NEW YORK -- Two young brothers swept from the arms of their mother by the violent sea at the height of Superstorm Sandy were found dead in a marsh Thursday, a tragic exclamation mark on an epic storm.

The boys, 2-year-old Brandon and 4-year-old Connor Moore, were sucked into the swirling floodwaters as their mother, Glenda Moore, tried to escape her SUV after it stalled Monday in the deluge on Staten Island, one of the areas hardest hit by the storm that has claimed 90 lives.

"Terrible, absolutely terrible," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said as he announced that the bodies had been discovered on the third day of a search that included police divers and sniffer dogs.

"It just compounds all the tragic aspects of this horrific event."

Police said the 39-year-old mother had driven from her flooded home toward her sister's house in Brooklyn when the car became stuck about 6:10 p.m. Monday, forcing her to confront the rising water and the relentless cadence of pounding waves as she clung to her boys' arms.

"As the water swelled she lost her grip of her children and they were swept away," police said in a release.

Kelly said the mother "was totally, completely distraught. She started looking for them herself, asking people to help her look."

After the boys disappeared, police said, Moore fled and in a panic climbed fences and went door-to-door looking in vain for help in a neighborhood that was presumably largely abandoned in the face of the storm.

Police said she flagged down an emergency vehicle about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday and authorities began their search. Police said she told them she tried to find help and eventually gave up, spending the night trying to shield herself from the storm on the front porch of an empty home.

The search continued in the days that followed, with numerous emergency personnel joining the march through Staten Island marshland. The bodies were found about 100 feet from each other at the end of a narrow dead end street.

Television video later showed the water-logged SUV, two children's car seats visible through a window.

Damian Moore, the boys' father, reached on his cell phone, said he had no comment about the tragedy.

The boys were among 19 storm victims found on Staten Island, out of nearly 40 who died in New York City's five boroughs. Those identified Thursday included a couple who apparently drove away from their home as the storm struck.

The 89-year-old man and 66-year-old woman were found lying next to a car in a vacant lot. Police believe they drowned after climbing out to escape rising water.

Authorities stressed that the death toll was preliminary, and that the total could change if the medical examiner determines any deaths were not storm-related.

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Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz and Tom Hays contributed to this story.

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  • A yacht rests beside two homes after it was driven inland by flood waters, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses.(AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • Lisa Kravchenko, of Staten Island, stands amongst flood debris in her princess Halloween costume, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • NYPD police officers perform a search in high grasses that were flooded during a storm surge, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Arrochar neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • Customers form a queue to fill their gasoline canisters, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses.(AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • Artur Kasprzak

    This undated photo provided by the New York City Police Department shows NYPD officer Artur Kasprzak, 28, who shepherded six adults and a baby to the attic in his flooding Staten Island home before losing his life when he returned once more to the check the basement Monday evening, Oct. 29, 2012 as superstorm Sandy struck. (AP Photo/NYPD)

  • A man waits for gasoline, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses.(AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • A NYPD police officer performs a search in high grasses that were flooded during a storm surge, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Arrochar neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

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    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: The John B. Caddell tanker is docked along the Staten Island water front while the Manhattan skyline shines in the background on November 1, 2012 in New York City. Superstorm Sandy, which has left millions without power or water, continues to effect business and daily life throughout much of the eastern seaboard. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

  • A vehicle is submerged after being carried into a swampy depression by floodwaters, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • Rescue workers check a home for fuel leaks and other types of damage, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • A woman stands in a street flooded by superstorm Sandy, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • A passenger inspects the water level around his vehicle as multiple cars drive through a flooded street, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • Mike Cappucci, 46, of Staten Island, surveys the damage to his home after boats from a nearby harbor were driven inland by floodwaters, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

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    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Debris and boats from Hurricane Sandy sit on the shore of Staten Island, on October 31, 2012 in New York City. The storm has claimed several dozen lives in the United States and has caused massive flooding across much of the Atlantic seaboard. U.S. President Barack Obama has declared the situation a 'major disaster' for large areas of the U.S. east coast, including New York City, with widespread power outages and significant flooding in parts of lower Manhattan and elsewhere. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)