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Gov. Christie: 'I Just Never Thought I Would See What I Saw Today'

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he never thought he would see such destruction, after he took a helicopter tour of the wreckage wrought by Superstorm Sandy on the Jersey Shore.

"I just never thought I would see what I saw today. Ever," Christie said as the state's death toll.

Christie said the Jersey Shore will never be the same.

"We'll rebuild it -- no question in my mind we'll rebuild it. But for those of us who are my age, it won't be the same. It'll be different because many of the iconic things that made it what it was are now gone and washed into the ocean," Christie said.

Many landmarks that Christie had known personally his whole life had disappeared.

"It's gone. It's not there," Christie said. "The boardwalk we walked on together this summer, greeting residents, talking to those business owners – it's gone."

The remains of the boardwalk has ended up two or three blocks away along side streets, and all the homes sustained severe structural damage from wind and water.

Also vanished was the pier in Seaside Heights, which featured a boardwalk and an amusement park with an assortment of rides and arcades.

"Those rides are in the Atlantic Ocean. The log flume is in the Atlantic Ocean. The log flume that my two younger kids rode this summer is in the Atlantic Ocean. The roller coaster that all of them rode this summer – it almost looks like the pier came out from underneath it, and it just fell onto the ocean floor and stayed almost fully constructed," he said.

Nearby, Lavallette was "a site of devastation that made it look like there had been a bombing there," Christie said.

SUPERSTORM SANDY: Power Outages | Road & Tunnel Closures | Sandy Claims Lives | Submit Your Pictures | Sandy In Photos | Viewer PicsVideos | WATCH: CBS 2 | LISTEN: 1010 WINS | WCBS 880

The storm killed at least six people in New Jersey, including an identified man whose body was pulled from the Hackensack River in Hackensack on Tuesday, a 61-year-old Princeton man killed Monday night by a tree that fell on him as he cleared debris from his driveway, and a Hawthorne man who was killed when a tree fell into his house.

As of Tuesday evening, 2.6 million New Jersey households were without power – a figure down slightly from the afternoon. The figure broke down to 1.47 million PSE&G customers, just under 1 million JCPL customers, 179,000 Atlantic City Electric customers, and 49,000 Orange & Rockland customers.

Christie said it is unclear when power will be fully restored. Earlier, PSE&G urged customers to be ready for lengthy outages that could last seven days or more.

But Newark International Airport was back online Tuesday night, and parts of Newark were also back up with power.

The outages in Newark and Jersey City meant traffic signals were out and there were numerous fender-benders at intersections where police were not directing traffic. The state has a total of 15,500 traffic signals.

Trees and power lines were down in every corner of the state. Schools and state government offices were closed for a second day -- and many were calling off classes for Wednesday, too. While many major roads were reopening, officials were urging residents to stay home. It was unclear when mass transit systems would start running again.

Christie has also decided to call off Halloween, although trick-or-treating and other activities will be rescheduled.

"The staff has prepared an executive order – Halloween is not going to happen tomorrow, unfortunately," he said. "It's just not safe enough for kids to be going around."

President Barack Obama, who was canceling campaign appearances, was planning to visit the state on Wednesday to thank first responders.

Christie, who called the shore damage "unthinkable," said a full recovery would take months at least, and it would likely be a week or more before power is restored to everyone who lost it.

President Obama on Sunday night signed a federal disaster declaration, which cleared the way to make federal funds available to people affected by the storm in Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union counties.

"He accelerated the major disaster declaration for New Jersey without the usual red tape and I can't thank the president enough for that, Christie said earlier.

There was also major damage on all New Jersey rail lines, Christie said.

"Large sections of track were washed out on the Jersey coastline," Christie said. "Numerous power lines and trees have fallen across NJ TRANSIT rail ways across the state.

All NJ TRANSIT service remains suspended. The only bus service that is in operation is in Camden, which will run on a Saturday schedule.

Stations in Jersey City and Hoboken were flooded by the storm surge. Christie said the PATH trains will be out of service at least seven to 10 days.

Also, boil orders have been issued for water customers served by the Atlantic City MUA, the New Brunswick Water Department, and the Independence Municipal Utility Authority.

The tidal surge forced the Hackensack River to go backwards, up through storm drains, over a berm and onto the streets of Moonachie and Little Ferry. gary verdian saw it unfold.

WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reports


"We've been here since 1976 and last night we were probably one of the last houses...this block, probably the last houses to have electric. I happened to be looking out the window, the eletric went off and all of a sudden I just watched the lake come up to the house. It just kept coming," Little Ferry resident Gary Verdian told WCBS 880's Rich Lamb.

Verdian's basement was spared, but others in his neighborhood were not so lucky. Some had to be plucked from their water-logged houses and boats. Another man who's lived in Little Ferry for 55 years said he's never ever seen so much water.

In Mountainside in Union County, some neighbors have banded together. Those with power have invited others left in thee dark in to enjoy television, hot food and company.

WCBS 880's Jim Smith reports


"Community electricity, community heat, community eating. Three families in two houses, we had everything we want thanks to our friend Sandy," Mountainside resident Joe Calderon told WCBS 880's Jim Smith.

Still, Calderon said 'there's no place like home' now rings true to him.

"It would be nice to be able to have lights and heat on and your own shower and things like that. We'll get it back," Calderon said.

Storm Causes 5 Deaths In New Jersey
Sandy is being blamed for five deaths in New Jersey.

Princeton Township police said 61-year-old William Sword was found trapped beneath a tree which had fallen as he cleared debris from his driveway on Monday night.

An unidentified man was pulled out of the Hackensack River, which overflowed its banks and swamped two towns. The body was recovered Tuesday from the river in the city of Hackensack.

Mendham Township police said a man and a woman were killed and two children were injured when a large tree fell on their pickup truck on Monday night.

Hawthorne police said a 77-year-old borough man was killed when a tree crashed into his house in the Passaic County community.

Rescue operations were also under way from one end of the state to the other hours after the powerful storm ripped through.

1010 WINS' Gary Baumgarten reports


The Jersey Shore
CBS 2's Derricke Dennis had a look at the Belmar boardwalk that Christie mentioned. Sandy's strength was enough to break apart and carry off one huge section, while on another, the boards were broken and splintered.

On a third section, the boards were intact, but about 100 yards from where the boardwalk was supposed to be.

"And they just finished it, just finished it. It's gone. It's gone, and I think it's going to be years before it comes back," said spectator Christine Morris.

In the daylight, the sight of the mangled, demolished boardwalk drew onlookers to survey the extreme damage for themselves.

Meanwhile in Belmar and Spring Lake, what was Ocean Avenue lining the waterfront was reduced to nothing but sand. The storm surge brought the ocean onshore, and right into neighboring homes.

"It was scary," said Belmar resident Lloyd Sokoloff." Windows were vibrating from the wind; water passing your house at a 4-foot level."

Sokoloff stayed through Sandy, defying evacuation orders. On Tuesday night, he was one of the 4 million people in New Jersey left in the dark.

At the height of the storm, he watched as the boardwalk buckled, and the ocean came rushing through. A day later, he could only marvel at how the landscape was changed overnight.

"This is beachfront, where we're standing is beachfront property," he said. "I came away pretty lucky today."

Little Ferry
Not far inland in Little Ferry, N.J., the waters were receding late Tuesday night, and pockets of power were coming back on. But the homes in the town were empty after a massive rescue and evacuation that took more than 12 hours before finally wrapping up around 8 p.m.

As CBS 2's Jessica Schneider reported, all day, rescue boats motored through the streets of Little Ferry, and trucks moved dozens of stranded Sandy survivors to dry ground.

When the storm struck, tidal floodwaters overwhelmed a natural berm holding back the waters from the Hackensack River and Newark Bay, sending a deluge into the roadways.

"It was so scary. It was like an ocean," said Anais Peralta. "We were like a little island surrounded by water."

Peralta first heard the sounds of trouble around midnight Monday night. Car alarms began blasting as the water rose higher.

"It was very scary, and you know, the cars were floating, things flying around, and it was very scary; something I will never forget," added Walter Peralta.

Search and rescue teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with National Guard members, went house to house and saved more than 400 people in Little Ferry.

In neighboring Moonachie, hundreds more escaped their trailer park despite the rising flood.

"I've lived here for 50 years," said Tom Quinco. "We've never had water in the street let alone in the house."

"There really wasn't anyone around to come help us at the time, so that was really scary because we didn't know when it was going to stop," added Patricia Urdaz. "The water was just not - it was going higher and higher and higher."

Cars were destroyed, and some homes were consumed by 10 feet of water. Alexis Chavez just bought a 2012 Ford Fiesta, which now might be undrivable forever.

"A lot of water got inside and the engine won't turn on. The computer got destroyed, basically," Chavez said. "I have to wait for it to dry out and get it fixed."

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) was out in Little Ferry Tuesday evening, preparing for President Obama's arrival.

"I've been talking about what's up here, and getting a good sense so that (Obama) can get the full picture," Menendez said. "I know that Atlantic County, Monmouth, Ocean got hit real bad – it was the entry point – but I want him to know that other parts of the state got hit really bad as well. So we need an all-hands-on-deck response by the federal government. I'm sure we'll get it."

Just across the Hudson from New York City in Hoboken, floodwaters had taken over late Tuesday afternoon. CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli reported trucks were trying to brave the virtual lakes on the streets. But few were able to navigate the waters safely.

Around 8 p.m. Monday, the Hudson River spilled in on one side Hoboken, and water from a shipping canal spilled in on the other. Parked cars were picked up and ended up floating into each other, leaving rearview mirrors knocked apart and dents in the sides of the cars' bodies.

An ambulance was even stranded in the middle of the town.

Meanwhile, power was completely out in the area. Some larger buildings had generators, but everyone else was stuck with candlelight or battery power.

On Monday night, police were going around with megaphones and even making robocalls advising everyone to evacuate. But not everyone did.

At the height of the storm, 75 percent of Hoboken was underwater, Puccinelli reported.

A mandatory curfew has been extended in Hoboken through 6 p.m. on Tuesday and driving is prohibited, officials said.

East Coast Begins To Clean Up And Assess Damage From Hurricane Sandy
Sections of an old boardwalk are seen destroyed by flooding from Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In Atlantic City, a portion of the Atlantic City boardwalk was destroyed by the pounding surf and 2.3 million people were without electricity, many in flooded communities.

The barrier island of Ocean City was cut off from the mainland by the storm; an estimated 2,000 people had no way on or off the island during the storm.

"It's coming from the Hackensack River. We had a failed gate so the water is just spilling out devastating the town of Moonachie," said Bergen County chief of staff Jeanie Berrata.

The police and fire departments were themselves flooded. They were using boats to try to rescue about 800 people living in a trailer park and other stranded residents. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

1010 WINS' John Montone reports


The Garden State Parkway was reopened to traffic Tuesday, but more than 200 other state roads remained closed, many of them inaccessible due to fallen trees and downed power wires.

Major flooding had hit Toms River, and several people were trapped on upper floors of their homes near Barnegat Bay.

Jersey City closed the city to vehicles because traffic lights were out.

The Lincoln Tunnel was open, but the Holland Tunnel remained closed. All bridges with the exception of the Rockaway bridges were reopened Tuesday at noon.

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(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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