Superstorm Sandy: First Responders Get Gas Priority in Storm Aftermath

PHOTO: People in cars and on foot line up for free gas in the Jamaica neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
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Now that the clouds have cleared and the lights have come back on for many New Yorkers, the east coast is taking strides to restore normalcy in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Transportation

On Saturday New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 80 percent of the NY subway system has been restored. All subway lines except the G train are now running to some extent, according to the MTA website.

"This is a major step forward in the resumption of regular subway service in New York City," Cuomo said. "Once again, subway customers have a direct link between Brooklyn and Manhattan, giving them a fast and reliable way to get to their jobs, their schools and their homes."

The Metropolitan Transit Authority tweeted throughout Saturday as it restored subway lines in the city. Full service has returned to the 4, 5, 6 and 7 trains, linking Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens via subway for the first time since trains were suspended Sunday evening.

The subway returned to limited service Thursday after Sandy crippled transit between the five boroughs on Monday, prompting the Metropolitan Transit Authority to call it the most severe flooding the subway system has seen in 108 years. With Manhattan-Brooklyn subways out of service, commuters waited in long lines to take shuttle buses across the East River to work.

New Jersey Transit's Northeast Corridor, which extends from Trenton Transit Center to New York Penn Station, was operational on Friday after a week-long service suspension. The remaining NJT lines are still suspended.

Fuel

This morning, Gov. Cuomo told New Yorkers that "help is on the way."

About 8 million gallons of fuel have been delivered and another 28 million en route.

"Do not panic. I know there is anxiety about fuel...The situation has been remedied. Gas stations will be getting fuel," Cuomo said.

Mobile fuel stations set up by the Department of Defense will also used to distribute free gas in the metro New York area. There will be a 10-gallon limit per person.

New Yorkers eager to fill up their tanks flocked to the free fuel stations, however they have been asked to stay away until first responders get their gas.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive orderFriday night to ration gasoline for cars in 12 New Jersey counties, after more than half the stations in New Jersey and Long Island shut down because of the storm, resulting in hours-long lines for customers and threatening a gas shortage. Under Christie's order, car owners with odd numbered license plates can get gas on odd days, and car owners with even numbered license plates can get gasoline on even days.

"This system will ease the strain on those gas stations still operating, while we work to bring more online for the public to access fuel, in a manner that is fair, easy to understand, and less stressful," Christie said.

Some gas stations already sold out, while others have the fuel but no power to pump it.

For JoAnne Hughes, who waited in line Friday afternoon, too much time could mean not seeing her father before he undergoes an emergency bypass at a hospital 40 miles away.

"His surgery is at 2 p.m.," she said. "That gives me about two hours to get gas. I hope I make it." She'd already waited at least 40 minutes, and said she had no idea how long it could be.

In addition to New Jersey shortages, two-thirds of gas stations in the New York metro area are out of gas, too.

This morning, during a FEMA briefing with governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, President Obama said "we still have a long way to go" but everyone is putting in "120 percent" effort.

"We don't have patience for bureaucracy. We don't have patience for red tape," Obama said.

The president listed the five steps currently being taken: restoring power, pumping out water from flooded areas, making sure people's needs are being taken care of, removing debris and getting National Guard in place.

Rescue

Five days after Superstorm Sandy struck the east coast, Sgt. Bill Shalleesh and the rest of the New York Police Department's aviation team, are still flying over the wreckage to save people from rooftops.

Some homes are flooded, damaged by debris or no longer stand because they were washed away, and the death toll climbed above 100 on Friday.

"It's a little disturbing, a little heart-wrenching when you see," Shalleesh said, adding that his neighborhood got hit hard, too.

The aviation team rescued five adults and one child that day.

But Staten Island and the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens were hit hardest, he said. A fire broke out in Breezy Point Monday night, destroying dozens of homes. In Staten Island, the flooding was so bad that some homes were swept off their foundation and washed to a marsh.

"It almost looks like a wrecking ball just came through and just swept these homes out from this high up in the air," Shalleesh said, looking down at Staten Island. "It almost looks like toothpicks just scattered everywhere across this borough."

In the police department's harbor unit, where the 8- to 10-foot surge caused boats to washed from one side of the Staten Island Marina to the other, officers had to get creative in their rescue efforts.

PHOTOS: Superstorm Sandy's Wide Swath of Destruction

"We took zodiacs, john boats, rafts, whatever floatation devices we had," said Captain Anthony Russo of the NYPD Harbor Unit. "We were walking these rafts through the streets of Staten Island and pulling people out of their homes."

Electricity

Cheers of joy erupted in many New York neighborhoods Friday night when lights flickered on, signaling a return to power after days in the dark. For many, it meant they could finally return to their abandoned apartments. For others, it meant a return to normalcy at last.

Lower Manhattan lost power when the Hurricane Sandy surge caused an explosion at the ConEd substation at 14th street and FDR Drive Monday night. When traffic lights began working again Friday, elated screams echoed in Soho, Chelsea and other neighborhoods that had been deprived of heat, light and elevators.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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