Superstorm Sandy may cause $50 billion in damages

The total economic damage from Superstorm Sandy could run as high as $50 billion, according to new estimates from the forecasting firm Eqecat.

That would make it the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina.

The new numbers Eqecat released Thursday are more than double the firm's previous estimate. Eqecat said Sandy may have caused between $30 billion and $50 billion in total economic losses, including property damage, lost business and extra living expenses.

Locally, crews continued clearing debris and trees and the area recovered from the storm.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley says all of the state's resources are focused on Garrett County where thousands of mountain residents remain without power days after heavy snow triggered by Superstorm Sandy.

O'Malley spoke to reporters Thursday in Oakland after meeting with local mayors, county commissioners and state legislators. O'Malley says this is a big event "but not bigger than we are when we pull together."

He says his main concern is getting help to senior citizens and checking on the welfare of sick and disabled people. O'Malley says the Maryland Emergency Management Agency has temporarily moved its headquarters to Garrett County to respond to the problems.

The cost to insurance companies could run as low as $10 billion and as high as $20 billion. The firm pointed to two reasons that Sandy will leave a bigger bill than it first thought. Power outages are more widespread than in a typical Category 1 storm, Eqecat said. Sandy knocked out electricity for more homes and businesses than any other storm in history, according to the Department of Energy.

The lack of subway service in New York City and blocked roadways will also push the total cost higher, Eqecat said.

Andrew, which struck in 1992, cost $44 billion in today's dollars, and the Ike storm of 2008 cost $32 billion. Another major firm that calculates the cost of catastrophes, RMS, is gathering information before it makes its first estimate.

Subways started running again in much of New York City on Thursday for the first time since Superstorm Sandy, but traffic at bridges backed up for miles, long lines formed at gas stations, and tempers flared as commuters waited for buses.

The trains couldn't take some New Yorkers where they needed to go. There was no service in downtown Manhattan and other hard-hit parts of the city, and people had to switch to buses.

But some of those who did use the subway were grateful.

"It's the lifeline of the city. It can't get much better than this," said Ronnie Abraham, who was waiting at Penn Station for a subway train to Harlem, a trip that takes 20 minutes underground but 2½ hours on the city's badly overcrowded buses.

Three days after Sandy slammed the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, New York and New Jersey struggled to get back on their feet, the U.S. death toll climbed to more than 80, and more than 4.6 million homes and businesses were still without power.

Nearly 20,000 people remained stranded in their homes by floodwaters in Hoboken, N.J., across the river from the New York, and swaths of the New Jersey coastline lay in ruins, with countless homes, piers and boardwalks wrecked.

In a piece of good news for many New Yorkers, Con Edison said it is on track to restore power by Saturday in Manhattan, where a quarter-million customers were without electricity.

And Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who endorsed President Barack Obama for a second term, said meals and bottled water will be distributed in hard-hit neighborhoods around the city.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.