by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) The Northeast is slowly but surely crawling back to life after being body slammed by Hurricane Sandy, the largest storm to hit the U.S. in generations, though it’s going to be weeks – and possibly months – before the region’s power grid and transportation infrastructure returns to normal.
As of midday Wednesday, more than 8.2 million homes and businesses remained without power. Con Edison, the power company for New York City and the surrounding tri-state area, said in the immediate aftermath of Sandy that it could take as long as 10 days to restore all lost power.
Meanwhile, NYC public transit officials said a limited number of buses were running on a few routes throughout the city. But the subway system, which carries millions of passengers a day, remains crippled and virtually non-existent, with many underground routes still flooded with corrosive seawater.
On Wall Street, financial markets reopened after being shuttered for two days by the storm, with the New York Stock Exchange springing back to life at the opening bell, which was rung by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The John F. Kennedy and Newark International airports also resumed operations, albeit with limited service, after thousands of flights were canceled over the past two days. New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the third airport serving the country’s busiest airspace, remained closed because it was still flooded, officials said.
National Guard officials said some 61,000 troops remained on standby to assist authorities in seven states affected by Sandy’s vast reach. Initially, the Pentagon said, some 1,500 Guard troops were deployed in support of federal and local authorities and were supporting the governors of New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and Maryland.
“Available resources include almost 140 helicopters that can perform search and rescue, reconnaissance and personnel or cargo-carrying missions,” FedScoop reported.
The storm’s death toll rose to 57 Wednesday, according to official tallies. Sandy killed 27 in New York State but most of those deaths – 22 – occurred in NYC. Six were killed in New Jersey, while seven other states reported fatalities. Disaster modeling put the cost of storm-related damage anywhere from $15-20 billion. Before Sandy reached the East Coast, the storm killed 69 in Caribbean.
At one point, the storm’s width stretched 1,000 miles up and down the Atlantic Coast, from Maine to northern Florida. It stretched inland for hundreds of miles.
NYC was hit particularly hard. A record 14-foot storm surge caused the most problems, submerging large swaths of the city under several feet of water. In the Staten Island borough, police had to use helicopters to rescue trapped residents from rooftops. The surge is being blamed for flooding most of the city’s subway tunnels.
‘It’s important not to get nervous’
Across the Hudson River in Hoboken, N.J., National Guard troops were helping city residents pump water out of their homes, according to city Twitter posts.
Interestingly enough, NYC is more like “a tale of two cities.” Part of the Big Apple – the functioning part – looks almost as if nothing has happened over the past few days.
The other part, however – the section of NYC below 39th Street – is a far different story.
On the surface – and during the daylight hours – things may appear to be the same, save from some debris here and there. But south of 39th, cell phone signals are failing, as are 3G connections. Lines form for once seldom used, coin-operated telephones – something many users have never had to do in their lives.
When one person was able to make a call, Britain’s Daily Mail reported, several other people huddled close by, “all eager to speak to their loved ones after hours of radio silence.”
While traffic was moving fairly well, there is no power to operate street lights, leading to some unease among drivers who are not used independent operation.
“It’s important not to get nervous,” advised cab driver Jotti Sanota. “If you’re nervous and there are no lights, it’s really hard to drive.”
“None of the downtown gas stations were open, meaning taxi drivers had to fill up in Brooklyn or Queens to fill up – something that could become a serious issue in the coming days,” said the paper.
Very few shops and restaurants were open, but those that were had long lines outside them as well. That included a local hardware store that could only let another customer in when one left.
With no power, those shops that were open had to give customers flashlights so they could navigate the aisles (no shoplifting threat there).
And the looting begins
Pizza places ran out of pizza – considered the lifeblood of many boroughs and neighborhoods in NYC. Food in other stores was also low; refrigerated food in many corner stores was either spoiled or spoiling.
“We have a lot of food that’s going to perish and people are hungry,” said bartender Rio Beardsley, of Bowery Kitchen, where chefs Simone Apostoli and David Simmons brought a grill out on to the street and started serving up hamburgers, hot dogs and bacon covered chicken.
The lack of power – and no jobs to go to because businesses were also without power – meant scores of New Yorkers now have nothing to do, the paper said, except sit around on stoops outside and drink beer.
And, of course, as we reported would happen, the looting has begun in the hardest hit portions of the city.
“The water went away and these people started walking down the streets and just robbed stores,” a frustrated worker at Mega Aid Pharmacy in Coney Island, N.Y., told The Huffington Post.