Gov. Christie: Sandy wreaks "unthinkable" havoc on N.J.

Millions of New Jersey residents woke up Tuesday morning to flooded coastlines, damaged businesses, widespread outages and a long and expensive recovery ahead after the center of superstorm Sandy slammed the Garden State over night.

A tidal surge sent water into the streets of at least two Northern New Jersey towns and submerged much of the coast, trapping residents who did not evacuate and washing away seaside rail lines. The force of 80 mph winds left boats capsized and battered by the shore and utility companies report over 2.5 million outages statewide. Police and fire officials, some with their own departments flooded, fanned out to rescue hundreds.

A hoarse-voiced New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spared no words in emphasizing the extent of the damage at a press conference Tuesday morning, saying "the devastation to New Jersey is beyond what's happened to anyone else," and calling the flooding and damage to the Jersey Shore "unthinkable."

"The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we've ever seen," Christie said. "The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point."

Aerial photos of the New Jersey coast show home with with front yards completely under water, boats thrown into piles and splintered walkways. CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor reports the strong winds tore up Atlantic City's iconic boardwalk and heavy rains flooded at least 80 percent of the city.

"We had waves as high as the light poles," one resident told Glor.

The hurricane-turned-tropical storm combined with another cold weather system from the west to create a historic hybrid that made landfall in New Jersey at about 8 p.m. ET Monday night and went on to ravage much of the East Coast. At least 39 reported deaths during the storm -- five of which in New Jersey, including two parents killed by a fallen tree in as their 11- and 14-year-old children waited inside a pick-up truck. A total of 7.9 million are without power.

Christie said there was significant flooding in Moonachie and Little Ferry, located in north New Jersey by the Hudson River across from Manhattan, as well Sayreville, southwest of Staten Island and close to the Raritan Bay. Barrier islands were too submerged for Christie to land his plane.

Despite mandatory evacuations on the Barrier islands and other places along the shoreline, many people decided to stay. That angered Christie, who called those people "stupid and selfish" and bashed Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford for allowing residents to stay in shelters in the city rather than forcing them onto the mainland.

"I hope and pray that there won't be any loss of life because of it," Christie said Tuesday. On NBC's "Today" show, Langford said Christie was either misinformed or ill-advised.

This aerial photo shows piles of boats on top of each other along the New Jersey shoreline in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
This aerial photo shows piles of boats on top of each other along the New Jersey shoreline in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
CBS News

Meanwhile, the city said it was working with American Red Cross and the Salvation Army to bring dry clothes and food to people who evacuated to shelters.

Downed trees, wires and flooding blocked many roads, making commute nearly impossible for a lot of New Jersey residents. Christie said the highest concentration of road closures was in Mammoth County, but added "no county has been spared" and encouraged people to stay off the streets. The Garden State Parkway opened up by late Tuesday morning, as well as the New Jersey Turnpike from Exits 1 to 10.

"There are houses in the middle of Route 35," said Christie, speaking of the roadway north of Atlantic City along the state's east coast.

The New Jersey Transit system shut down Monday ahead of the storm's arrival and remains suspended. NJ Transit Board Chairman James Simpson said the system has "experienced unprecedented devastation" and they are working on assessing the full extent of the damage.

Ninety-one medical facilities reported losing power during the storm, including 29 hospitals, and Christie said that number is likely to increase as more facilities call in outages.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit New Jersey on Wednesday to tour the damage with Christie. On "CBS This Morning" Tuesday, Christie praised the presidents involvement.

"I was on the phone for the third time yesterday, last night, with the president of the United States. He called me at midnight last night as he was seeing reports," he said before adding that President Obama accelerated the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area "without the usual red tape."

"The cooperation has been great with FEMA here on the ground and the cooperation from the president of the United States has been outstanding. He deserves great credit," Christie said.