Falling temps add urgency to superstorm recovery
NEW YORK -- Cold weather settling in across the New York metropolitan area compounded the misery Sunday for people already struggling with widespread gasoline shortages and power outages in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
With temperatures dipping into the 30s overnight and about 700,000 homes and businesses in New York City, its northern suburbs and Long Island still without electricity six days after the storm, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that many homes are becoming uninhabitable and that tens of thousands of people are going to need other places to stay.
Over the weekend, the city opened warming shelters in areas without power and Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged elderly people without heat to move to them. The city also began handing out 25,000 blankets to those who insisted on staying in their homes.
"I spoke with many people who were worried and frustrated and cold," Bloomberg said Saturday. "There is no power there and temperatures are dropping. Even those who have generators are having a hard time getting fuel."
He added: "Please, I know sometimes people are reticent to take advantage of services. The cold really is something that is dangerous."
With Sunday's running of the New York City Marathon canceled, some of those who were planning to run the 26.2-mile race through the city streets instead headed to hard-hit Staten Island to help storm victims.
Thousands of other runners from such countries as Italy, Germany and Spain poured into Central Park to hold impromptu races of their own. A little more than four laps through the park amounted to a marathon.
"A lot of people just want to finish what they've started," said Lance Svendsen, organizer of a group called Run Anyway.
Though New York and New Jersey bore the brunt of the destruction, at its peak, the storm reached 1,000 miles across, killed more than 100 people in 10 states, knocked out power to 8.5 million homes and businesses and canceled nearly 20,000 flights. Damage has been estimated $50 billion, making Sandy the second most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina.
More than 900,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey were still without electricity.
With fuel deliveries cut off by storm damage and many metropolitan-area gas stations lacking the electricity needed to operate their pumps, drivers waited in line for hours for a chance at a fill-up, snapping at each other and honking their horns in frustration.
At a gas station in Mount Vernon, N.Y., north of New York City, 62 cars were lined up around the block Sunday morning even though it was closed and had no fuel.
"I heard they might be getting a delivery. So I came here and I'm waiting," said the first driver in line, Earl Tuck. He had been there at least two hours by 9 a.m., and there was no delivery truck in sight. But he said he would stick it out.
The cashier at the station, Ahmed Nawaz, said he wasn't sure when the pumps might be running again. "We are expecting a delivery. But yesterday we weren't expecting one, and we got one. So I don't know," he said.
Bloomberg said that resolving the gas shortages could take days. Across northern New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie imposed odd-even gas rationing that recalled the gasoline crisis of the 1970s.
Fears of crime, especially at night in darkened neighborhoods, persisted. Officers in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island early Saturday saw a man in a Red Cross jacket checking the front doors of unoccupied houses and arrested him on a burglary charge.
After complaints about people posing as utility workers to gain access to people's homes, police on Long Island reminded residents that most repair work will be done outside so legitimate workers usually have no need to enter a home.