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Pockets of discontent among signs of recovery after Sandy

By Faith Karimi, Mariano Castillo and David Ariosto, CNN
updated 10:42 PM EDT, Fri November 2, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The storm's U.S. death toll climbs to 106
  • New Jersey governor orders odd-even rationing for gas in 12 counties
  • Some customers without power are looking at more than a week in the dark
  • The New York City Marathon is canceled amid criticism

New York (CNN) -- Pockets of frustration among cold and hungry residents festered Friday in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, even as other areas sputtered back to life.

The biggest challenges in places like New Jersey and Staten Island -- where the majority of New York's storm-related deaths were recorded -- include food and electricity shortages.

Across 15 states and the District of Columbia, utilities reported that about 3.3 million customers remained without power. Some may stay in the dark for at least another week, reported area utility companies PSE&G and LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority.

People shivered, their heads peeking out from bulky sweatshirts, waiting hours at stations to fill their gas cans.

In New Jersey, where people are not allowed to pump their own gas, Gov. Chris Christie ordered odd-even rationing for purchases in 12 counties, with the hopeful goals of cutting lines and preventing a fuel shortage.

People in the affected counties with a license plate ending in an even number will be able to purchase fuel on even numbered days; the opposite being true for people with plates ending in an odd number.

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Four days have passed since Sandy hit, and survivors pleaded for basic necessities.

"We're freezing. Bottom line is that we're so cold (be)cause we have nothing -- no electricity, no gas," said Staten Island resident Michele Belloli.

She spent a part of Friday walking around her neighborhood, her home for 40 years.

"It looks like something on TV. It looks like a newsreel from one of the other disasters. It doesn't look like my neighborhood," said Belloli.

Another Staten Island resident, Nick Camerada, described the storm and how the situation has worsened for him since it struck.

"The water was so high. It was up to this part of the door," he said, pointing to a spot above his waist.

"I couldn't get into the door. I went around the side of the house and I stood on a box that was floating, and I went through the window to get back in the house with my family."

Camerada, his wife and four sons scrambled to an upper floor. The first floor of their house flooded.

Thinking he had survived the worst, Camerada, who had a small engine repair business in his side yard, said he was hit again -- this time, by looters.

"I wake up this morning. They pushed my shed open and went through all my tools. I got nothing. ... There's nothing in the drawers but handprints," he said on Friday.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who toured the area Thursday, described conditions as grim.

"This is the worst thing I've ever seen, and it's killing me what these people have to go through," said the New York Democrat. "We'll get whatever federal help we can, that's for sure."

Help arrived Thursday night and into Friday in the form of 30 Red Cross trucks filled with food, water and medicine, while nearly 7,000 people spent the night in Red Cross shelters across the region.

The aid group said a massive feeding operation is under way on Long Island and across the Tri-State area, where residents continue to face food shortages.

Some $18 million in federal relief aid has been disbursed so far in the wake of the storm. Much of it is in the form of rental assistance, which can extend for up to 18 months for those with major home damage.

"A lot of folks who flooded did not have flood insurance," said Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate. "The lessons (we) learned from the past is not to wait to see how bad it is."

On Friday, Air Force planes began carrying 632 tons of equipment and supplies, including 69 vehicles, from California to the New York region.

Elsewhere, signs of recovery sprouted: trains grinding back to limited service, buses hauling commuters down roads strewn with debris.

Cleaning crews work in Manhattan's financial district following damage from Superstorm Sandy on Monday, November 12. View photos of New York's recovery. Cleaning crews work in Manhattan's financial district following damage from Superstorm Sandy on Monday, November 12. View photos of New York's recovery.
Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy
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Photos: Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy Photos: Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy
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Neighborhoods were rising up after being beaten down by a 900-mile-wide superstorm that claimed at least 106 lives in the United States, two in Canada and 67 in the Caribbean.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino traveled to Staten Island on Friday to survey recovery efforts.

"We know that Staten Island took a particularly hard hit from Sandy," said Napolitano. "We want to make sure that the right resources are brought here as quickly as possible."

Ahead of her visit, Napolitano issued a temporary waiver of the Jones Act, a move that allows oil tankers coming in from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports to relieve fuel shortages.

"The administration's highest priority is ensuring the health and safety of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy, and this waiver will remove a potential obstacle to bringing additional fuel to the storm-damaged region," she said.

The move also waives clean air admission requirements, allowing more refined oil to be brought into the region, though where it goes from there is unclear.

"Just getting the product there doesn't get it to the retail site," said Fugate. "Many of the gas stations don't have power."

Worst-hit New York state suffered 48 deaths, including 41 in New York City, authorities said. Twenty of the dead were killed in Staten Island, where the latest deaths included two boys ages 4 and 2, ripped from their mother's arms by floodwater.

In addition to the human toll, the price for damage is stunning: between $30 billion and $50 billion, according to disaster modeling firm EQECAT.

That far exceeds EQECAT's pre-storm estimate of $20 billion.

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Authorities scrambled to restore basic services, including hobbled transportation.

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Amtrak said modified service was to resume Friday between Boston and Washington via New York City. In New York City, limited subway service resumed Thursday. A flotilla of 4,000 buses is taking up the slack.

Neighboring New Jersey, which suffered 13 deaths linked to the storm, planned to restore limited rail service Friday.

In areas where entire neighborhoods remain dark, utilities worked to restore services.

Con Edison, a New York utility company, has passed the "halfway mark," having restored approximately 460,000 of the 910,000 customers who were affected by Sandy, according to John Miksad, senior vice president of electric operations.

"We're doing our damnedest to get our power back as quickly as possible," he said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a letter to utilities, warned of consequences if authorities discover they failed to prepare properly.

"Under such circumstances, I would direct the Public Service Commission to commence a proceeding to revoke your certificates," he wrote.

Under scrutiny, the New York City Marathon -- scheduled for Sunday -- was canceled, the city's mayor said Friday.

"While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.

"We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event -- even one as meaningful as this -- to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track."

The superstorm also dumped up to 3 feet of snow in West Virginia and Maryland, leaving thousands without power.

The National Weather Service predicted a nor'easter next week from the mid-Atlantic states into New England. But the forecast said the storm would be far weaker than Sandy.

CNN's Brain Todd, Pauline Kim, Gary Tuchman, Mark Meinero and Melissa Gray contributed to this report.

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