Sandy Reconstruction Cost Could Top $20 Billion

Cleanup after Hurricane Sandy has just begun, and it is estimated that the cost could top $20 billion. The death toll has climbed to 55, and it could take weeks or months to restore the hardest hit areas to normalcy, according to Fox News.

Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight predicted Tuesday the storm will end up causing about $20 billion in damage and $10 billion to $30 billion in lost business. Another firm, AIR Worldwide, estimated losses up to $15 billion — big numbers probably offset by reconstruction and repairs that will contribute to longer-term growth.

“The biggest problem is not the first few days but the coming months,” said Alan Rubin, an expert in natural disaster recovery.

But, amid the despair, talk of recovery was already beginning.

“It’s heartbreaking after being here 37 years,” Barry Prezioso of Point Pleasant, N.J., said as he returned to his house in the beachfront community to survey the damage. “You see your home demolished like this, it’s tough. But nobody got hurt and the upstairs is still livable, so we can still live upstairs and clean this out. I’m sure there’s people that had worse. I feel kind of lucky.”

Much of the initial recovery efforts focused on New York City, the region’s economic heart. Bloomberg said it could take four or five days before the subway, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history, is running again. All 10 of the tunnels that carry commuters under the East River were flooded. But high water prevented inspectors from immediately assessing damage to key equipment, raising the possibility that the nation’s largest city could endure an extended shutdown of the system that 5 million people count on to get to work and school each day. The chairman of the state agency that runs the subway, Joseph Lhota, said service might have to resume piecemeal, and experts said the cost of the repairs could be staggering.

Power company Consolidated Edison said it would be four days before the last of the 337,000 customers in Manhattan and Brooklyn who lost power have electricity again and it could take a week to restore outages in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester County. Floodwater led to explosions that disabled a power substation Monday night, contributing to the outages.

Surveying the widespread damage, it was clear much of the recovery and rebuilding will take far longer.

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stopped in Belmar, N.J., during a tour of the devastation, one woman wept openly and 42-year-old Walter Patrickis told him, “Governor, I lost everything.”

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. (Read More)

In related news, Wall Street trading will resume today, and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has asked President Obama to stay away from the city as cleanup continues. I’m sure it was a logistic decision and nothing political. But the Democrats have been going out of their way to politicize the storm. It didn’t take Al Gore long to throw in his two cents. Even Bloomberg and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo couldn’t wait to get in on it.