Post Sandy, manic Monday begins for commuters

Associated Press Modified: November 5, 2012 at 8:32 am •  Published: November 5, 2012
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Repair crews have been laboring around-the-clock in response to the worst natural disaster in the transit system's 108-year history, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota said Sunday.

"We are in uncharted territory with bringing this system back because of the amount of damage and saltwater in our system," Lhota said. "It's an old system ... and it's just had a major accident."

World Trade Center steam fitter Scott Sire got to Manhattan on time, at 6:05 a.m. off a regular Academy bus that took him from home in Hazlet, N.J. in 40 minutes. He normally takes a PATH train, but it's not running.

"Every day gets a little bit better," said the 49-year-old worker. "But we had a setback last night; we lost power, again, after a transformer blew — and the Cowboys lost, just after our lights went out!"

The MTA planned to take the unusual step of using flatbed trucks to deliver 20 subway cars to the hard-hit Far Rockaway section of Queens and set up a temporary shuttle line.

Though New York and New Jersey bore the brunt of Sandy's destruction, at its peak, the storm reached 1,000 miles across, killed more than 100 people in 10 states, knocked out power to 8.5 million homes and businesses and canceled nearly 20,000 flights. Damage has been estimated $50 billion, making Sandy the second most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina.

The superstorm also created a fuel shortage that has forced New Jersey to enforce odd-even rationing for motorists. But there was no rationing in New York City, where the search for gas became a maddening scavenger hunt over the weekend.

Sire said he felt lucky to fill his car tank, but he added: "We're a gallon away from turning into a Third World country."

The coming week could bring other challenges — namely an Election Day without power in polling places, and a nor'easter expected hit the area by Wednesday, with the potential for 55 mph gusts and more beach erosion, flooding and rain.

In New York, power has been restored to nearly 80 percent of its customers who were blacked out in the storm, but efforts to get everyone back on line could be hampered by more wet, windy weather. But crews were making some progress.

On the Upper West Side, 17-year-old Anna Riley-Shepard waited for her yellow school bus to take her to a private school in the Bronx. Her school has been without power for a week. It came back yesterday, they were told.

"You don't really realize how important a routine is until you're out of one," she said.

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Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz, Leanne Italie, Michael Hill, Karen Matthews, Larry Neumeister and Verena Dobnik contributed to this report in New York City. Contributions from Samantha Henry in Jersey City, Frank Eltman on Long Island and Jim Fitzgerald in Westchester County.