Heat fails in some Sandy-hit homes as temperatures plummet

Warren Parke's home was one of 50 in Warren Parke's home was one of 50 in Island Park fueled by natural gas that lost heat this week. (Jan. 23, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Jeff Tarantino's home still needs new flooring and electrical systems because of superstorm Sandy, but Wednesday afternoon he had a more immediate concern -- how to keep warm.

"Right now," he said, shivering, "we're not."

Tarantino's home was one of 50 in Island Park fueled by natural gas that lost heat between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

The extreme cold Tuesday night froze moisture left in the homes' regulators by Sandy, blocking the flow of gas, said National Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd.

National Grid was working on restoring heat to the final home at 8:40 p.m., said Ladd, adding that National Grid responded immediately to calls it received Tuesday night.

"Nobody will be without heat tonight," Ladd said Wednesday afternoon.

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The second day of Long Island's cold spell brought continued below-average temperatures, delayed morning rush-hour trains and caused the opening of warming centers offering relief from the frigid weather.

The noontime temperature Wednesday at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma was 17 degrees, with a wind chill of 5 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, which predicted temperatures Thursday would remain in the low 20s.

Trains on several branches of the Long Island Rail Road were delayed Wednesday morning as a result of signal trouble and broken rail conditions believed to be related to the cold weather, spokesman Sal Arena said. Service was on or close to schedule by early afternoon.

The LIRR announced that, as a result of the cold, station waiting rooms would stay open around the clock until Monday, when regular closing times go back into effect.

Hempstead Town opened 14 warming stations, most of which will remain open until 4:45 p.m. Thursday. Oyster Bay Town opened three stations Wednesday, Southampton Town has three open until 4 p.m. Thursday, the Town of Riverhead's senior center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Hempstead Village's warming station at Kennedy Memorial Park will open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. until temperatures turn warmer. "It is very important that everyone does everything that they can to stay warm," Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. said.

In Lindenhurst, Jessica and Steve Juliano and their 8-month-old daughter, Bella, have been using three temporary electric heaters given to them by FEMA to stay warm on the second floor of their Sandy-gutted home. They moved back on New Year's Day, and the first few weeks weren't bad, they said. Then the temperatures dropped.

"This morning was the worst," Jessica said Wednesday. "We were wearing scarves because it was just so, so cold. It was bitter."

The downstairs -- living room, playroom and office for Steve, a software engineer who works from home -- are unlivable, said the couple, both 30. The heaters have made it "not bad" upstairs in the couple's and Bella's bedrooms, as well as Steve's temporary office in a spare bedroom. But it's impossible to spend much time in the kitchen and bathroom, which they describe as "freezing."

At night they bring their daughter to bed with them. "We're all keeping each other warm," Jessica said.

The electric heaters have brought some comfort -- and an inflated electric bill. Already, Steve said, he's paying hundreds more than usual. Next month, he said, he anticipates that "It's going to be through the roof."

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"It's tough," Jessica said. "We just say, as long as we have our health and our lives, we can deal with the rest. But it is hard."

In Island Park, Tarantino said a rental home he owns on Kingston Boulevard, next to his own home, also lost heat Tuesday night. He said he lent the tenants an electric fireplace.

He said his home suffered about $35,000 in damage during Sandy and he is still trying to fix it. National Grid restored his heat Tuesday night, but he smelled gas Wednesday morning, so the gas company cut his heat and went to work on that problem.

Also on Kingston Boulevard, Warren Parke said he had been without heat since 4 a.m. Wednesday. He and his wife, who is getting over the flu, were keeping warm with only blankets, he said.

"We have no other means other than turning on the stove," Parke said. "It's going to be cold tonight."

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