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Sandy's Trail of Destruction; Obama to Tour Storm-Damaged Jersey Shore; Disney Buys Star Wars, New Trilogy Announced

Aired October 31, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Sandy's stunning aftermath. Devastation along the Jersey Shore. You're taking a look at it -- homes and lives wiped away.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Rescue operations still underway as some people remain trapped in water-swamped homes.

SAMBOLIN: And New York City struggling to recover. Hundreds of thousands are still without power and a flooded subway system remains shut down.

BERMAN: More than 80 homes in that tight-knit neighborhood in Queens in New York burned to the ground during the storm. Amazingly, just three minor injuries there.

SAMBOLIN: And President Obama gets the firsthand look at the destruction today as he comes to New Jersey.

BERMAN: The human toll from Sandy, 33 people killed in the U.S., 6.5 million customers remain without power. The total cost of property damage and lost business estimated between $10 billion to $20 billion. And I have to tell you -- that could be on the low end.

Good morning and welcome to THE EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

We want to welcome our international viewers as well this morning.

It is 5:00 in the East.

So, let's get started here. We have our team of reporters in the field, covering Sandy's aftermath from every angle for you. Brian Todd, Bob Van Dillen and Sandra Endo in New Jersey. Rob Marciano is right here in New York City. Dan Lothian and Paul Steinhauser are standing by in Washington, D.C. And Richard Quest is in Atlanta for us.

BERMAN: A day after Sandy roared through, it has cleared New Jersey and New York hit hardest. Excuse me -- with 1/3 of the people in New York area, some 2 million people here without power. And flooded subways and few buses means that transportation is at a virtual standstill at a few time where few people have cars, not to mention all the property damage and destruction, including at least 80 homes consumed by fire in Queens.

Recovery from superstorm Sandy will be as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls it, a mammoth job.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano is in the Chelsea neighborhood here in New York City. He joins us live right now.

Rob, I was down there yesterday. What was amazing was the exodus of people coming from down there where it is black right now, no electricity, moving uptown, trying to find some power and some food and some information.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the dichotomy is stunning. When you go from -- you know, the typical lit northern Manhattan area and you come south of 30th Street, and it just goes completely dark. It is something I have never seen in New York City.

The people, the difference in how people react is certainly different as well. They are not used to being without power and kind of walking around almost stunned.

It's been quite the 36 hours, hasn't it? Unbelievable storm wreaking havoc across the Northeast and some of the stunning images especially out there in Queens, in Breezy Point. Unknown at this time how that fire started. You know, you can speculate it was electrical or gas. It is certainly always an issue when there's a storm coming in, with winds blowing 80 to, 90, 100 miles an hour. That fire spread quickly.

Eighty-plus homes destroyed there. There was a six-alarm fire with 200 firefighters on scene. Remarkably, nobody injured.

Mayor Bloomberg, of course, was across the media yesterday trying to calm New Yorkers and inform them. Here's what he had to say about that situation.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) NEW YORK CITY: To describe it as looking like the pictures we have seen as the end of World War I is not overstating it. The area was completely leveled. Chimneys and foundations were all that was left of many of these homes.


MARCIANO: A lot of people describing it as a war zone there.

As far as the darkness is concerned down here across Lower Manhattan, at the height of the storm, over 8 million without power. Now, that number is down under 7 million. But a good half a million is across in New York, just down the road from where I stand is the headquarters of Con Edison.

Yesterday, I got up inside their situation room. I managed to talk with the man in charge. He's been doing this sort of thing for over 30 years. And he told me flat out for Lower Manhattan, it will be two to four days before it is completely restored. You talk about the outer boroughs, up to Westchester County, possibly as much as 10 or more days before power is completely restored there. He said it's like something that he's never seen.


JOHN MIKSAD, SENIOR VP, CONED: It was more -- it was sort of on steroids. And I would have never expected it. I mean, this is New York City. This is not Florida or North Carolina. We would have never expected to have two years in a row with this kind of damage to our system.


MARCIANO: As far as mass transit is concerned, limited bus service was instituted last night. There was about 4,000-plus cabs in the city at this point. The subway system, you know, that was inundated with water. Third rail got it, that's big problems. The mayor really wouldn't go on the record as far as when that's going to be restored, he's hoping four or five days.

As far as the airports are concerned, JFK now open. Newark is expected to open later today. And LaGuardia, which had a couple runways under water, that is still closed until further notice.

BERMAN: All right. Rob Marciano, down in Chelsea, thank you so much. Great work this entire storm.

SAMBOLIN: Meantime, in New Jersey, they are still trying to get a handle on the scope of the devastation left behind by superstorm Sandy. In the Atlantic City area where Sandy made landfall, entire neighborhoods are simply buried by all of the sand and the debris.

In Hoboken, across the river from Manhattan, they called in the National Guard to assist with all the evacuations there. And in Bergen County where a levee breach left hundreds of homes submerged, the situation there remains desperate. About 1,000 people have already been rescued and many more we understand could be trapped.

CNN's Brian Todd is live from Moonachie, New Jersey.

So, let's start with that situation. Are there still people trapped?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just talked to rescue officials, Zoraida, a little -- about a few blocks down the road here. They are starting to fan out again. They're going to be fanning out more when first light hits because they were a little reluctant to go in during pitch black and it was a little bit too dangerous. But they told me that they think just about everyone who needed to be rescued was, but they still have to go door to door and make sure no one is in desperate need of being rescued.

Also, you know, here in Moonachie at least, some relief may be coming. The water is starting to recede. You can see though behind me, this is East Park Street, still some floodwaters here, still very problematic for the residents here. There's a firehouse that's flooded out about a block and a half from here. But the rescue teams will be fanning out at first light, and just trying to see who may still need some help here.

I'm going to show you where the water line came up. This house here on the corner of East Park Street, you can see the water line there. I say it goes up to about -- I don't know, between four and five feet there. And obviously in the basement level of this house, that was a problem with water coming in.

You know, we spoke to some victims last night as they were being taken to a shelter near here. One of them, 91-year-old Mildred Schwartz (ph) -- excuse me, Mildred Schwartz, she has lived in this town all her live, 91 years old. She was in a wheelchair when they were taking her off a truck, a rescue truck and putting her in a shelter. That's where I caught up with her yesterday.

Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ninety-one years, I have never seen anything like this ever.

TODD: Can you describe what happened when the water came?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were sleeping, my daughter and I. (INAUDIBLE).


TODD: But thankfully, officials are telling us no fatalities in the three towns where this occurred.

And to recap what happened, you know, right behind me is the Hackensack River just a few blocks that way. About midnight Monday into Tuesday, the Hackensack breached a berm or a levee behind me. Three counts including this one, Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt were engulfed within just a few minutes and people had to be plucked from the roofs of their houses. They had to be rescued by swift water teams

Again, some of those rescue teams are going to be fanning out in the hours ahead, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Brian Todd live for us. We really appreciate it, because yesterday, we were worried about these people as this was all unfolding. So, there's a little bit of good news there.

And the 96-year-old woman who has that kind of perspective, right, who says, I have never seen anything like this in my entire life.

BERMAN: Glad she's OK.


BERMAN: Superstorm Sandy has put presidential politics on hold for the most part, even with the election just six days away. But that's about to stop. Today, President Obama gets a firsthand look at the hardest-hit areas by Sandy, the Jersey Shore. The president will inspect the disaster scene along with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is a top Mitt Romney supporter. Yesterday, he paid a visit to the Red Cross headquarters in the nation's capital.

CNN's Dan Lothian is live in Washington.

Good morning, Dan. What is the president's message right now to storm victims?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it really was two-fold. First of all, he wanted to pledge that the federal government would cut through red tape, cut through all the bureaucracy. He said that there would be no excuses for inaction and that federal agencies should really explore all options, even leaning on the military if necessary to get the resources to where they need to get as quickly as possible.

But secondly, what the president was also trying to reinforce yesterday is kind of uplifting the spirits of those who have been impacted by the storm. Some of whom have lost everything, saying that America is with you. America will help you get back on your feet. And he praised those who have already jumped in and taken action.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: During the darkness of the storm, I think we also saw what's brightest in America. I think all of us have honestly been shocked by the force of Mother Nature as we watch it on television. At the same time, we've also seen nurses at NYU hospital carrying fragile newborns to safety. We have seen incredibly brave firefighters in Queens waist-deep in water, battling infernos and rescuing people in boats.


LOTHIAN: Of course, the reality of this is that cleanup, the recovery will take time. It will not be easy. So the president is telling governors and mayors that if they get no from federal official agencies, that they just pick up the phone and call him at the White House.

Clearly, John, the White House is trying to show the president on top of this disaster. Yes, that's his job, but the election is just a few days away and they understand the politics of this.

SAMBOLIN: I heard him say, just pick up the phone and call the White House. I thought, wow, that sounds easier than it probably is.

So, Dan, New Jersey governor -- here's something we don't normally hear, Chris Christie has been praising the president saying that he has been outstanding. Share some more details on that.

LOTHIAN: That's right. You know, this is someone who is often a critic of the president, but yes, he was not only praising the president but also the administration as a whole saying they jumped in very quickly as the storm was approaching and even after the storm.

Take a listen to what he had to say.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: Piers, this is the livelihood of the people of my state. And when the president does things that deserve praise, I will give him praise. And when the president does things that deserves scorn, I'll give him scorn. I think people know that about me. But I'm not going to play politics with this issue.


LOTHIAN: The governor says that he has spoken with President Obama at least three times by phone. As he pointed out at the top of the show, the president will be headed to New Jersey later today. He'll be taking a tour with Governor Christie to see the damage up close and firsthand.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Dan Lothian live in Washington, D.C., for us. Nice to see you this morning.

BERMAN: And for more on what you can do to help the victims of superstorm Sandy, go to

Now, every election, we always talk about the possibility of an October surprise. Well, maybe this time we got one from Sandy. It has made this a very, very different race.

And after a brief break from politics, the candidates are targeting the final battlegrounds. Mitt Romney right back on the campaign trail today with three stops in Florida. The president after touring New Jersey today will resume campaigning tomorrow with a rescheduled stop in Wisconsin.

Our political editor Paul Steinhauser joins us live now from Washington this morning.

And, Paul, where does this race stand right now? It's kind of been frozen for a few days.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It certainly has. But here's where it stands. It is extremely close.

Take a look at this, John, eight surveys were conducted over the last nine days. Eight national surveys, live operator, nonpartisan, almost entire after the final debate, we put them all together. Here's our CNN poll of polls nationally and this is a pretty tight race. Mitt Romney at 48 percent. President Obama at 47 percent. Basically all tied up.

But you and I both know the race for the White House is not a national popular vote. It's the battle for the state and the electoral votes. These are brand new numbers out from the last few hours from CBS/"New York Times" and Quinnipiac, and three of the most important battleground states, well, Ohio. We've seen the president with a slight advantage in most recent polls there. He has a five-point advantage for president in Ohio with 18 electoral votes. Florida and Virginia, the other two very, very important battleground states, basically all tied up according to these new numbers from Quinnipiac, CBS and "New York Times", John.

BERMAN: That Ohio number is particularly interesting because over the last few days, we've heard that Mitt Romney wants to expand the map to Michigan, maybe Pennsylvania. People saw that as a sign of maybe going on offense, but if the Ohio number is really five points or three to five points as we have seen in a number of polls here, it might be that Romney needs to find another way to pick up those electoral votes they're not getting in Ohio.

STEINHAUSER: You know, every Republican who has won the White House has won Ohio. It's tradition, you need it.

But there's an avenue for Mitt Romney to do it without Ohio but it is very, very tough. He basically has to run up the score everywhere else in all the other battleground states where as you said, try to expand the map -- John.

BERMAN: We are also hearing a lot about FEMA and Mitt Romney's position on FEMA. Yesterday, he dodged a lot of questions about it in Ohio.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, and the Obama campaign and other Democrats are pointing to some comments that Romney made way back in June of 2011 at a CNN Republican presidential debate. Take a listen.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: FEMA is about to run out of money and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we're learning a lesson here and the state should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.


STEINHAUSER: Our John King at that debate back in 2011. Yesterday, Mitt Romney at an event, a campaign event that was converted to a disaster relief event in Ohio and he was asked by reporters a number of times about what he would do with FEMA.

Take a listen to what he said.


REPORTER: Governor, would you eliminate FEMA if you were president?

REPORTER: Governor, what should FEMA's role be?

REPORTER: Governor, would you eliminate FEMA if you were president?

REPORTER: Governor, you've been asked 14 times what would you do with FEMA? What's your response? Why won't you answer any questions on it?


STEINHAUSER: As you can see, he didn't say much to those questions. His campaign tells us, John, though, that the governor believes it would be better for the state to be in charge of disaster relief -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Paul Steinhauser, live in Washington -- thanks so much this morning.

In the next half hour of EARLY START, we'll break down the final six days of the presidential campaigns with Richard Socarides, the former senior adviser to Bill Clinton and Will Cain, a columnist with

SAMBOLIN: Like something out of the 1970s, gas is suddenly hard to get in storm-ravaged areas. We're going to have much more coming up.


BERMAN: It is 18 minutes past the hour right now. We are getting an early read on local news making national headlines.

Gasoline is at a real premium in New Jersey, in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. "The Asbury Park Press" is printing the names of local gas stations that have managed to reopen in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. And people seem to be getting the message. We're getting reports of long lines at the pumps and that could really continue for weeks because the Garden State's rail system is devastated and may not be back online for quite some time.

SAMBOLIN: And this from the "Boston Herald". Another casualty of superstorm Sandy is Halloween. Cities and towns up and down the East Coast have postponed Halloween, trick-or-treating, with the downed tree limbs and the power lines that Sandy left in its wake. They are worried about that.

In New York City, the traditional Greenwich Village Halloween parade was postponed. Mayor Bloomberg says it may be rescheduled next week. The storm also wiping out Halloween festivities at the White House.

You predicted this when the storm was first forming. I remember you saying Halloween is over.

BERMAN: This is the second time this happened in these parts. Remember last year at this time, there's this big snowstorm, Halloween was canceled for a lot of neighborhoods and communities in this area. There are a lot of kids who will remember trick or treating. SAMBOLIN: That's not true, because you have other options, right? Christine and I were just talking. She's going to have a little party anyway, I'm going to dress up my kids. So, have it at home.

BERMAN: You guys are a lot more fun than we are apparently.

SAMBOLIN: Bring your kids over.

BERMAN: For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog,

SAMBOLIN: And coming up, what some banks are doing to help people try to recover from Sandy. It's a little bit of good news there.


BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning.

Financial markets are reopening today after hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City.

SAMBOLIN: And Christine Romans is here with the preview of what we can expect given the stock market has been closed now for two days -- unprecedented.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They have been closed -- it is so rare. I mean, 1888, remember that blizzard of '88? It was terrible. That was the last time weather closed down the New York Stock Exchange. Of course, though, we've had a couple trading glitches before that have delayed openings and we had 9/11 where the market was closed for almost a week.

So, this is unprecedented. We are bracing for a volume surge, perhaps. You got a lot of people, hedge funds and mutual funds and people who trade the end of their fiscal year and the end of the month. So, they've got an awful lot of things to do.

Stock futures are up this morning. They have been down the last couple of days when stock futures were trading, but the market was closed. Stock futures are up. So, we'll closely watch to see how the market actually shapes up at 9:30 Eastern Time.

We're going to be watching movers in a couple categories. The storm suppliers, people like Home Depot and Lowe's, how will they do? Insurance stocks, Allstate, AIG, Hartford Financial, how will they do?

I mean, we are already starting to see early estimates of damage and it's big. Financials, retailers, airlines, hotels, how will all of these fare on the stock market today? So that's what we are watching for movers, at least.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We have a little bit of good news because a lot of people got an e-mail from Chase Bank that they don't typically get, right? We are here to help.

ROMANS: I heard someone say, I got the nicest e-mail from my bank. They don't want to charge me. It took an act of God, but some of the banks, many of the banks are waiving fees for customers in the storm- ravaged area.

You can see the logos and the names of many of those things, waiving things like overdraft fees on deposit account, late fees on loans. That's Citigroup, B of A, TD, fees incurred from other bank's ATM, that's something that is a lucrative money-maker for banks, but if you're in a storm-ravaged area, you can't necessarily go picking around downed power lines to go find a place that's going to cost you $1.50 less to get money out of the bank.

So, yes, those fees. Also, airplanes fees are being waived in many places. So, you know, make sure -- you know, be a conscious consumer to make sure you're not paying fees you shouldn't ask --

BERMAN: I saw so many people in downtown Manhattan yesterday, again, walking north yesterday to get to ATMs that were working, because none of them were working and a lot of people need cash right now.

ROMANS: Yes, and I saw a lot of people in Jersey waiting to fill up for gas for their chain saws and for their cars. So, you're going to see lots of lines for money, for gas, maybe for food, beer, it is Halloween, even if you're not celebrating Halloween. So, you know, be patient. Bring your patience wherever you go the next few days folks.

SAMBOLIN: Especially the lines for food.


BERMAN: All right. Twenty-six minutes after the hour right now.

Up next, the long road to recovery. How the Northeast is struggling to cope with the aftermath of Sandy.

And if you're leaving the house right now, watch us any time on your desktop or mobile phone, just go to


BERMAN: The devastation from New Jersey unthinkable. That's what New Jersey's governor says right now. Homes and lives wiped away long the shore.

SAMBOLIN: Boats are being deployed to rescue people who remain trapped in water-swamped homes as well.

BERMAN: In New York City, the buses are back but the subways are nowhere near repair yet and hundreds of thousands of people still without power.

SAMBOLIN: And more than 80 homes in a beachfront neighborhood in Queens, New York, burned to the ground during the storm. Take a look at that devastation. Luckily, only three minor injuries are there.

BERMAN: And President Obama visits New Jersey today for a firsthand look at the destruction. SAMBOLIN: So the human toll from Sandy, 33 people killed in the United States, 6.6 million customers now remain without power. And the total cost of property damage and lost business estimated between $10 to 20 billion. Welcome back to EARLY START. We're really happy that you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Thirty minutes after the hour right now. We have a lot to talk about.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we do. So New York City is hard-hit by Sandy. Flooded subways means transportation is at a virtual standstill, not to mention all the property damage and the destruction, including at least 80 homes consumed by that fire in Queens. Recovery will be, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls it, a mammoth job.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano is in New York's Chelsea neighborhood. He's joining us live. We're going to get an idea of what's going on in Chelsea, but we want to start with Queens and the massive fire there. Any injuries reported? What's the latest on the recovery efforts there?

MARCIANO: Remarkably, Zoraida, no injuries. And when you think about the expanse of this fire, not sure how it started, I mean you can suspect in this sort of situation it was an electrical or a gas situation, but certainly driven by the 80, 90-mile-an-hour winds of Hurricane Sand. And those homes there so close together they just went one right after the other after the other. So 80-plus homes completely destroyed. Six-alarm blaze. And with 200 firefighters on scene at the time, obviously that fire is now out, but it is remarkable that nobody was hurt. But at the time, it certainly looked incredibly scary.

SAMBOLIN: It was horrific. And, Rob, a large part of Manhattan is experiencing a major power outage. Much of the area below 25th Street is without electricity. Do we have any idea when it could be restored for those folks?

MARCIANO: Well, the quick answer to that is two to four days for lower Manhattan. Some of that darkness goes as far north as 39th Street. Yesterday, just across the street here Con Edison headquarters, I got into their situation room, I tracked down the incident commander and asked him that. He said outside of New York City in some of the outer boroughs and north towards Westchester could be as many as ten days. Said he's never seen anything like this.

The substation that's creating the problem in Manhattan is on 14th Street by the East River. That wall, that floodwall that protects it, is built for a 12.6 foot storm surge. That would be historic. Well, Sandy brought in a 13.8-foot storm surge. Obviously, that's the reason that they had the issue.

Here's what he had to say about what they might have to do going forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN MIKSAD, SENIOR VP, CONED: Substations were only part of the problem. We had the luxury of the underground network in Manhattan, no poles, no wires, very reliable, most reliable system in the country, but it is not designed to be mixed with salt water, sea water. So that's something we'll have to look at, especially if these things start happening more frequently.


MARCIANO: So the underground situation is very reliable, except for when it floods, like it did this time. And there's been recommendations in the past certainly as sea levels creep up, what do we do about the substations now after this situation? It may be time to take action. It would be very, very costly. Obviously, that's the question that will have to be discussed going forward. Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Rob, I mentioned you in the Chelsea neighborhood, it is hard to see behind you with no lights there, but that was the area where a facade got blown off a building, right?

MARCIANO: Yes, incredible here on 8th Avenue and 14th Street, that facade of what is actually an unlicensed hotel that was ripped off. People actually got out in time. They kind of felt like something was going to happen. Nobody was hurt there. So the death toll certainly is striking, but when you see some of the pictures and hear some of the stories, the fact that more people weren't seriously injured is certainly encouraging. Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Rob Marciano live for us. You've been covering this storm all over the place. So we really appreciate you this morning. Thank you.

BERMAN: He's one of the many people doing a great job.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely.

BEMAN: Thirty-four minutes after the hour right now. The Jersey shore took a tremendous hit from Hurricane Sandy. This is what's left of the boardwalk in Belmar. The storm also destroyed many businesses along the boardwalk and Long Beach Island and Beachhaven, they were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Look at that. Sand everywhere, flooded out streets and homes and boats in places where they just simply should not be.

SAMBOLIN: 250,000 pounds still dangling 90 stories up. This is New York City. It could take weeks to secure this huge damaged crane boom; it is left dangling by Sandy. The plan may involve getting a new crane up there in order to secure that one. When asked how secure the boom is, Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded by saying nobody knows. That is not encouraging.

BERMAN: Frightening moments during Hurricane Sandy in New York City, just one of the many, as the NYU Langone Medical Center was evacuated after a backup generator failed. Charles Rosenbaum and his wife, Kim, are celebrating the birth of their daughter, Alice. She was born Sunday four weeks prematurely. Charles was with his family up on the 13th floor when he heard the power was going to go. He told Anderson Cooper what happened.


CHARLES ROSENBAUM, FORCED TO EVACUATE HOSPITAL: I heard the nurses talking about how in 15 minutes that all the electricity was going to be going down. So obviously like a good father, I scooted right back to my room and told my wife, Kim, and we started talking about what was going to be the next step.


BERMAN: Look at that baby there.

SAMBOLIN: That's a fighter baby, I call it. Because I was watching this and he was holding his head up. That's a fighter baby.

BERMAN: He's an awesome baby is what he is. He stuck it out overnight. Mother and daughter were released from the hospital Tuesday morning after trekking down 13 flights of stairs. Everyone is doing just fine this morning. Look at that picture.

SAMBOLIN: Nice to see stories like that.

So following a brief hiatus for the storm, President Obama and Mitt Romney will both return to the campaign trail this week, and with less than a week until the vast majority of voters head to the polls, it's unclear exactly how much the storm's fallout will affect the outcome of the election.

BERMAN: Here this morning to break it all down for us, the former senior adviser to President Clinton and writer Richard Socarides, who was without power this morning, and CNN contriburor and columnist for, Will Cain, who I believe does have power this morning.


BERMAN: He does have electricity this morning. So the moods, I warn you about the moods right now. Electricity, no electricity.


BERMAN: But let me start with the polls. Oh, no electricity, sorry. This may cheer you up, Richard. We have some new state polls out, just minutes ago from "New York Times"/CBS/Quinnipiac that shows the race very, very close, but in one key state Barack Obama appearing to open up a lead. That's Ohio. Look at that: 50 to 45. Florida, 48 to 47. Virginia, 49 to 47.

I want to talk about Ohio, Richard, because we have seen a number consistently because two to five points the last week there. Do you think Democrats are feeling pretty safe right now about Ohio?

SOCARIDES: I think we all think it is still very close. I think it's, you know, al the polls in Ohio consistently have shown the president with a slight or small lead. We think we are going - Democrats think we're going to win Ohio. No Republican has won the presidency without Ohio. We think we saw the other numbers in Florida and Virginia. I mean, if the president wins Ohio, Florida and Virginia, it is over.


CAIN: Well, I don't know if it's over but it makes it difficult. It is like bogeying on the hole and saying you got a par every hole out or birdie every hole from here on out, right? John, you and I have talked about the math. If Romney loses Ohio, he has to put wins together in some unlikely states like Wisconsin, he has to win Iowa, Nevada. You can put together a map where he wins, but it becomes historically unlikely, as you just put it, Richard.

SAMBOLIN: I want to get back to Superstorm Sandy because she seriously impacted this election, right? We heard Governor Chris Christie say something he virtually has never said before, he's actually praising Obama. Let's listen and then talk.


CHRISTIE: I am not going to play politics with this issue. This is so much bigger than an election. This is the livelihood of the people of my state and what they expect me to do is get the job done. And when someone asks me an honest question, I give an honest question. How has the president been to deal with? He's been outstanding to deal with on this and I look forward to seeing him tomorrow so he can see for himself what this hurricane has done to my state.


SAMBOLIN: So Will, what do you think, does this affect the outcome of the election at all?

CAIN: No. I think the effect of the storm and secondarily of Chris Christie's comments are minimal in this election at best, Zoraida. Someone asked me this morning, and I have only been up for 30 minutes, they asked me, do you think Chris Christie wishes Mitt Romney would lose because obviously 2016 and whatnot?

Here's the thing: hasn't Chris Christie at this point, except for the most extreme cynic, earned the right to just assume he means what he said? And here's a situation in this storm where he believes that President Obama deserves praise. He's going to give it to him. There's no calculated reason he is giving President Obama credit beyond the fact that he thinks President Obama deserves it.

SOCARIDES: Well, you know, this is classic Chris Christie. He likes everybody to think that he means what he says and he says what he means. You take him at his word.

CAIN: Today you do, right? When he praises Romney, then we'll be back at this table.

SOCARIDES: I think he's sincere when he praises Romney, I just think he's wrong. In this case, we think he's exactly right. Berman: Let's talk more about Mitt Romney and the hurricane HERE because the issue of FEMA and funding, federal funding for FEMA has come up. It all started with the Republican primary debate hosted by CNN's John King when Mitt Romney was asked a question about FEMA. Let's listen.


KING: -- about to run out of money and there are some people who say to do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say maybe we're learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.


BERMAN: Now there are some Democrats saying this is Mitt Romney saying he wants to privatize FEMA, what does that mean in the wake of a disaster like this? Do you think these are these tough questions for Mitt Romney right now, Will?

CAIN: I think in the wake of an emotional news story, John, the concept of federalism doesn't really break through. But Mitt Romney, let's make two points: first of all, he that clip he was endorsing in general the concept of federalism, that is whatever you can do at the local and state level is better done than at the federal level. Secondly, on the concept of FEMA specifically, just because this is a highly emotional moment, just many people are hurting because of the storm, doesn't mean the federal government is always the best position to be the source of aid.

And I always ask you to look back at any national tragedy from Katrina to Hurricane Andrew, and you ask yourself, did FEMA come through that without criticism? Did everyone believe that FEMA was the best source of aid in that situation? We might want to ask ourselves, are states and local governments better sources to handle these situations?

SOCARIDES: I think historically a smart and efficient federal response has saved a lot of lives and helped a lot of people. But I think we should be careful not politicizing this today, but I do think that he's going to have to answer these questions. They have five days to go, six days to go, we are in the middle of this disaster. These questions are going to come up until he gives a real answer.

SAMBOLIN: I was watching the press conference yesterday when President Obama was addressing this at the Red Cross and what he said was that the states need to take this issue at hand and so do the private companies. They all need to lean forward and that FEMA is there for them. So it was an interesting response also in the wake that -

CAIN: That's not that different. SAMBOLIN: That's what I thought, but I'm not quite sure there. It is nice to have you guys weigh in on that.

SOCARIDES: I do think though that Governor Romney, when he answered that question at the presidential debate, really spoke, as Will said, to this is his theory of government. That there should be less government, there should be more private sector, there should be more state and local.

BERMAN: And he was not answering those questions on the trail yesterday. We'll see if he gets more of them today. Richard Socarides, writer for the and Will Cain, columnist from the, always great to see you, always eager to be some of the first people you talk to in the morning.

And when the big stories break, keep it here on CNN and join us Tuesday night. Why is Tuesday night a big night? Oh, yes, it's election night! Our live coverage of Election Night in America begins at 6:0- p.m. Eastern Time.

SAMBOLIN: And President Obama will get a closer look at the results of Sandy's fury. He'll be in New Jersey with Republican Governor Chris Christie as we just mentioned. Coming up, where things stand after Sandy.


SAMBOLIN: Now to the latest on Superstorm Sandy, President Obama will be in New Jersey today to get a firsthand look at all of the devastation there. The storm is blamed for at least 33 deaths. This is across the East Coast, 22 of them in New York. A total of 6.6 million people do not have electricity across 15 states and D.C. New York subways are still flooded. So buses will run regular routes today. And buses are actually free in New York City today.

BERMAN: Other news now. A guilty plea in Arizona from a man accused in the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. The 36-year-old Manuel Osorio-Arellanes could be facing life in prison when sentenced this January. Osorio-Arellanes says he got into a gun battle with the 40-year-old Terry and other Border Patrol agents back in December of 2010 while he and four other Mexican men were looking for drug traffickers to rob.

SAMBOLIN: And police in Virginia are looking for a suspect in three bomb attacks. Investigators want to know who put homemade explosives outside two Stafford County homes. This was early Tuesday moring. Those two incidents were linked to a third explosion Tuesday inside a house in Fredericksburg. No injuries. No injuries were reported.

BERMAN: And a victory parade set for today in San Francisco to honor the San Francisco Giants, this year's World Series champions. A lot of people weren't paying attention to this because of the storm. Up to a million fans are expected to help celebrate the Giants' sweep of the Detroit Tigers. This was barely a World Series at all. The parade kicks off on Market Street at 11:00 this morning.

SAMBOLIN: They have a trophy? It's a World Series.

BERMAN: No, no, congratulations to them. They have two of the last three, they deserve it. It ends with a victory celebration will be at Civic Center Plaza. So congratulations to the San Francisco Giants.

SAMBOLIN: Ahead on EARLY START, the deciders, everyday Americans who will pick the next president. Miguel Marquez talks to voters in the state with the nation's highest national unemployment rate.


SAMBOLIN: They are the deciders: ordinary Americans who will head to the polls in six days to pick the next president. It's an agonizing choice for folks in northwest Nevada, one of the final battlegrounds. The Halloween revelry has been tempered by the reality of an unemployment rate that is top in the nation. The Miguel Marquez Deciders Tour stops this morning in Washoe County, Nevada.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here we are in the saddle in Reno, Nevada. It is here, Washoe County, in the northwest corner of the state that could make the difference. With Julie Winkel, here at Maplewood Stables, what do you expect of the next president?

JULIE WINKEL, MAPLEWOOD STABLES: Well, I hope the next president can turn things around so we can get back to where we were four years ago or eight years ago even.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Winkel says the recession nearly devastated her stables, her life's work.

(on camera): These horses are highly trained, aren't they?

WINKEL: Yes, they are.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Things are getting better, she says, but believes recovery under Romney would be faster and better.

Today is the Halloween show at Maplewood Stables. Yes, that is Little Bo Peep and a Harley Horsey.

Reno loves Halloween. Downtown it was the dog costume show. Bertha Montanio is a new citizen and will be voting for the first time. Today, though, it's all about her dogs, Doll and Mimi.

(on camera): And Doll is sort of in a pumpkin dress and Mimi's really mean, oh, Mimi's a witch. Of course, Mimi's a witch. Yes, Mimi, I agree, you're a witch.

(voice-over): Her husband works construction. They have two kids. The last four years have been tough, she says, but Obama's health and education policies are what get her vote. As for the economy -

(on camera): Do you think anybody can fix the problem?

BERTHA MONTANIO, WASHOE COUNTY VOTER: I think it's going to take a lot of work to do it, but I think it will.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The unemployment rate across Nevada, nearly 12 percent, the nation's highest, but polls here consistently show Obama up by a point or two.

Zombies crawling through Reno, driving their own agenda.

(on camera): What is on the zombie agenda this year?

LEAH REPSHER, "BETTY CHOPPER": The zombie agenda? Lots of butchering, slicing and dicing of the budget.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): She's a zombie for Romney but most of the undead have other things on their non-minds.

(on camera): How many of you are undecided voters?

CROWD: Brains!

MARQUEZ: It's all about the brains. Now we know where those undecided voters are.

Miguel Marquez, CNN. Screamo, Nevada.


SAMBOLIN: All right, thanks to Miguel. Right now it is a roll of the dice in the battleground state of Nevada. Miguel's final stop on the Deciders Tour takes him to Las Vegas. We'll check in with him on Friday.

BERMAN: I just assume he'll be on stage with Celine Dion or something.


BERMAN: He is the best. All right, ahead, some must-see video of Superstorm Sandy's extraordinary might and wrath. Just wait until you see what happened to this massive tree. You will not believe it. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 58 minutes past the hour. We are taking a look at the top CNN trends on the web this morning. So we have extraordinary video to share with you, capturing the full fury of Superstorm Sandy right in his backyard.


SAMBOLIN: There it goes. There it goes.

BERMAN: This is not going to end well.

SAMBOLIN: Uh-oh. Big uh-oh. Look at the roots of that. That's a big tree. That was shot by Matthew Wineshrider (ph) of Huntington, Long Island. It looks like it fell on the fence, right? Hopefully not on a house.

BERMAN: Wow. I assume everyone's OK there.

Meanwhile, there has been a major disturbance in the force. The Walt Disney company is buying the Star Wars business. This caught a lot of people by surprise yesterday. You see Bob Iger there on the left, the chairman of the Walt Disney company. They are buying Lucasfilm, the sole owner right there, George Lucas with Mickey Mouse. Of course, Lucasfilm owns the Star Wars franchise, Industrial Light & Magic, a whole bunch of things.

But the thing really that got a whole lot of people's attention, including mine, is that in this release they announced that as part of the new owernship, Disney will launch a new Star Wars trilogy starting with Star Wars Episode 7 which will presumably pick up after "Return of the Jedi", the Ewok Star Wars. You will all remember that. A lot of people are talking. What will Star Wars 7 through 9 look like?