Sandy: 380K still in the dark; some transit restored

An Ardsley police officer lights traffic flares at An Ardsley police officer lights traffic flares at the intersection of Ashford Ave and Saw Mill River Road due to power outages from Hurricane Sandy. (Oct. 31, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

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Two days after Hurricane Sandy's deadly winds stopped blowing, more than 380,000 people in the Hudson Valley remained without power Wednesday -- and some of them could be for weeks.

Utility companies said the impact was twice as great as 2011's devastating Hurricane Irene -- and estimated that bringing power back up would take anywhere from six days to several weeks.

"This is the worst," Orange & Rockland spokesman Mike Donovan said.

In New York, Sandy was blamed for at least 30 deaths, including five in the Hudson Valley and 18 in New York City, and about 1.9 million people remained in the dark Wednesday night. The estimated damages: $6 billion in lost revenue statewide, and untallied billions more in damage to infrastructure and property.

Power should be restored "sooner in Westchester" than Long Island, where 90 percent of the residences and businesses were without power, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, without specifying a timetable.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who joined Cuomo and other officials in a flyover survey of damaged areas Wednesday, said a federal dewatering team from Illinois and workers from around the country are headed to New York City to help clear the tunnels.

"One of the major problems is water in the tunnels," Cuomo said, explaining that Con Edison keeps most of its equipment in these tunnels.

A spokeswoman for Con Edison said more than 3,000 wires were down and 800 roads closed in Westchester, where more than 202,000 businesses and homes are without power. She estimated that power won't be fully restored until at least Tuesday.

A statement from Orange & Rockland Utilities Wednesday said most of its blacked-out customers should have power within 10 days, but full restoration could take weeks. NYSEG reported that service had been restored to about 57 percent of those affected by the storm.

Cuomo: We will come back stronger

Cuomo joined Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Schumer, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and other government leaders Wednesday flying over New York City, the Hudson Valley and Long Island, surveying some of the areas most devastated by the superstorm.

There will be limited service on Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Railroad lines, which resumed service Wednesday afternoon for the first time since the storm. The New Haven Line will run from Stamford to Grand Central Station, while the Harlem line will run from Mount Kisco to Grand Central. Service on the other lines remained suspended.

While damage to the subway system was extensive, authorities said 14 of the city's 23 subway lines would be running by Thursday morning's rush hour.

"As New Yorkers we've gone through dark times before," Cuomo said. "We came back and we came back even stronger."

Cuomo appeared again for brief remarks during a 10 p.m. press conference, when he announced fares for subways and rails would be waived through Friday, to encourage people to use mass transit instead of driving into the city. Previously, fares had been waived for buses.

Police, Cuomo said, would also enforce a strict requirement that cars entering the city have at least two passengers. The temporary requirement will start at 6 a.m. Thursday and remain in effect through midnight.

"After checking out the damage from a helicopter, Astorino said: "This was a devastating, deadly storm for Westchester."

Downed trees posed the most serious problem in the region, he said, not flooding.

As for Metro-North, waterlogged substations that cannot provide third-rail power and washed-out sections of track are posing problems.

Astorino said he was "amazed" at the coastal devastation, including damage to the boardwalk and ice casino at Rye Playland.

HELP IS ON THE WAY

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Hurricane Sandy has inflicted "billions" in damage and President Barack Obama has been supportive, Cuomo said. "We expect the federal government to pick up the lion's share" of the cost, he said. The governor also stressed that bolstering infrastructure is crucial because "this is going to happen again" and we have to build stronger, better bridges, tunnels and roads.

The president toured New Jersey Wednesday, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged him to skip New York City because officials are overwhelmed with storm recovery.

Under federal rules, the county would be eligible for federal relief aid if Hurricane Sandy caused more than $3.2 million worth of damage, Astorino said.

"The threshold will be met," he said.

State Sen. David Carlucci urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare Rockland County a federal disaster area.

TRANSIT, ROADS SLOWLY RAMPING UP

Westchester was among the Hudson Valley's hardest-hit counties. In North Salem, two boys were killed when a tree struck their house and a Yonkers man died when his car hit a tree.

Most major roads and bridges have reopened, but the Bronx River Parkway remained partially closed Wednesday. Its southbound lanes were opened Wednesday morning and the northbound lanes were expected to be opened later Wednesday, officials said.

The Sound Shore communities took the brunt of Sandy's powerful winds, as in Mamaroneck, where 70 roads were closed and more than 60 percent of the town was without power.

Officials still weren't sure how badly New York City's subways were damaged -- inspectors couldn't access most of the system because its tunnels were still flooded Wednesday. With 14 of the city's 23 subway lines set to restore limited service Thursday, Bloomberg said it will be at least several days before some subway lines begin running again. Westchester's Bee-Line buses are operating Wednesday.

While Sandy wasn't accompanied by the torrential downpours forecast by some weather models, storm surges caused "unprecedented" flooding in train tunnels around New York City, an Amtrak spokesman said.

REGION TO REMAIN UNPLUGGED FOR A WHILE

In all, more than 377,000 Hudson Valley homes and businesses remained without power Wednesday night.

In addition to Westchester's more than 200,000 outages, there were 76,540 in Rockland County and 58,164 in Orange County, NYSEG and Orange & Rockland Utilities reported. Putnam, Ulster and Dutchess counties also reported tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power.

A Con Ed spokeswoman said crews from San Francisco utility PSE&G -- part of an army of 700 outside contractors -- arrived in New York Wednesday and could hit the ground after a series of briefings.

In Westchester County, Con Ed and NYSEG crews were working to restore power to customers, but the utilities asked for patience from customers as they tackled record outages.

"To put this storm and the current damage into perspective, the day after Irene was warm and sunny and we were able to begin our restoration work immediately," NYSEG president Mark Lynch said in a statement. "That restoration effort across the NYSEG service area took about eight days. Today we are still fighting inclement weather . . . and the damage to our facilities appears to be much worse than it was following Irene."

ROCKLAND HIT HARD

In Rockland County, dozens of residents along the Hudson River may lose their homes from floodwaters brought on by Hurricane Sandy, while tens of thousands are expected to be left without power for up to two weeks.

One of the hardest-hit areas was Stony Point, where homes were severely damaged by 15-foot storm surges.

Officials ordered an evacuation for low-lying areas by the river Tuesday, but not everyone complied. Local fire companies launched six boats that rescued 25 people from their second-story windows Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

More than 100 roads remained closed or partially closed in Clarkstown. An emergency order to stay off the roads there was lifted at 6 p.m.

In Ramapo, there were still 60 roads closed as crews work to clean up the mess.

Orangetown -- where Sandy claimed the life of 51-year-old Jeffrey Chanin after a tree fell on his home -- waterfront apartments were flooded in Nyack and Piermont and their marinas were ruined.

About 70 streets remained closed but travel restrictions were no longer in effect.

For many, it made for a subdued Halloween, with downed trees and power lines, and pitch-black neighborhoods discouraging trick-or-treaters. Community events were postponed or canceled.

Astorino, the father of three young children, said that while it may be disappointing, "it [was] best not to go out."

With Sarah Armaghan, John Dyer, Nik Bonopartis, Tim O'Connor, Meghan Murphy, Christian Wade, Kari Granville, Thomas Zambito, Karl deVries and The Associated Press

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