By Holly Yan and Joe Sterling,CNN
“It’s sort of like the transit strike a few years ago,” said Elizabeth Gorman, 40, a Queens resident, who walked across the Queensboro Bridge Wednesday.
Gorman was part of a steady stream of commuters forced to walk or bike into New York City, after Sandy roared ashore barely two days ago, wiping out roads, bridges and mass transit systems across the northeast.
Commuters, homeowners and businesses also struggled with the loss of power, and waterlogged or burned homes.
But many residents along America’s most populous urban stretch greeted the major losses and daily inconveniences with determination.
In Seaside Heights, New Jersey, Mayor Bill Akers said his hard-hit town will tough it out.
“We’re going to just do the best we can and give the support,” he said. “When it’s tougher, we’re the best community.”
Sandy came ashore late Monday in southern New Jersey, wiping out houses, pushing sand four blocks inland and leaving people stranded.
Over its entire path, the storm killed 118 people — 67 in the Caribbean, 50 in the United States and one in Canada. More than half of the U.S. deaths have been reported in the state of New York.
Wednesday, the storm sputtered over the Great Lakes region, where its strong winds are expected to trigger some coastal flooding as well as additional snowfall in parts of West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
Nearly 6 million customers across the Eastern United States were still in the dark Wednesday, down from the nearly 8 million who lost power shortly after the storm hit.
Others remain stranded by flooding, particularly along the Jersey Shore, where police are conducting house-to-house rescues.
President Barack Obama arrived in the Garden State Wednesday to see first-hand the damage that Sandy inflicted on the Jersey Shore, described by Gov. Chris Christie as “unthinkable.”
In Seaside Heights, Akers said crews are trying to get each and every person to shelters from his battered community, which he called he the storm’s “ground zero.”
Speaking to CNN, Akers’ voice cracked a bit as he described the enormity of the destruction and the resolve to rebuild.
“I just want to try to keep the emotion out of it,” he said. “For everybody, it’s — this is a loss for everybody … not just Seaside Heights.
“If there’s any good news,” he added, “the water (has) receded, the roadways are accessible. But we still have downed power lines. We are not letting anybody in at that particular time.”
Most of the town’s few thousand residents have no access to power, Akers said, and crews from New Jersey and out of state are arriving to help the community. Many people lost their homes and the town’s piers floated away in the ocean.
For now, the mayor said, he and other officials are taking “baby steps” in tackling the devastation. He’s hoping for help from utility workers, the National Guard and the government.
“It’s a long process,” he said. “I really don’t have a timetable yet.”
Eventually, the community will have to come together to address its torment and grief.
Akers said eventually, when residents come back, they’ll have to deal with their emotions and “face what we’re facing right now.”
Farther north, the National Guard arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, near New York City, to help the town, where thousands are reportedly trapped.
Other military branches have also been deployed to help in the storm’s aftermath.
The U.S. Coast Guard sent airboats normally used for ice rescues in the Great Lakes area to the East Coast to assist in shallow water rescues.
The U.S. Navy is moving three amphibious landing ships toward the coastlines of New York and New Jersey in case there is a request for their assistance.
As for mass transit, both New York and New Jersey were working to get their transportation systems back in order.
New York buses were operating at full service Wednesday and there was limited commuter service on trains, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced. There will be limited NYC subway service supplemented by bus service from Brooklyn to Manhattan starting Thursday.
New Jersey Transit rail and light rail will remain suspended until further notice. Bus service is also suspended, with the exception of limited service in Camden County.
Two New York-area airports — John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty — are scheduled to reopen Wednesday with limited service. New York’s LaGuardia Airport will remain closed Wednesday because of significant damage there.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says it’s waiting for electrical power to be restored to begin pumping out the Holland Tunnel. Three of seven East River tunnels have been pumped and are free of water.
Con Edison and other utility crews worked to restore power.
As New Yorkers worked and cycled into Manhattan, the financial markets reopened following a two-day closure due to the storm. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg rang the opening bell for the New York Stock Exchange.
But life has hardly returned to normal: New Jersey postponed Wednesday’s Halloween celebrations until Monday.
“I’ve taken this action to minimize additional risks to lives and the public safety as we begin the process of rebuilding and recovering from Hurricane Sandy,” Gov. Christie said.
*For more on superstorm Sandy’s wrath locally and nationally click here.*