Power utility Consolidated Edison, battling what it called the worst natural disaster in the company's 180-year history, restored electricity to neighborhoods such as Wall Street, Chinatown and Greenwich Village in the pre-dawn hours, leaving 11,000 customers in Manhattan without service."There's enough light and activity to get a lot of people on the street and get rid of that movie set look as if were in some kind of ghost town or horror movie," Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee told NY1 television.In New Jersey, the utility PSE&G said 612,000 customers were still without lights after power to 1 million had been restored.Con Ed said it had restored power to 70 percent of the 916,000 customers in the New York City area who were cut off. The company was still busy assisting tens of thousands more without power in New York City's outer boroughs, where some people complained of being ignored."We have nobody down here with video coverage," said Grace Lane, a grandmother who defied evacuation orders and rode out the storm in her second-story bedroom as water rushed through the first floor of her house.Eight people - Lane, her husband, their two daughters, their husbands and her two grandchildren - were sleeping on air mattresses on the floor of the upstairs bedroom, the last usable room in the house."At least my children are OK," she said.Many houses were gutted by 5 feet of floodwater that raced through Broad Channel, where residents hauled broken furniture and soggy belongings out of their homes on Friday.In a sign of security worries in the neighborhood, one garage full of debris stood open with a sign next to it reading: "LOOTERS WILL BE CRUCIFIED - GOD HELP YOU."
FUEL ON THE WAY
Moving to ease fuel shortages, the Obama administration directed the purchase of up to 12 million gallons (45 million liters) of unleaded fuel and 10 million gallons (38 million liters) of diesel, to be trucked to New York and New Jersey for distribution.The government announced it would tap strategic reserves for diesel for emergency responders and waived rules that barred foreign-flagged ships from taking gas, diesel and other products from the Gulf of Mexico to Northeast ports.The moves could help to quell anger triggered by growing lines - some of them miles long - at gas stations. Less than half of the stations in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey were operating on Friday.New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered gas rationing in 12 counties to begin on Saturday under an "odd-even" system in which motorists with license plates ending in odd numbers would be able to buy gas on odd-numbered days.New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also moved to tamp down rising anger in the most populous U.S. city by dropping plans to hold the city's annual marathon. The city had been expecting more than 40,000 runners in Sunday's event.
Sandy washed away contingency plans across New York regionBy Aaron Pressman and Joseph Menn | Reuters – 8:40AM NOV 3,12
"We are working to restore all building operations," an IAC spokeswoman said on Friday. "Most employees have been working remotely."While IAC's properties remained online, among the more noticeable website crashes was the Huffington Post, whose parent AOL Inc relied on a back-up center in Newark, New Jersey, about 11 miles from its main office in Manhattan. All three of the telecommunications providers serving the Newark location had outages the night Sandy hit."If I were Arianna Huffington, I would be as diverse geographically as possible," said Gartner analyst Akshay Sharma, adding that Chicago would be a safer back-up location.At Verizon Communications Inc, one of the top U.S. telecommunications companies, a giant switching station at 140 West Street in the financial district was knocked out by Sandy's floodwaters. The company had moved its backup generators out of the basement after 9/11, but left under street level the tanks of fuel and fuel pumps. So when they were soaked, downtown New York communications were ravaged.David Doddridge, who runs a construction and building code consulting firm in New York City, said fuel for rooftop generators is usually stored indoors and below street level for both practical and safety reasons. Fuel delivery trucks rely on gravity to load tanks, and roof-top fuel storage would raise concerns about lightning strikes and weather-related corrosion."The basement is really the most practical spot," Doddridge said. "Not every scenario can fit every situation. From a logistics standpoint, fuel storage is typically in the basement. And it's much safer to keep these inside."
MEETING IN 'BANTANAMO'
New York cancels Sunday marathon in wake of deadly stormBy Martha Graybow and Larry Fine | Reuters – 8:45AM NOV 3,12
Another runner said the mayor should have stuck to the original decision, saying the race gives local businesses a boost and was set to raise large amounts for relief efforts."This was going to turn into a big recovery and healing event," said Usama Malik, 37, who works for a hedge fund. "I thought it was great that he (Bloomberg) made the decision to go on with it, to raise funds, to promote healing, and get people's minds off of everything else that's going on."Sandy, which brought a record storm surge to coastal areas, killed at least 102 people after slamming into the U.S. Northeast on Monday. Forty-one died in New York City, about half of them in Staten Island, which was overrun by a wall of water.The marathon starts in Staten Island and weaves through all five of the city's boroughs. Hundreds of thousands of people line the streets to watch the race.Run every year since 1970, the marathon attracts professional and amateur runners, and is so popular that organizers run a lottery system to determine who can compete. The field features elite runners from around the globe, and is one of the six World Marathon Majors.Among those who had been set to compete was Wilson Kipsang, the winner of this year's London Marathon, who had traveled 45 hours from his home in Kenya.In announcing that the race had been called off, Bloomberg insisted it would not have diverted resources from the recovery effort. Hours earlier he had previously drawn parallels with the decision a decade ago not to cancel or postpone the marathon after the September 11, 2001 attacks.However, he said, "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."Mary Wittenberg, the head of the New York Road Runners Club, said that as the controversy grew, she also was concerned about the reception runners may have received along the route.
U.S. disaster relief in a race against cold snapBy Joseph Ax and Jonathan Spicer | Reuters – 4:15PM NOV 3,12
New York City gave its overstretched police a break by abruptly reversing course on Friday and canceling Sunday's marathon, a beloved annual race that had become a lightning rod for critics concerned it was a diversion of resources.In one hard-hit Queens neighborhood, a garage full of debris stood open with a sign next to it reading: "LOOTERS WILL BE CRUCIFIED - GOD HELP YOU.""Hurricanes can be the stress equivalent of cancer," said David Yusko, assistant clinical director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania.Obama won early praise for the federal response to Sandy but faced continual television and newspaper images of upset storm victims.The storm damaged or destroyed thousands of homes and displaced voters, forcing election officials to improvise at affected polling stations.
Christie ordered county clerks in New Jersey to open on Saturday and Sunday to accommodate early voters."There's no reason why anybody shouldn't vote. We're going to have a full, fair and transparent open voting process," Christie said.Before heading to the Midwest on Saturday for a final weekend of campaigning, Obama visited Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington for a briefing, and told officials to cut through government "red tape" to help storm-ravaged areas."There's nothing more important than getting this right," the president said at the beginning of a briefing with officials from FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, and state and local governments.Moving to ease fuel shortages, the Obama administration directed the purchase of up to 12 million gallons (45 million liters) of unleaded fuel and 10 million gallons (38 million liters) of diesel, to be trucked to New York and New Jersey for distribution.The government announced it would tap strategic reserves for diesel for emergency responders and waived rules that barred foreign-flagged ships from taking gasoline, diesel and other products from the Gulf of Mexico to Northeast ports.Power utility Consolidated Edison, battling what it called the worst natural disaster in the company's 180-year history, restored electricity to Manhattan neighborhoods such as Wall Street, Chinatown and Greenwich Village in the pre-dawn hours, leaving 11,000 customers in Manhattan without service.Con Ed said it had restored power to 70 percent of the 916,000 customers in the New York City area who were cut off.(Reporting by Reuters bureaus throughout the U.S. Northeast; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Vicki Allen)
Obama: No "red tape" in federal storm responseBy Mark Felsenthal | Reuters – 4:20PM NOV 3,126 hrs ago
Relief efforts are focusing on restoring power and pumping water out of flooded areas, Obama said.
"It's critical for us to get power on as quickly as possible," he said. Military equipment was being brought in from around the country to help with those efforts, the president said.,Relief work is also concentrated on meeting the needs of people affected by the storm, removing debris, and positioning National Guard to help getting transportation systems back to normal, he added.Patience had worn thin on Friday as millions remained without power and many drivers waited in long lines for gasoline.The government moved to ease the fuel crunch by tapping strategic reserves and buying millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel to be trucked to storm-damaged areas.(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Jackie Frank)
Insight: Sandy shows hospitals unprepared when disaster hits homeBy Sharon Begley | Reuters – 4:25PM NOV 3,12
UNWILLING TO INVEST
A recent survey by the Joint Commission, a nonprofit group that accredits more than 19,000 hospitals and other healthcare facilities, found that only one-third planned to upgrade their infrastructure, said head engineer George Mills."Two-thirds said they were going to keep going with what they had and hope it was enough," he said. "Unfortunately, many of our hospital buildings are 50 or 60 years old."No national assessment has determined whether hospitals can survive a disaster, said a high-ranking HHS official.
Storm-hardened infrastructure is not cheap. Continuum Health, which operates St Luke's Hospital in New York where Bondy was sent, spent about $10 million over the last decade on generators and other emergency measures. Mount Sinai Medical Center, next to Manhattan's Central Park, is replacing four basement generators with four on higher floors for $12 million.And many hospitals do not factor in all of the potential threats. As Sandy barreled toward New York City last weekend, hospitals tested their generators and assured city officials that they had enough fuel to run them for several days, according to all the hospitals interviewed.NYU's "emergency power system was designed and built according to all safety codes," spokeswoman Allison Clair said. "We were confident we could withstand a (storm) surge of approximately 12 feet," but it was at least a foot higher.By Monday night, the NYU basement that houses one of its generators and fuel tanks for the seven on higher floors was under eight feet of water. Sensors shut down the fuel pumps, and the generators fell silent."There was no electricity and all the IV machines were going haywire," said Bondy. "I heard one nurse yell to someone, don't use that water, it's brown. I couldn't believe how fast things were failing."By all accounts, it could have been much worse had other preparations not been in place.The staff used flashlights to carry out the evacuation. Police officers fanned out through the building and on stair landings as staff members carried patients to safety, including critically ill infants. Waiting ambulances - organized days ahead by the Federal Emergency Management Agency - had come from hundreds of miles away. Bondy's driver was from Ohio, and needed to ask directions to the hospital that was due to receive her.At St. Luke's, staffers meeting evacuees had her checked in and settled in a room within 10 minutes. "Cupcake, don't worry about it; we've got you," a nurse told her.
HAND CARRYING FUEL
The response at nearby Bellevue was less coordinated. On Monday night, the power grid failed in its neighborhood and then its backup power stumbled as basement pumps meant to deliver fuel to the main generators on upper floors were flooded. Staffers hand-carried fuel for hours, but by Tuesday the situation was desperate. Bellevue began what became a full evacuation of some 725 patients.Other city hospitals went into overdrive to receive Bellevue and NYU evacuees, and no patient deaths were reported. Around midnight on Monday, Zahava Cohen, nurse manager of the neonatal intensive care unit at Montefiore Medical Center, was roused by a knock on her office door."They're calling from NYU," a colleague told her. "They want to know how many babies we can take," Cohen recalled.Hospitals that remained functional were either lucky or better prepared. They didn't lose power. But many were prepared if they had.Montefiore built a 5-megawatt co-generation plant for heat and electricity in 1995, said Ed Pfleging, vice-president of engineering and facilities, and doubled its capacity a few years later. The plants now supply 90 percent of the power at its main campus, allowing the hospital to run for days if the electrical grid fails."During the 2003 blackout, we were the only New York hospital with fuel power," he said.Mount Sinai took in 64 NYU patients and some two dozen from Bellevue. It did not lose utility power this week, but was prepared with 13 back-up generators and several separate power systems if it had. Instead, communications were an Achilles heel.Mount Sinai's chief medical officer, Dr. Erin Dupree, was on the phone with her NYU counterpart on Monday night to discuss the evacuation, But they were repeatedly cut off as landlines and mobile phones failed throughout the city."We literally had no communications with these people," she said. "They were in the dark, and we didn't know who was coming here."That also could have been predicted. Loss of communication contributed to the scope of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, when emergency responders were unable to receive instructions and information in the minutes before the collapse of the World Trade Center towers."We all lost telecommunications on 9/11," said Gail Donovan, chief operating officer of Continuum. "After Sandy we had limited cellphone capabilities at Beth Israel," one of Continuum's Manhattan hospitals, "so we used walkie-talkies."
EMERGENCY DRILLS LIGHT ON DETAIL
What hospitals must do to harden themselves against disaster is determined by a patchwork of federal, state and local regulations. The Joint Commission mandates a long list of preparedness steps, including running disaster drills.But many hospitals just go through the motions, said Dr. Dan Hanfling, special advisor on emergency preparedness at Inova Health System: "Until events of Sandy's magnitude come along, emergency preparedness is just a box that has to be checked."Virtually no emergency drills simulate a disaster inside a hospital. "I can't remember the last time a hospital ran a disaster drill where the hospital itself was the site of the disaster," Kellerman said.The Commission also requires hospitals to maintain back-up power equipment and test it 12 times a year for half an hour and for four hours once every three years. There is no requirement for war-gaming a situation that knocks out that equipment.Only with "new construction or renovation projects" are hospitals supposed to place such equipment above flood level, explained the Commission's Mills, and even in those cases it is something that "should" be considered but is not required. That means the stricken New York hospitals are not unusual."We are definitely making progress in preparedness, but many hospitals are still trying to figure this out," said Inova's Hanfling. "They would fare about the same" should another storm like Sandy roar ashore.(Additional reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Michele Gershberg, Martin Howell and Jackie Frank)