Signs Of Progress, But It Is Still A Long Road

Posted in Commentary, Storm Aftermath, GWC News, Tracking the Tropics at 11:40 pm by gmachos

While There Are Glimmers Of Normalcy, There Is Still A Good Deal Of Struggle

Thursday was the third day of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy around the Tri-State area. It was a day of some progress. Commercial trains began to run through my hometown of South Plainfield as well as the local 7-11 re-opening, and South Clinton Avenue opening to traffic after being closed for the past two days. More traffic was on the road around Northwestern Middlesex County. More businesses were re-opening again. Beneath these signs of normalcy, there were still signs of struggle and frustration.

Starting with nearby towns in Northwestern Middlesex County, there remained open wounds from the devastation wrought by Sandy three days earlier. A long walk through the towns of South Plainfield, Piscataway, Dunellen, and Middlesex revealed that to me. There was still a good deal of tree and telephone pole damage along with dangling power lines, especially in the town of Dunellen. One of the smallest municipalities in Middlesex County, the Railroad Town was hit harder than many bigger towns in the county. The stretch of road from the New Market section of Piscataway into Dunellen had a number of trees uprooted and telephone poles either severely leaned over to one side, or down, which caused wires to hang dangerously close to the ground. It was probably the most treacherous part of my walk today.

Middlesex and Piscataway had some tree and telephone pole damage with the home of the Blue Jays experiencing the most significant damage with a good portion of Warrenville Road closed to traffic since there are several trees and telephone poles down in concert there. The cascade of these poles and trees have large power lines hanging close to the ground. The sight in Middlesex and Piscataway that drew my attention was the long lines of car traffic, and people with gas cans waiting to get gas. Some people were literally pushing their car up Route 28 to a gas station near the restaurant Tim Kerwin’s that happened to have power and gas. In P-Way, there were lines at the Getty on Stelton Road near Columbus Park. Another long line stretched from Hamilton Boulevard in South Plainfield around to Stelton Road past the Stop and Shop on that road.

South Plainfield appeared to be the town in the best shape. However, I didn’t go through a great deal of Piscataway outside of the New Market Ave section, and neighborhoods along New Brunswick Ave bordering with South Plainfield. Tigertown still has some problems though. Trees were uprooted at a PSEG Customer Facility on Century Road in town so things like that will make it difficult for the utility to get the power back on for the rest of us. During my journey, I took many photos, which I’ve added to the Hurricane Sandy album in the GWC Photo Gallery. Conditions are improving in quite a few places including Hoboken, which has FEMA boots on the ground, and is now nearly clear of the flooding that has plagued it for the previous two days. New York City is starting to resume some train and bus service thanks to the efforts of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is talking tough to the utilities such as Con Edison and LIPA so that they can get power back running for residents. The lights came back up on Broadway as theaters reopened. In addition, people seemed to show more patience and courtesy when driving through the traffic filled streets of NYC.

Power is also starting to come back up for many in New Jersey. The number of people without power across the Garden State is down to 1.7 million from a high of 2.7 million at the peak of the storm. Governor Christie has attacked this monumental problem head on by demanding results from the three major power utilities in the state: JCP & L, PSE & G, and Atlantic City Electric. While Christie understands that this is a very challenging situation for them, he still has the expectation that the job gets done. He also shut off the natural gas system that runs from Mantoloking to Seaside Heights in an effort to stop the fires that have broken out in the wake of the terrible damage from the surge along that stretch of Garden State shoreline. He also is getting electrical workers from all over the country as well as Canada to get the power back up and running. Arrangements have been made to shelter and feed those workers at Fort Monmouth.

There are signs of frustration though. Much of Staten Island and Queens is still in the dark and flooded. In addition, residents in Staten Island are living in fear because of looting. Residents in both boroughs expressed their anger and demanded that something significant be done to help them begin to make progress like all the other parts of New York City. Some residents pointed to the fact that many on Staten Island and Queens are working class, or the little people, and more priorities are being spent on those in Manhattan that are better off. To make matters worse, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the New York Marath0n, scheduled for this coming Sunday, is going on as scheduled although it will be run as a different route. Some critics charge that resources needed for dealing with the storm’s aftermath are being misplaced while others feel that this is insensitive to those still struggling to get power and rid themselves of the flood waters.

Further north in Westchester County, Mount Vernon is still struggling with significant damage from Sandy including downed trees, telephone poles, and power lines while the mayor in the town was out of the area for a reunion in North Carolina, and nobody else took charge to get the town prepared for the storm and its aftermath. On top of that, the death toll is climbing around the New York City area as well as New Jersey. In NYC, there are now 40 deaths including 20 from Staten Island alone. Approximately 159 people have died including 88 in the United States, two in Canada, and another 69 in the Caribbean. The key to this whole situation is the restoration of power. Once power is restored, people can return to their homes, flood waters can get pumped out, chainsaws can cut downed trees, polluted waters can be treated, and gas stations can get back online and to fueling customers again.

This report used information compiled from news reports from NJTV, WNBC4, CNN, and the New York Daily News.

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