BALDWIN, N.Y. – Long Island residents continue to suffer loss of power, property damage, lack of heat and shortages of gas in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Thirteen days ago, Sandy struck the New York area killing at least 120 people and causing widespread flooding, felling of trees and loss of power. This past Wednesday, a nor’easter added freezing temperatures and snow to the mix. Frustrated Long Islanders now face homelessness, loss of work, gas rationing, long gas lines and price gouging at the pump with no foreseeable end in sight.
As of Saturday evening, Long Island Power Authority reported about 130,000 residents of Nassau and Suffolk counties were still without power. LIPA has provided no concrete date for the complete restoration of power, with estimates being pushed back repeatedly during the crisis.
“Please know that we are working hard to restore your power every day and won’t rest until everyone’s lights are on, and our communities and families are back to normal,” said LIPA in a statement.
LIPA reports it has about 14,000 people working on restoring power, including 8,200 linemen. Power has been restored to all Long Island Rail Road lines, with the exception of Long Beach and Far Rockaway. Both were affected by severe flooding during Sandy. Communities on the South Shore were hit hardest.
Some Long Islanders are less optimistic or clinical in their description of the situation:
Kim Fulcher, a displaced small-business owner in Baldwin, told The Hammill Post in an interview, “I don’t know how this is going to affect us. It’s just insane…There are so many people who lost everything and on top of that there’s other people who were lucky not to but they don’t have power and they can’t make money, they can’t go to work, they can’t be in business and LIPA…it’s unbelievable. They won’t give us any answers. They won’t do anything. We have no idea how they decide who gets power when and what’s going on and there’s no end in sight. We have no idea what’s going on. We have no idea when we’re going to get back to our life and it’s just completely devastating.”
No power also means no communications, no heat and no hot water. Both landline and cellular service have been disrupted. Many local residents have been bundling up in layers of clothes and blankets to stay warm.
Michael Holzman, a resident of Bellmore, told The Hammill Post, “I got power back on Friday…and then after the nor’Easter, the snow was weighing down heavily on the power lines in front of my house, actually started sparking and caught fire and that came tumbling down…As of right now I have live wires in front of my house so the power went out again…The temperature in my house is probably in the 20s.”
Long Island and New York City have imposed a gas-rationing scheme based on odd-even license plate numbers, much like during the 1970s. It is hoped this will result in shorter lines at the pump.
When asked about gas-rationing, Holzman replied, “When the power first went out about 80 percent of the gas stations had no power and with no power that meant that their pumps were not working…so the few stations that had [power] started forming lines that were about a mile long or longer. And some people would wait on these lines for two to three hours and finally get to the gas station where the gas station would say ‘Sorry, we just ran out.’ Some of these gas stations have been price gouging, which is illegal, but they’ve been doing it anyway.”
Emergency food, shelter and medical care have been made available to Long Islanders. Two Federal Emergency Management stations, five Red Cross food stations, dozens of recharge-your-phone stations and free hot-shower stations have been established. Doctors without Borders has gotten involved as well, setting up in Far Rockaway. This marks its first-ever operation in the United States.