The number of New Jersey residents without power from superstorm Sandy fell below 1 million yesterday, Governor Chris Christie said. Yet a fresh storm may be just a few days away, bringing high winds and flooding rain.
“For those of you out there who don’t have power and are at a neighbor’s house or at a friend’s house or the Elks Club, I know when I tell you we’re under 1 million people from 2.7 million, it’s not going to mean a damned thing to you unless your power’s on -- I get it,” Christie said at a news briefing yesterday. Sandy blacked out more than half the state Oct. 29.
Christie said he will “continue to use my type of gentle persuasion” to prod utilities to restore power as soon as possible, at the briefing in Hoboken. He said it may take to the end of the week to get everyone back online. A nor’easter may barrel into the state Nov. 8, packing gusts as high as 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour and heavy rain, delaying the work, according to the National Weather Service.
The 50-year-old Republican governor said about 4,000 residents were still in shelters and announced the opening of a new facility to accommodate more. On Nov. 2, he imposed gasoline rationing in 12 counties hardest hit by the storm. Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 U.S. states; 24 were in New Jersey.
“We’re returning now to a new normal, where power is coming back on, where people are able to fuel up again in their cars and where kids are getting back to school,” Christie said.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said yesterday that there were 4,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel in New Jersey and more were on the way. She said housing is the main challenge and FEMA workers are trying to get people out of shelters and into longer-term alternatives.
Napolitano met yesterday with Christie and other state and local officials. She went to a school in Hazlet, where water and ice were being given out to those without power. The community is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) east of East Brunswick and south of Staten Island, the hard-hit New York City borough.
The region’s recovery is uneven. Across some parts of New Jersey and New York that were swept by Sandy, power was restored and cleanup was under way. Yet frustration persisted in devastated outlying areas and gasoline remained in short supply as temperatures in the region dropped to near freezing. Residents began to plot their commutes to work tomorrow with transit services truncated or suspended.
“I have power and cable back, so I’m happy,” said Marisa Peacock, 50, of Jersey City.
Peacock, a project manager at the American National Standards Institute in New York, expected getting to work today would take twice as long as normal. Instead of riding a commuter train, she said she’d board a bus, which she described as “unreliable.”
NJ Transit, the region’s commuter-rail operator, advised customers that normal service would be cut in half during today’s rush-hour periods, with buses replacing some trains.
The death toll from Sandy was at least 111 nationwide, according to the Associated Press. There were 5,243 people and 107 pets in New Jersey shelters as a result of the storm, said Mary Goepfert, a state Emergency Management Office spokeswoman.
Christie said BP Plc got about 100 additional gas stations operating yesterday and he expects lines to shorten.
The U.S. Defense Department began delivering millions of ready-to-eat meals to affected areas, including about 500,000 that were scheduled to arrive yesterday in Lakehurst, New Jersey, according to a statement from the Pentagon.
A new East Coast storm will probably bring colder weather and rain later this week, hitting areas that are still recovering from Sandy, the weather service said on its website. It could cause beach erosion and flooding in some areas of the mid-Atlantic region and New England through early Nov. 9.
All but 65 of about 1,750 New York City public schools will reopen today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
As mayor of the nation’s most-populous city, Bloomberg, like Christie, cited a desire to restore life’s routines.
“We’re working to help more people get their lives back to normal, and opening schools will be an important part of that,” Bloomberg said.
The U.S. Navy has sent three ships and about 2,000 sailors to the New York metropolitan area to assist recovery efforts, according to Courtney Hillson, a spokeswoman for the service.
The Navy is helping to repair the storm-damaged Hoboken Ferry Terminal and a Coast Guard station at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, Hillson said. Twenty-two Navy and Marine Corps helicopters are also being used in the effort, she said.
In Jersey City, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, Nabir Degnich, 34, said he is relieved that power was restored to his home, where he lives with his pregnant wife. He works at an Exxon gas station that has been without power for about six days and unable to pump fuel.
“Day after day, you feel it is getting better,” Degnich said.
Outside a pizza shop near Main Street in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Helen Thompson, 73, said she hasn’t had power since the day Sandy struck. To cope with the cold, the of Edgewater resident said she puts on more clothes and sleeps more, “because my bed’s so nice and warm.”
In Atlantic City, home to a dozen casinos on an Atlantic Ocean barrier island, piles of flood-damaged furniture dotted some streets yesterday. A few residents moved belongings from sodden basements in blustery winds.
Chest-high water flooded city resident Dianne McDevitt’s basement, destroying her furnace and leaving an odor resembling paint fumes in upper levels of her three-story home.
A 50-year-old nurse, McDevitt said she doesn’t have the money to have someone clean the mess in her basement and is worried about mold. She piled belongings on the curb, along with boardwalk wood that floated from a block away.
“I am just overwhelmed by it,” McDevitt said. “I just don’t know what to do.”
Farther north, in Point Pleasant Beach, the sidewalk of Arnold Avenue included what used to be the contents of the first floor of Danielle Massood’s home: two mattresses, toys, antique cabinets and a refrigerator.
“We’re still pulling stuff out,” she said, after taking off a white mask over her mouth while on her porch.
A pile of wet clothes lay by her feet. She said the kitchen has to be ripped out and the first floor has to be renovated.
Even with the loss of irreplaceable items such as her wedding video, Massood said she considers herself lucky.
“We’re fortunate, because our house is still standing,” said Massood, who teaches at Rutgers University. “A lot of people have nothing.”
Across the street at the Pelican Point Motel, stacks of wood and wet carpet were piled in front. Inside, men were swinging hammers at the walls of the first floor rooms, which were falling with loud crashes.
Owner A.J. Befumo, 35, said they were removing the carpets and walls before mold grows.
“We’re just trying to manage,” he said.
“It’s very tough to tell,” Befumo said when asked if he plans to reopen next summer. “It’s definitely not a certainty at this point.”