WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress on Thursday took its first hard look at the damage from Superstorm Sandy amid appeals for tens of billions of dollars in additional disaster assistance to rebuild from one of the most destructive storms ever to hit the Northeast.
Testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, lawmakers from states incurring the most damages painted a painted a grim picture of destruction from the late October storm that left 131 people dead.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, one of the hardest-hit states, said more than 300,000 homes were seriously damaged from New York City to the eastern tip of Long Island alone. He said more than 20 million square feet of commercial offices are still closed.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., cited Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that nearly 72,000 buildings were damaged in New Jersey, which was also hard hit by the storm. He said along the battered coast, storm surges destroyed neighborhoods, ruined businesses, and displaced families.
"Imagine seeing your home or small business — which represented your dreams and aspirations — reduced to a pile of rubble," Lautenberg said. "Imagine having to evacuate, and coming home to find nothing there. The place where you raised your children and created so many memories — gone. This is the reality for far too many New Jerseyans."
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said a storm surge flooded the Passaic Valley treatment plant, shutting down the system that handles sewage from 1.5 million customers in northern New Jersey. New Jersey Transit, which has a daily ridership of nearly 1 million people, suffered flooded tunnels and crippled hubs. He said PSEG, the state's largest utility, had more than $100 million in damage to its infrastructure.
In Connecticut, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said nearly a third of at least 3,000 homes are uninhabitable.
Congress, facing tight budget constraints with the fiscal cliff budget talks, seems to be in no mood to move quickly to approve additional spending.