Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No waking up from nightmare

Damage forecast to hit $50B, second costliest behind Katrina

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NEW YORK -- The Manhattan skyline was mostly lit for the first time in five days Friday night, a sign of progress undercut by long lines at gasoline stations. The New York City Marathon was cancelled amid outrage over holding a sports event while thousands of residents still had no power or, for some, no place to live.

Four days after Sandy slammed the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, the U.S. death toll climbed past 90 in 10 states, and included two young brothers who were torn from their mother's grasp by rushing floodwaters in Staten Island during the storm. Their bodies were found in a marshy area on Thursday.

Hurricane Sandy earlier left another at least 69 people dead as it swept through the Caribbean.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the Con Edison utility company hoped to resolve most Manhattan power outages by midnight Friday. The news is not as good for the city's outer boroughs and parts of New Jersey, where customers may not have electricity until mid-November.

The total damage in the U.S. from superstorm Sandy could run as high as $50 billion, according to the forecasting firm Eqecat. That would make it the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after hurricane Katrina. The estimate includes property damage and lost business.

Bloomberg initially defended his plan to hold the 26.2-mile New York City Marathon as scheduled, then abruptly cancelled it later Friday. Many New Yorkers complained it would be insensitive and divert city resources at a time when many are suffering.

The race had been scheduled to start Sunday in Staten Island, one of the hardest-hit areas by this week's storm, and the site of half the New York fatalities.

"We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it," the mayor said in a statement.

Thousands of out of town runners had arrived for the marathon.

At the midtown New Yorker Hotel, the lobby was filled with anguished runners, some crying and others with puffy eyes. In one corner, a group of Italian runners watched the news with blank looks. "I have no words," said Roberto Dell'Olmo, from Vercelli, Italy. Then later: "I would like that the money I give from the marathon goes to victims."

With fuel deliveries in the East disrupted by storm damage and many gas stations lacking electricity to run their pumps, gasoline became a precious commodity, especially for those who depend on their cars for their livelihoods.

Some drivers complained of waiting three and four hours in line, only to see the pumps run dry when it was almost their turn. Others ran out of gas before they reached the front of the line.

Police officers were assigned to gas stations to maintain order. In Queens, a man was charged Thursday with flashing a gun at another motorist who complained he was cutting in line.

At a Hess station early Friday in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, the line snaked at least 10 blocks through narrow, busy streets. That caused confusion among other drivers, some of whom accidentally found themselves in the gas line. People got out of their cars to yell at them.

In addition, at least 60 people were lined up to fill red gas cans for their generators.

Vince Levine got in line in his van at 5 a.m.; by 8 a.m., he was still two dozen cars from the front. "I had a half-tank when I started. I've got a quarter-tank now," he said.

"There's been a little screaming, a little yelling. And I saw one guy banging on the hood of a car. But mostly it's been OK," he said.

More 3.8 million homes and businesses in the East were still without power, down from a peak of 8.5 million. Still, across the New York metropolitan area, there were signs that life was beginning to return to something approaching normal.

More subway and rail lines started operating again Friday, and the Holland Tunnel into New York was open to buses.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said Atlantic City's 12 casinos could reopen immediately after a nearly five-day shutdown for superstorm Sandy. Sandy slammed into the shoreline Monday night just a few kilometres from Atlantic City, which was flooded and lost a section of its world-famous boardwalk but fared much better than other parts of New Jersey's coast.

The prospect of better times ahead did little to mollify residents who spent another day and night in the dark.

"It's too much. You're in your house. You're freezing," said Geraldine Giordano, 82, a lifelong resident of New York's West Village. Near her home, city employees had set up a sink where residents could get fresh water, if they needed it.

There were few takers. "Nobody wants to drink that water," Giordano said.

There was increasing worry about the elderly. Community groups have been going door to door on the upper floors of darkened Manhattan apartment buildings, and city workers and volunteers in hard-hit Newark, New Jersey, delivered meals to seniors and others stuck in their buildings.

"It's been mostly older folks who aren't able to get out," said Monique George of Manhattan-based Community Voices Heard.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 A22

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