Parts of New York City sprang back to life as power returned yesterday to Manhattan neighborhoods blacked-out by superstorm Sandy, while frustration persisted in devastated outlying areas and gasoline remained in short supply.
For thousands of storm survivors still without electricity, a new danger emerged as forecasts called for overnight temperatures in the 30s Fahrenheit (1 Celsius), raising the risk of hypothermia, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Five days after the East Coast was slammed by the biggest Atlantic tropical storm on record, tempers were growing short. Efforts to find gasoline brought hours-long lines and pitched arguments. Consolidated Edison Inc. (ED) said customers without power in the outer boroughs and Westchester County may have to wait until Nov. 11. The mayor asked for patience.
“They’re cold, they’re tired, they’ve lost a lot and sometimes we all get a little overanxious,” he said yesterday at a news briefing, referring to storm victims vexed by the pace of recovery.
The mayor said the gasoline shortage “should be much less of a problem in the coming days, both because the subways are now back in service and fewer people will drive, and because of several other developments.”
Almost 30 million gallons (114 million liters) of fuel are set to reach the area in coming days, on top of 8 million already shipped to help mitigate gasoline shortages, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a separate briefing.
“This was truly a crisis,” Cuomo said in a Manhattan news conference today. “The worst is behind us. It’s not going to be over in 24 hours, but the arrows are pointed in the right direction.”
New Yorkers spent the week coping with blackouts, crippled mass transit and a lack of food and water. Sandy’s floodwaters on Oct. 29 inundated transit tunnels, underground utilities and parts of all five boroughs. The storm, which killed more than 100 in the U.S., was linked to 42 deaths in New York City, Bloomberg said. Sandy knocked out power to as many as 8.5 million homes and businesses along the East Coast.
The National Weather Service said a storm with gusty winds, rain or snow may cause coastal flooding midweek.
“There is nothing more important than getting this right,” President Barack Obama said yesterday, speaking of the recovery effort, at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington. Cabinet members including Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, were sent to tour stricken New York neighborhoods.
About 2.5 million U.S. homes and businesses still lacked electricity as of 8 p.m. yesterday, the U.S. Energy Department said in a report. Among them were residents of the Rockaways portion of Queens, where fire destroyed 111 homes in Breezy Point at the height of the storm.
Unlike most of New York City, which gets its power from Con Edison, the Rockaway peninsula is served by the Long Island Power Authority.
LIPA’s assessment that it may take two weeks to restore power to the Rockaways is “unacceptable,” Bloomberg said. The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP.
Elizabeth Flagler, a spokeswoman for LIPA, said she had no comment on the mayor’s remarks. On its website yesterday, the authority said it had restored service to more than 600,000 homes and businesses and had about 450,000 to go.
As the temperature fell yesterday, the National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook saying storm victims without power “should be prepared for a number of cold nights ahead.” Bloomberg said buses were being dispatched to hard-hit areas to take people to shelters.
“It’s cold and it really is critical that people stay warm, especially the elderly,” the mayor said. “The cold really is something that is dangerous.”
Reacting to gasoline shortages, the Defense Department began setting up mobile fueling stations. Access was restricted to emergency personnel and first-responder vehicles, and off limits to the public.
Transportation options expanded yesterday as the 4, 5, 6 and 7 subway lines began running, connecting Manhattan with Brooklyn and Queens for the first time since Oct. 28. Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said about 80 percent of service would be restored by today.
Two subway tunnels remained closed by flooding, along with the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and the Jersey City PATH tunnel.
Today’s running of the New York City Marathon, expected to draw 47,000 runners, was canceled after criticism that staging the race so soon after the storm would drain resources and be an affront to storm victims. Runners swarmed Central Park, which reopened yesterday, and some said they planned trips to Staten Island to help with recovery efforts.
A storm-damaged crane boom that hung precariously over 57th Street near Carnegie Hall was secured to a high-rise building, Bloomberg said.
“I’ve never been so happy to ride the subway!” said Molly O’Neal, 26, as a 4 train approached the platform of the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center stop in Brooklyn. Like many commuters, she’s been improvising to get to work, including walking over the Brooklyn Bridge to her restaurant job in downtown Manhattan.
At a Grey Dog cafe in Greenwich Village, the weekend routine was under way as locals and tourists sipped cappuccino and ate muffins. Dave Ethan, a co-owner, said his staff got to work even without subway service.
“They don’t have a bank account that warrants missing a day’s work,” he said. “I don’t think many people do -- not in this business.”
Phones were ringing with reservation requests yesterday at The Odeon, a restaurant in Tribeca, a neighborhood that had been without power all week.
“People are ready to get out of their houses,” said Roya Shanks, a co-manager.
In some neighborhoods outside Manhattan, patience was all but exhausted.
Staten Island residents such as Donel Franco, a 31-year-old mother of two, complained that Red Cross and military personnel didn’t begin providing aid until Nov. 1.
“We need somewhere to go until we can go back home, if we can ever,” Franco said. “All of our stuff is covered in mud. I feel so helpless.”
Roger Lowe, a Red Cross spokesman in Washington, said the organization’s trucks had to use the same clogged roads as everyone else.
“Everybody wants to get help as fast as possible,” he said by phone. “You don’t position supplies and people in the path of the storm. You wait until the storm has passed and then you get in. That always takes time.”
Without power, the 43-year-old veterinarian has been seeing her four-legged patients by headlamp in dark exam rooms. All surgery and X-ray equipment was destroyed by floodwaters, she said, and electrical boxes in the basement will have to be replaced before power is restored.
“The neighborhood is getting slowly back on its feet,” she said. “To get completely back to normal, that will take months.”
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