rescue some Atlantic City residents Tuesday morning, among the estimated 3,000 who had not heeded calls to evacuate. Authorities were still trying to figure out what caused water to surge up the Hackensack River and inundate the 2,700 residents of the town of Moonachie in three to five feet of water.
Officials had rescued 1,500 residents by early Tuesday afternoon and hoped to rescue the remainder by the end of the day, Mayor Dennis Vaccaro said in an interview. He added that desperate residents were calling him on his cell phone, wondering when rescuers would get to them.
Not everyone felt satisfied with the government's response. At the Hoboken Housing Authority, residents were cut off from the rest of the city due to water so high in places that parked cars were more than halfway submerged. Some complained they had not seen Mayor Dawn Zimmer, or any emergency aid workers.
"I haven't seen anybody come down here," said resident Juana McCall. "We need help and they need to do something."
In New York City coastal neighborhoods such as Canarsie in Brooklyn, where the flood yanked cars out of parking places and a Range Rover lay diagonally on the sidewalk, many residents were still dazed on Tuesday, conceding that they underestimated how serious a storm like Sandy could be.
Howard Bennett, 47, said he was shocked Monday evening when a friend looked out the peephole of his front door and see a reflection of a lamplight in water. When the water kept rising, Mr. Bennett stashed his birdcage atop his refrigerator and waded to higher ground.
When he got back to his apartment, the refrigerator was toppled, and his two lovebirds were dead.
We should have been smarter," Mr. Bennett said. Officials "should've really got us out of here, though," he added.
On Coney Island, scores of flooded cars were lifted and deposited on curbs and benches by the water, or were buried under shattered and fallen trees. Sand from the beach was pushed at least two blocks in from the boardwalk. Stunned residents shook their heads and took photos as they stepped through the wreckage.
"It was a stupid idea to stay," said Oleg Grytsak, 31, as he surveyed his flooded Mazda SUV, one of three vehicles he lost to the flood waters.
"We came out last night at 9 o'clock and water was up to my waist," he said. "This place was a river. I just didn't think it would be this bad."
New York's extensive transit system, a lifeline for millions of commuters, suffered unprecedented damage as floodwaters swamped all seven subway tunnels connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, described it Tuesday as the most devastating in the 108-year history of the New York subway.
The MTA would try to restore some Long Island Rail Road and subway service by Wednesday, Mr. Lhota said, and was trying to cobble together a plan to use its roughly 5,000 buses to ferry people to neighborhoods where subways were out.
But officials feared the brackish stormwater that poured into tunnels and over tracks could corrode vulnerable signal and switching systems, complicating the task of reopening a citywide bus and rail system that ferries 8.5 million passengers on a typical workday.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said MTA bus service would resume Tuesday at 5 p.m. on a limited Sunday schedule, with a possible return to full service on Wednesday. Kennedy Airport was expected to reopen Wednesday, the governor said, but LaGuardia Airport, where runways were flooded, will remain closed indefinitely.
Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said workers were inspecting flood damage at LaGuardia, including the possibility that a barge hit the dike that helps protect the airport's low-lying grounds from the adjacent bay.
In Pennsylvania, three people were confirmed dead due to the storm, now a post-tropical cyclone, according to state emergency management officials. In Connecticut, three people were reported dead, including a firefighter and an elderly woman, according to State Troopers.
Maryland Emergency Management officials confirmed three deaths, while Virginia officials linked two traffic fatalities to the storm. In North Carolina, a 25-year-old man was killed when his car hit a fallen tree, according to the state's Joint Information Center.
Forecasters estimated that Sandy would continue its northwestward trek through southern Pennsylvania Tuesday afternoon before turning to western New York Tuesday evening and moving into Canada Wednesday as it melds with cold air fronts.
Another inch of rain was expected from the eastern Great Lakes across the mid-Atlantic and into southern New England, bringing total precipitation to as much as 10 inches.
``Due to strong and persistent northerly winds, coastal flooding along portions of the Great Lakes is possible,'' the National Weather Service warned.
Ted Mann, Tennille Tracy, Jennifer Maloney, Christopher Weaver, Andrew Strickler, Tom Fowler, Andrew Grossman, Lisa Fleisher, Jennifer Weiss, Joseph De Avila, Jacob Gershman, Michael Howard Saul, Sean Gardiner, Will James contributed to this article.