NEW YORK, Nov 5 – Children flocked to reopened schools across New York on Monday for the first time since superstorm Sandy, but colder weather piled on the misery for hundreds of thousands of people still lacking power.,
The sight of yellow school buses crisscrossing the Big Apple marked a major step back to normality for a city that suffered unprecedented damage from the hurricane-strength storm, which struck a week ago.
About one million children were back at their desks, with only 101 schools out of 1,700 still shut due to storm damage or because they were being used as emergency shelters. Many of those were to open in new locations on Wednesday.
Monday’s commute tested the recovering transit system to the maximum, with some passengers crammed into buses and trains, or walking down Manhattan sidewalks punctuated with growing piles of uncollected garbage.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the buses and subway trains in New York, said the system was up to 80 percent capacity.
Buses in neighboring New Jersey were up to 90 percent, but the major commuter rail link across the Hudson River to Manhattan remained shut.
With public transport still limited, more people than usual relied on cars — if they could find fuel. Despite improvements in restoring supplies, filling the tank remained a nightmare, with huge lines and rationing in New Jersey.
“I waited eight hours at the station to finally get 30 dollars of gas, which was the limit,” yellow cab driver Sherif Roby said in New York. “Many of my friends have been unable to work because they can’t find gas.”
Restoration of electricity continued apace, but that was little comfort to the remaining 1.4 million people who have already spent a week without light, and often heat, and still likely to faced at least several days more.
The US Department of Energy said that 779,779 homes and businesses in New Jersey were in the dark, a fifth of all customers, while New York state had another 487,952 outages, six percent of the total.
Con Edison, the main power company for New York City, said 80 percent of its customers had their electricity restored, while New Jersey’s PSEG utility said it expected that its last repairs would be complete by Friday.
Another immediate challenge was Tuesday’s presidential election.