Lights out, heat out, gas out, patience, too

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has ...

And then it snowed.

To go along with the gas lines.

As Long Islanders without homes or heat, hot water, the Internet or telephone service slogged through Day Ten post-superstorm Sandy.

It is unconscionable that -- even as cold flakes fall -- hundreds of thousands of residents remain without power.

Unconscionable that some who managed, for a time, to gain light, warmth and connectivity would lapse back into the blackness of having no electricity with Wednesday's nor'easter.

"When are the locusts coming?" I heard someone joke about the region's ongoing string of misery. But no one on Long Island is laughing.

This week alone:

I talked to a store owner who worries she can't fill her empty shelves. She can't get deliveries. And -- because of the gas lines -- she is fearful of emptying her own gas tank by going to get supplies herself.

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I walked along a row of businesses that -- although they are located near what appears to be a substation -- have only half power. Literally.

One part of each of the businesses has electricity; the other part of the building does not. For one store, that meant one wall was light, while the other was dark. For another, work could be done in the light in the back of the store -- if customers could figure the store was opened. Because the dark part was the front -- where his business sign is.

I talked to a restaurateur who rushes every morning to two nearby grocers to buy bread. He can't get deliveries from his own baker in another town -- because the bakery's roof blew off.

I talked to residents who were trapped in their neighborhood for three days -- three days -- because local and Long Island Power Authority officials couldn't coordinate fast enough to cut power and remove trees so they could leave their driveways, much less their street.

One man told me that his wife and children used bicycles to get to town. Another said that LIPA had promised he would have power in two days.

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But, the man said, he didn't believe them.

There's a lot of that going around.

I talked to public officials who blamed utility officials for barely passable roads. And to gas station owners worried about the possibility of violence once they pulled back yellow caution tape, and removed orange cones to the rush of motorists desperate for a gasoline fix.

I talked to police officers who, at a time when some communities are reporting Sandy-related crimes, were helping maintain order on gas lines.

I visited a shore community -- really it doesn't matter which one, just as it doesn't matter which businesses, which gasoline stations, which neighborhoods, or which police officers, because on Long Island, these days, a searing, white-hot anger runs through almost everything.

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Streets bore the ruins of possessions once valued. Mattresses. A computer. A car. Clothing. A fence gate twisted upside down. Things too mangled, too storm-tossed, too muddy for easy identification.

Along the shore, residents worked, filling sandbags, hauling tree branches, repairing even as they were preparing for Wednesday's storm that rubbed more salt into our open wounds by snarling traffic and dumping snow so soon after superstorm Sandy's visit.

Here's what officials on Long Island, from mayors to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, need to understand:

No one cares why the power isn't on. They want it on.

No one cares why the gas lines are there. They want them gone. (Governor Cuomo, follow New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's lead: Go to an even-odd system to restore some sanity here!)

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No one cares why cellphone, landline or Internet services don't work. They want them working.

No one cares why raw sewage is in the basement. They want it out.

High school seniors want to send college applications; children want to see their friends at school. Homeless people want to go home. So did the commuters who were stuck, once again, when Wednesday night's storm shut down the Long Island Rail Road.

Hundreds of thousands seeking shelter want shelter. And, no, FEMA, that does NOT mean ones in Queens for already stressed families whose jobs and schools are in Nassau and Suffolk.

It's harsh out there. And, for too many justifiably frustrated and white-hot angry Long Islanders, getting harder.

Patience? That's long gone.

And Friday will be Day Eleven.

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