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NYC subway creaking back as region assesses damage

Katie Lynch stands on the street with her dog Merlin in the West Village as she checks her email and voicemail on her iPhone Wednesday Oct. 31, 2012 in New York. Lynch, who lives on West 10th Street and Bleecker Street, said she had no power, cell phone service or internet service, so she needed to go out to check her email and voicemail. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

Katie Lynch stands on the street with her dog Merlin in the West Village as she checks her email and voicemail on her iPhone Wednesday Oct. 31, 2012 in New York. Lynch, who lives on West 10th Street and Bleecker Street, said she had no power, cell phone service or internet service, so she needed to go out to check her email and voicemail. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

People shop in a candle-lit deli in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. In lower Manhattan, some stores are open even though their power is still out. Others are busing essential employees to work. Days after superstorm Sandy hit, businesses both big and small are facing a tough choice, to reopen or stay closed.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

This undated photo made available by New Jersey Transit shows boats and other debris on New Jersey Transit’s Morgan draw bridge in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, in South Amboy, N.J. Most mass transit systems were shut down as a result of the storm’s damage, leaving hundreds of thousands of commuters braving clogged highways and quarter-mile lines at gas stations. (AP Photo/New Jersey Transit)

This aerial photo shows the damage to an amusement park left in the wake of superstorm Sandy on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Seaside Heights, N.J. New Jersey got the brunt of Sandy, which made landfall in the state and killed six people. More than 2 million customers were without power as of Wednesday afternoon, down from a peak of 2.7 million. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

A lone parked car is draped with snow covered branches south of Morgantown, W.Va. from a snowfall on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. West Virginia’s death toll climbed to at least six and hundreds of thousands remained without power Wednesday, Oct. 31, from the wet, heavy snow that superstorm Sandy dumped on the mountains, snapping trees, pulling down power lines and collapsing homes. (AP Photo/The Dominion-Post, Ron Rittenhouse)

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NEW YORK (AP) — The cleanup of miles of New Jersey shorefront ripped apart by Superstorm Sandy has just begun, but New York City moved closer to resuming its normal frenetic pace by getting back its vital subways.

The decision to reopen undamaged parts of the nation’s largest transit system Thursday came as the region struggled to recover from a storm that killed more than 70 people and left more than 5 million without power.

Two of the region’s main airports opened Wednesday and officials promised that the third, LaGuardia Airport, would return to service Thursday. Actors and eager audiences brought darkened Broadway theaters back to life. And New Yorkers packed on to buses that returned for the first time to city streets since the storm, joining a throng of gridlocked traffic that navigated the city without working stop lights.

Across the region, people stricken by the storm pulled together, in some cases providing comfort to those left homeless, in others offering hot showers and electrical outlets for charging cellphones to those without power.

The spirit of can-do partnership extended even to politicians, who at least made the appearance of putting their differences aside to focus together on Sandy.

“We are here for you,” President Barack Obama said in Brigantine, N.J., touring a ravaged shore. “We are not going to tolerate red tape. We are not going to tolerate bureaucracy.”

Obama joined Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who had been one of the most vocal supporters of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, to tour the ravaged coast. But the two men spoke only of helping those harmed by the storm.

That was already beginning Wednesday, when masses of people walked shoulder-to-shoulder across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan for work, reversing the escape scenes from the Sept. 11 terror attack and the blackout of 2003. They reached an island, where many people took the lack of power and water and transportation as a personal challenge.

On Third Avenue, people gathered like refugees around a campfire. But instead of crackling flames, their warmth came from more advanced technology: a power strip that had been offered to charge cellphones.

At a fire hydrant on West 16th Street, 9-year-old Shiyin Ge and her brother, 12-year-old Shiyuan Ge, stood in line to fill up buckets of water. But unlike the adults, the two kids held plastic Halloween candy pails painted with grinning jack-o-lanterns.

“There’s no water in our house,” said Shiyin Ge, who had planned to dress up as a ladybug for Halloween.

After suffering the worst disaster in its 108-year-old history, the subways were to roll again — at least some of them. More than a dozen of the lines would offer some service, but none below Manhattan’s 34th Street, a line of demarcation in the city separating the hardest-hit residents from those who escaped the brunt.

Downtown Manhattan, which includes the city’s financial district, Sept. 11 memorial and other tourist sites, was still mostly an urban landscape of shuttered bodegas and boarded-up restaurants, where people roamed in search of food, power and a hot shower.

To get there from Brooklyn or Queens, commuters who would normally zoom beneath the East River in tunnels that flooded will have to take shuttle buses, adding to the enormous stress already being placed on gridlocked Manhattan streets.

“We are going to need some patience and tolerance,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The airports and subways weren’t the only transportation systems returning to the region. Suburban trains started running for the first time on Wednesday, and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor was to take commuters from city to city for on Friday for the first time since the storm.

From West Virginia to the Jersey Shore, the storm’s damage was still being felt, and seen.

In New Jersey, signs of the good life that had defined wealthy shorefront enclaves like Bayhead and Mantoloking lay scattered and broken: $3,000 barbecue grills buried beneath the sand and hot tubs cracked and filled with seawater. Nearly all the homes were seriously damaged, and many had entirely disappeared.

“This,” said Harry Typaldos, who owns the Grenville Inn in Mantoloking, “I just can’t comprehend.”

Most of the state’s mass transit systems remained shut down, leaving hundreds of thousands of commuters braving clogged highways and quarter-mile lines at gas stations. Atlantic City’s casinos remained closed. Christie postponed Halloween until Monday, saying trick-or-treating wasn’t safe in towns with flooded and darkened streets, fallen trees and downed power lines.

Farther north in Hoboken, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, nearly 20,000 residents remained stranded in their homes, amid accusations that officials have been slow to deliver food and water. One man blew up an air mattress and floated to City Hall, demanding to know why supplies hadn’t gotten out. At least one-fourth of the city’s residents are flooded and 90 percent are without power.

On New York’s Long Island, bulldozers scooped sand off streets and tow trucks hauled away destroyed cars, while residents tried to find a way to their homes to restart their lives. Joanne and Richard Kalb used a rowboat to reach their home in Mastic Beach, filled with 3 feet of water.

Her husband, exasperated by the futility of their effort, posted a sign on a telephone pole, asking drivers to slow down: “Slow please no wake.”

Snow drifts as high as 5 feet piled up in West Virginia, where the former Hurricane Sandy merged with two winter weather systems as it went inland. Heavy snow collapsed parts of an apartment complex, a grocery store, a hardwood plant and three homes. The sixth person killed in the state was a candidate for the state House of Delegates, John Rose Sr., who was struck by a falling tree limb. His name will remain on the ballot on Election Day.

A few more inches might fall in West Virginia, but meteorologists said Sandy’s days are numbered. The National Weather Service said Wednesday that the last remnants of the storm are in the Appalachian Mountains, and will be gone by the end of the week.

___

Contributing to this report were Verena Dobnik, Eileen AJ Connelly, Leanne Italie and Karen Matthews in New York; Samantha Henry in Hoboken, N.J.; Wayne Parry in Mantoloking, N.J., Katie Zezima in Seaside Heights, N.J.; Frank Eltman in Mastic Beach, N.Y., Larry Neumeister in Long Beach, N.Y., and Vicki Smith in Elkins, W.Va.

Associated Press