Sandy Recovery Could Be 'Most Extensive and Expensive' in US History

President Obama surveyed the damage in New Jersey today.

ByABC News
October 31, 2012, 3:31 AM

Oct. 31, 2012— -- Recovery efforts after the widespread devastation and destruction caused by superstorm Sandy could be among the most expensive in United States history.

"We are now in the recovery mode, response and recovery," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said today. "We are moving large amounts of resources into the affected areas. It will be ... if not the most extensive and expensive, one of the most in our nation's history."

Napolitano spoke about what lies ahead in the wake of Sandy at a Washington Post forum on cybersecurity issues.

Hurricane Sandy: Full Coverage

After surveying the devastated New Jersey shoreline today with Gov. Chris Christie, President Obama said that while there was a lot of work to be done, the cleanup effort would be handled with "an all-hands-[on]-deck approach."

"What I can promise you is that the federal government will be working as closely as possible with the state and local officials, and we will not quit until this is done," Obama said from Brigantine, N.J., noting that states from as far away as California have pledged to send crews and equipment to the affected areas.

Obama declared parts of New Jersey, along with parts of New York, a major disaster area, which would allow federal funding for storm-related repairs.

Recovery from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has been considered the costliest U.S. hurricane recovery, at nearly $106 billion, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 cost about $45.5 billion and Ike in 2008 cost more than $27 billion.

More than six million people are still without power across 17 states and Sandy is now being blamed for at least 61 deaths in the U.S. and two people missing, according to The Associated Press. Two million people have had power restored since Tuesday.

Napolitano said that President Obama had cancelled his campaign events over the past few days to focus on storm response efforts.

"Before it actually made landfall, we had -- and this is something we've developed over the last few years with FEMA -- pre-positioning, pre-positioning equipment, pre-positioning food and water, other things that are likely to be necessary, pre-positioning personnel, so that as the storm clears and it is safe to go back in, we can move very, very quickly." Napolitano said.

She added that "patience" would be "the watchword of the day."

Residents along the East Coast are beginning to pick up the pieces after the Sandy devastated the most densely populated region in the country, with New Jersey experiencing "unthinkable" damage to its coastline as homes were swept from their foundations and amusement park rides were washed into the ocean.

Hundreds of thousands of people who had to evacuate their homes are left wondering what -- if anything -- was left. For those residents living on the New Jersey coastline, Christie described the damage as "unfathomable" and "unthinkable."

Images from around the storm-affected areas depicted scenes reminiscent of big-budget disaster movies. In Atlantic City, N.J., a gaping hole remained where once a stretch of boardwalk sat by the sea.

"It won't be same. It will be different because many of the iconic things that made it what it was are not gone and washed into the ocean," Christie said at a Tuesday evening press conference after surveying the damage.

Christie said that he planned on speaking to Obama about getting Army Corps of Engineers into the state to begin rebuilding as soon as possible, especially the Jersey Shore.

"As a kid who was born and raised in this state and who spent a lot of time over my life, both my childhood and my adult life, at the Jersey Shore, we'll rebuild it," he said. "No question in my mind we'll rebuild it."