LI continues Sandy recovery as new storm nears

A home badly damaged by superstorm Sandy rests

A home badly damaged by superstorm Sandy rests on its side along the beach in the Belle Harbor section of Queens. (Nov. 5, 2012) (Credit: AP)

On Day 9 of recovery from superstorm Sandy, more than 150,000 LIPA customers remain without electricity on Long Island, thousands remain homeless, transportation is far from normalized and finding gasoline remains hit-or-miss -- all while another serious storm, packing another serious punch, heads this way.

The nor'easter is forecast to bring winds in the 25- to 35-mph hour range, with gusts up to 60 mph and possibly 70 mph, that could threaten the area's recovery by toppling more trees and power lines. A storm surge also could cause "moderate or major" coastal flooding in Nassau and Suffolk where shorelines have been breached and damaged by Sandy.

All of which, to some residents, seems like piling on.

The latest LIPA numbers suggest a significant number of residents have been brought back on line since Sandy knocked out power to a staggering 945,000 of 1.126 million customers Oct. 29 and 30.

But, although LIPA reported that 156,410 customers remained in the dark at 9 a.m. Wednesday, that number had increased to 166,251 just before noon. The numbers varied wildly by town.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, LIPA pledged to have the bulk of customers back on line within seven to 10 days.

Customers who prepared to enter their 10th day without power Wednesday were none too pleased with the utility. It wasn't just the lack of electricity or heat -- many were frustrated that LIPA's online outage map wasn't providing estimated restoration times. LIPA took down its interactive map Monday after days of customer complaints about accuracy and completeness.

Certainly, across the board, restorations were continuing.

The Long Island Rail Road said 10 of its 11 branches have service again, with the exception of the Long Beach Branch. Service, however, remains highly modified with 10- to 15-minute delays the norm, the railroad advising customers those delays are due to "heavier-than-normal crowding," as well as reduced capacity due to the fact just two of the four Amtrak East River tunnels into Manhattan are operational. The railroad continues to advise riders to travel off-peak when possible -- and to "stagger their departure times to ease delays."

By Tuesday, LIRR train service had been extended to Riverhead on the Ronkonkoma line and to Greenport by bus, officials said.

On the plus side, the railroad is charging off-peak fares -- and there are no penalty fees for onboard ticket purchases. Long Beach Branch tickets are being accepted on all branches.

Around Long Island and much of the metropolitan area, gasoline lines seemed shorter as dawn broke Wednesday, though many stations remained closed -- either due to power outages or a lack of gas.

Lines were short at a station along the south service road of the Long Island Expressway near Exit 48, Round Swamp Road. But Nassau County police officers maintained a presence, blocking off entrances and dictating when drivers could enter in an effort to maintain order.

Other stations, which had lines that stretched for blocks Tuesday, had lines of cars that could be counted on one or two hands Wednesday.

All north-south parkways in Nassau and Suffolk counties remained closed south of Montauk Highway and Merrick Road, according to the New York State Department of Transportation website, along with the entire length of Ocean Parkway.

As of Tuesday, service had been restored to most New York City subway lines -- though, it remained limited on many. For instance, the R train is operating in two sections -- from Forest Hills-71st Avenue to 34th Street-Herald Square and from Jay Street-Metro Tech to Bay Ridge-95th Street.

There is no service between 34th Street and Jay Street.

Customers are advised to check revised post-storm schedules and to leave extra travel time to destinations.

The Holland Tunnel reopened to traffic Wednesday, though the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, formerly the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, remains out of service as does the Queens-Midtown Tunnel.

With Mark Harrington

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