Temperatures drop, tempers rise as Sandy power outages linger

Saturday, November 3, 2012 - 4:10pm

Promises of help to those affected by Superstorm Sandy became more specific Saturday, as officials got a better grip on how to overcome power and fuel shortages.

Millions of gallons of fuel were already delivered or in transit to affected areas, and utility officials were under increased pressure to restore electricity.

About 2.7 million customers remained without power Saturday across 15 states and the District of Columbia. And some may be in the dark for another week.

Frustrated residents, worried about plunging temperatures, said companies are not working fast enough to restore power.

"The power company sent us an e-mail alert saying we'll have to wait more days," said Pankaj Purohit, whose apartment is next to a marina in Jersey City, New Jersey. "We have already been waiting for five days."

Purohit, who works in New York City, said his family and his dog moved in with a friend who has power. Two other families are taking shelter at his friend's house.

"For me, until there is power, I cannot get back to normal life," he said early Saturday. "It's cold, temperatures are dropping, our building had five feet of water after the storm."

Restoring electricity to all New Yorkers remains the top priority for the state, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

He is pushing utilities to do everything they can to respond to the power outage, and threatened action against those electric companies that weren't prepared for the emergency.

"If they weren't prepared, the state will hold them accountable," Cuomo said.

As of Saturday, power had been restored to 60% of those who had lost it, he said.

In contrast, the governor had praise for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which he said has restored 80% of subway services in New York City.

"Not only did they try hard, but they got it done," he said.

Millions of gallons of gasoline were also flowing into the affected area to address a fuel shortage.

In New York, 8 million gallons of fuel have been delivered to gas stations, and 28 million additional gallons will be delivered over the next two days, he said.

In cooperation with the federal government, the defense department is going to deliver 12 million gallons of fuel to the affected areas in three ways, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said.

Some military trucks will deliver fuel to gas stations facing shortages, while other trucks will provide generators for gas stations with fuel but no power. A third set of trucks will set up locations where they will provide both power and fuel to aid residents.

The additional supplies will hopefully reduce long lines at gas stations, something New Jersey resident Terry Landers described a hectic scramble.

He said lines of cars were snaking around gas stations. As soon as word gets out that a particular station has gas, he said, a convoy of cars heads there.

President Obama echoed the states' priorities during remarks at FEMA headquarters Saturday -- restoring power, pumping out water, covering people's basic needs, and debris removal.

"What I told the governors and the mayors is what I've been saying to my team since the start of this event, and that is we don't have any patience for bureaucracy, we don't have any patience for red tape, and we want to make sure that we are figuring out a way to get to yes, as opposed to no, when it comes to these problems," Obama said.

In addition to power and food shortages, looting concerns are growing, according to a Staten Island resident.

Nick Camerada said he moved to an upper floor with his wife and four sons to escape rising floodwaters.

He thought he had survived the worst. Until his small engine repair business in his side yard was hit again -- this time, by looters.

"They pushed my shed open and went through all my tools. I got nothing. ... There's nothing in the drawers but handprints," he said Friday.

Also in New York, the buildings department began operations to secure a crane that the storm left dangling in Manhattan. Workers were in the process of securing the crane's boom, which collapsed Monday night. Securing the crane could take up to 36 hours, officials said.

Elsewhere, signs of recovery emerged after the 900-mile-wide superstorm this week claimed at least 106 lives in the United States, two in Canada and 67 in the Caribbean.

Worst-hit New York state suffered 48 deaths, including 41 in New York City, authorities said. Twenty of those were in Staten Island.

New York City residents cheered Friday when lights came back on in parts of Manhattan, a big milestone for the crippled city.

As communities grapple with the human toll, the price of the damage is stunning: between $30 billion and $50 billion, according to disaster modeling firm EQECAT. That far exceeds the firm's pre-storm estimate of $20 billion.

In a move to relieve fuel shortages, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a temporary waiver of the Jones Act, allowing oil tankers from the Gulf of Mexico to enter northeastern ports.

A far weaker storm is forecast to take aim at mid-Atlantic states next week.
 

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