Snowy post-Sandy storm pulls away from E coast

AFTER THE STORM::Gas is being rationed in New York and New Jersey, and hundreds of thousands of people are still without power, with many calling for an investigation


Sat, Nov 10, 2012 - Page 7

The nor’easter that stymied recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy pulled away from New York and New Jersey, leaving hundreds of thousands of new people in darkness after a blanket of thick, wet snow snapped storm-weakened trees and downed power lines. Meanwhile, New York imposed a gas rationing plan yesterday that allows motorists to fill up every other day.

Sandy slammed the coast and inflicted tens of billions of dollars in damage, and hundreds of thousands of customers in New York and New Jersey were still waiting for the electricity to come back on, with lots of cold and tired people losing patience. If that was not enough, the nor’easter then brought gusting winds, rain and snow on Wednesday, though not the flooding that was anticipated. Snow blanketed several states and stymied recovery efforts spawned by Sandy as storm-weakened trees snapped and power lines came down before the nor’easter pulled away.

A new gasoline rationing plan was put in place starting yesterday that lets motorists fill up every other day. Police will be at gas stations to enforce the new system in New York City and on Long Island.

“This is designed to let everybody have a fair chance, so the lines aren’t too oppressive and that we can get through this,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg said the system worked well in New Jersey, where lines went from a two-hour wait to 45 minutes after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced a similar rationing plan.

Meanwhile, some who have been without power are demanding investigations of utilities they say are not working fast enough.

An angry New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined the calls for an investigation, calling the utilities unprepared and badly managed.

“Privately, I have used language my daughters couldn’t hear,” he said. “It’s unacceptable the longer it goes on because the longer it goes on, people’s suffering is worse.”

The power companies have said they are dealing with damage unprecedented in its scope and doing the best they can, and there is no denying the magnitude of what they have done: At the peak, more than 8.5 million homes and businesses across 21 states lost power. As of Thursday, that was down to about 750,000, almost entirely in New York and New Jersey.

The nor’easter knocked out power to more than 200,000 customers in New York and New Jersey, erasing some of the progress made by utility crews.

“We lost power last week, just got it back for a day or two, and now we lost it again,” said John Monticello of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. “Every day it’s the same now: Turn on the gas burner for heat. Instant coffee. Use the iPad to find out what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

New Jersey did not have a damage estimate of its own, but others have put Sandy’s overall toll at up to US$50 billion, making it the second-most expensive storm in US history, behind Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans in 2005.

Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states, with most of the dead in New York and New Jersey.

In a reminder of Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced on Thursday that it was moving manufactured housing into New York and New Jersey.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the disaster relief agency has several hundred mobile homes in its inventory of emergency supplies and has started moving some of them to disaster zone. He said it was unclear yet if FEMA would need to order more of the temporary homes.

Forty prefabricated homes were en route to a staging area in New Jersey, FEMA officials said. State officials in New Jersey and New York will decide where the houses will be placed, federal officials said.

More than 56,000 people have also been ruled eligible for FEMA’s individual and households program, which provides money for renting a new home or housing repairs.