N.J. in shock as superstorm Sandy impact assessed

(CBS News) Hundreds of thousands of people along the New Jersey shore are facing months and possibly years of rebuilding.

In New Jersey, 14 people are dead and there's increasing concern that toll could rise as more homes are searched.

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On Wednesday, President Barack Obama walked along New Jersey's battered coastline, side-by-side with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Both offered encouragement to Sandy's survivors.

President Obama said, "We are here for you. We will not forget. We will follow up to make sure that you get all the help that you need until you've rebuilt."

After getting an aerial view of the devastation, the president vowed the federal response would be swift. "We are not going to tolerate red tape," Mr. Obama said. "We are not going to tolerate bureaucracy."

The full scope of the damage comes into greater focus by the hour.

N.J. resident Jackie Ernst came back to her home to find it destroyed. She said, crying, "When I left everything was intact. I came back yesterday morning to this."

The 68-year-old Ernst has lived in the town of Pleasantville for 22 years. She'll start over again.

Nine years ago, Zelphia Conner bought her house a block away from Atlantic City's boardwalk. A 50-foot section of that walkway is now outside her front door.

Conner said, "I saw the boardwalk floating down the street, but I never knew its destination was here."

Some of the boardwalk ended up in her garage.

In Sayreville, N.J., a sometimes-combative Christie showed his softer side as he comforted dozens of grieving homeowners. Christie put his arm around a resident who said, "It's all ruined down there. Every ounce of it -- ruined! Nothing, nothing. Nothing."

Another resident told Christie, "We thought we were so ready this time after last year."

Christie told her, "You weren't ready for anything like this. This is just the worst."

This storm transformed vibrant coastal communities into beachfronts that look more like shipwrecks.

A string of natural gas fires broke out, but officials say no one was hurt. In some spots, residents are still waiting for floodwaters to recede. Sandy may be gone, but the recovery has just moved in.

"This is our home. We've been here for years," one New Jersey man told New York CBS station WCBS. "We clean up, we get everything back to normal and we go on."

People can start applying for federal disaster assistance Thursday. In New Jersey 1.8 million customers remain without power, down from a peak of 2.7 million. Utility companies say it will be a week before most of that power is back. Some outages could linger longer than that.

Watch Jeff Glor's full report in the video above.

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