NYC expected to face power, transit issues for days

new york city, sandy, flooding
A general view of submerged cars on Ave. C and 7th st, after severe flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy, on October 30, 2012 in Manhattan, New York. The storm has claimed at least 16 lives in the United States, and has caused massive flooding across much of the Atlantic seaboard. US President Barack Obama has declared the situation a 'major disaster' for large areas of the US East Coast including New York City, with wide spread power outages and significant flooding in parts of the city.
Christos Pathiakis/Getty Images

(CBS News) Superstorm Sandy may have moved on, but parts of New York City remain paralyzed in her wake.

"Restoring power and mass transit remain the two biggest challenges in the days ahead. That recovery is a mammoth job," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday.

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the storm is "the worst thing to happen to this city certainly since 9/11."

In Lower Manhattan, residents still have no electricity. And though buses are running and roads are reopening, the subways are still closed. New York's subway system, which averages more than 5 million commuters per workday, is closed indefinitely because all 10 subway tunnels linking Manhattan to Brooklyn are flooded. At some stations near Battery Park, where Monday's surge of seawater hit hardest, stairwells look more like swimming pools.

Officials say Sandy is the biggest disaster to ever hit the New York transit system -- so severe that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is bringing in an Army Corps of Engineers team of experts to help. The same group was charged with Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.

Roger Less, of the Army Corps of Engineers, said, "We expect it to be a challenging engineering problem. It's an intricate system of infrastructure they have there to support that population, and getting that all storm surge back out and up and running again will take some time and will take some engineering talent and a lot of willpower."

They'll also need electric power -- something 323,000 New York City customers are still without. Workers are pumping around the clock to remove seawater from underground equipment.

But dark skylines and dangerous intersections without traffic signals will be the new normal in Lower Manhattan and some parts of the the outer boroughs for a while longer. Utility companies say it might be a week before power is fully restored.

City buses will resume full service Wednesday, and to help the city get moving again, they'll be operating free of charge. As for airports, John F. Kennedy Airport will resume limited service Wednesday, but there's no word on when LaGuardia Airport may reopen.