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Utility workers check power lines in Point Pleasant, N.J. More than a week after Superstorm Sandy, about 750,000 customers in New York and New Jersey were still out of power.
JULIO CORTEZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 11/9/2012
The mounting criticism came as New York City and Long Island followed New Jersey's lead and announced odd-even gasoline rationing to deal with fuel shortages and long lines at gas stations; the Federal Emergency Management Agency started bringing mobile homes into the region; and Cuomo said the storm could cost New York State alone $33 billion.
New Jersey did not have a damage estimate of its own, but others have put Sandy's overall toll at up to $50 billion, making it the second-most-expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans in 2005.
Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states, with most of the dead in New York and New Jersey.
The power industry's defenders have pointed out that Sandy was huge and hit the nation's most densely populated corridor. By the Energy Department's reckoning, it left more people in the dark than any other storm in U.S. history.
It did more than knock down power lines; it flooded switching stations and substations, forcing workers to take apart hundreds of intricate components, clean them, replace some of them, rewire others and put it all back together. Only after these stations are re-energized can workers go out and repair lines.
In Rockaway Beach in Queens, crews worked Thursday to inspect the flooded, muck-filled utility tunnels that carry current. Before they descended into the manholes, Ed Sellman used a 3,400-gallon vacuum truck to suck up the sand coating the subterranean cables.
"We try to get it clean, so when they go down there to do the inspections, they can see and aren't working in mud like pigs," Sellman said.
Around the region, though, customers were frustrated and in some cases furious, complaining that they were being left in the dark about when power would be restored.
Ralph Barone of Staten Island said he saw a Consolidated Edison crew in his neighborhood on Thursday for the first time since Sandy killed the power.
"The problem is that they won't tell you anything about when the electricity will come back," he said. "My wife is freezing. You need a flashlight to use the bathroom. It gets old."
Barone works assembling meters for another power company, "so I understand it's a big job," he said. "But nine days is too long."
New York's Democratic governor blasted the utilities as "nameless, faceless" monopolies that weren't up to the job, complaining: "They ran out of poles, believe it or not. How do you run out of poles?"