PA-NY-NJ picking up after Hurricane Sandy's epic devastation

The sodden, wind-blown tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania began an arduous journey back to normal on Wednesday after mammoth storm Sandy killed at least 82 people in a rampage that swamped coastal cities and cut power to millions across the Northeast.

Financial markets reopened with the New York Stock Exchange running on generator power after the first weather-related two-day closure since an 1888 blizzard. Packed buses took commuters to work with New York's subway system idle after seawater flooded its tunnels.

The U.S. Navy said it was moving ships closer to areas affected by the disaster in case they might be needed, including the helicopter carrier USS Wasp.

Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean as a hurricane before crashing ashore just south of Atlantic City, N.J. Monday night as Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy, which became a rare hybrid superstorm after merging with another weather system to deliver 80 mile-per-hour winds and record storm surges.

It may go down as the largest storm system to ever hit the United States.

Sandy already has been called one of the country's costliest storms. One disaster-modeling firm estimated Sandy caused up to $15 billion in insured losses.

A national benefit concert is being planned to help Hurricane Sandy victims.

NBC Today show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie sent out a Twitter message just before 8 a.m. Thursday saying NBC will broadcast a concert Friday night. Her Tweet promised more details would be forthcoming.

New Jersey shore towns began the unfathomable task of assessing the full text of the damage as President Obama and Gov. Christine Christie put aside politics to tour the devastation.

The president told a Brigantine marina owner whose boat docks washed away that New Jerseyans will rebuild just as the people of Joplin, Mo., did after last year's EF-5 tornado.

"You go back there now, and they rebuilt. That's what they do," Obama said.

Speaking with other groups of residents he pledged the federal government "will not quit until this done."

But the president also put some of the onus on "neighbors helping neighbors" after visiting a community center serving as an emergency shelter.

"When you see folks like that respond with strength and resilience…, then you're reminded about what America is all about," Obama said. "We go through tough times, but we bounce back."

In the Lehigh Valley, Poconos, Berks, Bucks and Montgomery counties about 500,000 PPL, Met-Ed and PECO customers remained without power Thursday morning. New Jersey Central Power and Light also had about 71,600 customers without power in Warren and Hunterdon counties.

Telephone and Internet service also was out in many parts of the region.

Gov. Tom Corbett surveyed the damage by helicopter Wednesday and stopped in Upper Bucks County to visit an American Red Cross emergency shelter at Palisades High School in Kintnersville that more than 300 people have used since the storm.

Hurricane Sandy has been attributed to 11 deaths in Pennsylvania, including five in the Lehigh Valley region. Bucks was probably the hardest hit in the region as far as the number of people who lost electrical power, which utility companies say may not be restored for more than a week or longer.

Everywhere, people without power searched for basic necessities. They jammed restaurants and gas stations — to the point that many businesses sold out of supplies — and searched for ways to save their refrigerated and frozen foods, keep warm and clean and charge their cell phones and other electronics.

Amenities offered in the Lehigh Valley to storm victims ranged from meals to hot showers to electronic charging stations.