Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that parts of the subway would begin running again Thursday, and that three of seven tunnels under the East River had been pumped free of water, removing a major obstacle to restoring full service.
"We are going to need some patience and some tolerance," he said.
On Wednesday, both were frayed. Bus service was free but delayed, and New Yorkers jammed on, crowding buses so heavily that they skipped stops and rolled past hordes of waiting passengers.
New York City buses serve 2.3 million people on an average day, and two days after the storm they were trying to handle many of the 5.5 million daily subway riders, too.
As far west as Wisconsin and south to the Carolinas, more than 6 million homes and businesses were still without power, about 4 million of them in New York and New Jersey.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 500 patients were being evacuated from Bellevue Hospital because of storm damage. The hospital has run on generators since the storm. About 300 patients were evacuated from another Manhattan hospital Monday after it lost generator power.
Still, there were signs that New York was flickering back to life and wasn't as isolated as it was a day earlier.
Flights resumed at Kennedy and Newark airports on what authorities described as a very limited schedule. Nothing was taking off or landing at LaGuardia, which suffered far worse damage.
The stock exchange, operating on backup generators, came back to life after its first two-day weather shutdown since the blizzard of 1888. Mayor Michael Bloomberg rang the opening bell to whoops from traders below.
"We jokingly said this morning we may be the only building south of midtown that has water, lights and food," said Duncan Niederauer, CEO of the company that runs the exchange, in hard-hit lower Manhattan.
Most Broadway shows returned for Wednesday matinees and evening shows.
Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, National Guardsmen in trucks delivered ready-to-eat meals and other supplies to heavily flooded Hoboken and rushed to evacuate people from the city's high-rises and brownstones. The mayor's office put out a plea for people to bring boats to City Hall for use in rescuing victims.
Natural gas fires erupted in Brick Township, where scores of homes were wrecked by the storm. And some of the state's barrier islands, which took a direct hit from Sandy on Monday night, remained all but cut off.
President Barack Obama took a helicopter tour of the ravaged coast with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"The entire country has been watching what's been happening. Everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit," Obama said at a shelter in Brigantine, N.J. He promised people there that the federal government was "here for the long haul."
In New York, masses of people walked shoulder-to-shoulder across the Brooklyn Bridge to get into Manhattan for work, reminiscent of the escape scenes from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and the blackout of 2003.
They entered an island sharply divided between those who had power and those who did not.
In Manhattan at night, it was possible to walk downtown along an avenue and move in an instant from a mostly normal New York scene delis open, people milling outside bars into a pitch-black cityscape, with police flares marking intersections.
People who did have power took to social media to offer help to neighbors.
"I have power and hot water. If anyone needs a shower or to charge some gadgets or just wants to bask in the beauty of artificial light, hit me up," Rob Hart of Staten Island posted on Facebook.
A respected New York steakhouse in the blackout zone, Old Homestead, realized its meat was going to go bad and decided to grill what was left and sell steaks on the sidewalk for $10. A center-cut sirloin usually goes for $47.
Simon Massey and his 9-year-old son, Henry, took one last walk near their powerless apartment in downtown Manhattan before decamping to a friend's place in Brooklyn where the electricity worked.
"We're jumping ship," he said. "We gorged on eggs and sausage this morning before everything goes bad. We don't want to spend another three or four days here."
They live on the 10th floor of a 32-floor building, where they were flushing the toilet with water from their filled tub and cooking on their gas stove. They found their way down the stairs with glowsticks and flashlights, and rationed iPad and phone use.
"I'm feeling scared," said Henry, who was home from third grade for a third straight day. "It just feels really, really weird. New York's not supposed to be this quiet."
Associated Press writers Meghan Barr, Verena Dobnik, Eileen AJ Connelly and Karen Matthews contributed to this report. Superstorm Sandy's extremes, by the numbers
Hurricane Sandy, after killing at least 69 people in the Caribbean, streamed northward, merged with two wintry weather systems and socked the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes with wind, waves, rain and snow. Some figures associated with Sandy's rampage through the U.S., as of Wednesday afternoon:
Maximum size of storm: 1,000 miles across
Highest storm surge: 14.6 feet at Bergen Point, N.J.
Number of states seeing intense effects of the storm: At least 17
Deaths: At least 62
Damage: Estimated property losses at $20 billion, ranking the storm among the most expensive U.S. disasters
Top wind gust on land in the U.S.: 90 mph Islip, N.Y., and Robbins Reef, N.J.
Power outages at peak: More than 8.5 million
Canceled airline flights: More than 19,000
Most rainfall: 12.55 inches, at Easton, Md.
Most snow: 34 inches at Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Evacuation zone: Included communities in more than 400 miles of coastline from Ocean City, Md., to Dartmouth, Mass.
Sources: National Weather Service, FlightAware, Weather Underground, AP reporting A state-by-state look at the East Coast superstorm
The massive storm that started out as Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast and morphed into a huge and problematic system, killing at least 62 people in the United States. Power outages now stand at more than 6 million homes and businesses, down from a peak of 8.5 million. Here's a snapshot of what is happening, state by state.
Widespread damage to homes on Long Island Sound. Deaths: 3. Power outages: 483,000, down from a peak of more than 620,000.
Some southern coastal areas remain underwater, but officials say the damage is far less than anticipated. Power outages: nearly 2,600, down from more than 45,000.
High waves and flooding are possible on the Lake Michigan shore on Wednesday in Chicago.
As much as a foot of snow fell in higher elevations of Appalachian Kentucky.
Port of Portland reopened, but ocean conditions remained dangerous with high winds. Power outages: 11,000, down from more than 90,000.
Eastern Maryland cleaned up from storm surge, while western Maryland dealt with as much as 29 inches of snow. Dueling disasters are straining emergency resources. Deaths: 2. Power outages: Nearly 103,000, down from 290,000.
Continued cleanup from fallen trees and damage to homes and businesses, but relief that storm wasn't worse. Many schools remained closed. Power outages: 83,000, down from 400,000.
Cargo shipping on the Great Lakes was at a standstill because of waves of up to 20 feet. Power outages: 35,000, down from 154,000.
A construction worker checking on a job site in Lincoln was killed in a landslide. Deaths: 1. Power outages: 70,000, down from 210,000.
The governor signed an executive order postponing Halloween until Monday. Fires that destroyed several homes in a shore town rekindled, fueled by natural gas. National Guard arrived to evacuate residents of Hoboken and distribute supplies. Storm renewed debate about whether to rebuild shoreline sand dunes. Deaths: 6. Power outages: 2.1 million, down from 2.7 million.
Traffic choked city streets as residents tried to return to work in a New York City whose subway system remained crippled. Schools closed. Security concerns abound at night in areas without power but the city is promising vigilance. Utilities say it could be days before power is fully restored there and on Long Island. Deaths: 30, including 22 in New York City. Power outages: 1.9 million, down from 2.2 million.
The search continued off the coast for the captain of a tall ship that sank as Sandy headed north. Parts of western North Carolina saw continued snow. Deaths: 2. Power outages: Fewer than 400, down from 126,000.
High winds uprooted trees in northern Ohio. Schools closed and major commuter arteries along Lake Erie flooded. Deaths: 2. Power outages: 160,000, down from more than 250,000.
The core of Sandy made its way north through western Pennsylvania into western New York, causing wind and flooding that closed roads. Deaths: 9. Power outages: 800,000, down from 1.2 million.
Residents may not be able to return to their homes for another day in some coastal communities. Power outages: About 48,000, down from more than 122,000.
A route across the Smoky Mountains closed as heavy, wet snow accumulated to as much as 2 feet.
Winds knocked down trees and power lines, and schools were closed, but damage was not as severe as feared in a state still recovering from Tropical Storm Irene. Power outages: 3,550, down from more than 10,000.
Utilities brought in crews to help restore power after high winds and snow. Deaths: 2. Power outages: About 29,000, down from more than 180,000.
Federal and local governments asked people to return to work Wednesday, and transit systems planned to resume full service. Power outages: about 200, down from 25,000.
Some areas were buried under more than a foot of snow. Eight buildings in Nicholas County an apartment complex, a grocery store, two convenience stores, a hardwood plant and three homes collapsed under the weight of heavy snow, but no injuries were reported. Deaths: 5. Power outages: 224,000, down from about 271,000.
Dangerously high waves and flooding were expected along Lake Michigan.