In Sandy’s wake, millions try to make do without electricity or gas

Photo of Manhattan's skyline published on Twitter by @JoshDorner.
 
Four days after hurricane Sandy swept through the East Coast of the United States, millions of people are still without power. And now they are facing severe gas shortages too. Those who do have access to electricity – at least enough of it to charge their smartphones – have taken to social media to share images of their strange new world.
 
New York and New Jersey are the worst-affected states. As of Friday, more than 1.3 million homes and businesses were still without power in New York, and 1.4 million in New Jersey. Perhaps the most striking images of the electricity blackout come from New York City, the “city that never sleeps” – but now looks quite sleepy, with half its skyline dark.
 
Lower Manhattan in the dark; upper Manhattan flooded in light. Published on Twitter by Humans of New York.
 
This video, filmed on a drive around the streets of Manhattan, captures just how eerie the Big Apple looks without power. It was filmed Wednesday night, but the situation had not improved much by Friday.
 
 
Southern Manhattan remains in the dark, so many of its residents are trekking to the north of the island -  some on a daily basis - in search of electricity. Those who are lucky to have friends in the north stay warm in their apartments, and use their showers. Others shower at gyms and charge their phones in coffee shops.
 
One of our Observers who lives in lower Manhattan, Alexis Steil, says:
 
After waking up on Tuesday morning without power, we walked north until we found electricity and charged our phones, made some calls, etcetera. In the evening we went home, but since there was still no power and we were hearing reports that the power would be out for a number of days, we decided to move up to my parents’, who live on the Upper West Side. Most people I know living in the no-power zone are also staying with friends or family in upper Manhattan or in Brooklyn. Hotels are pretty much 100 percent full.
 
One of our Observers who lives in Brooklyn, Adam Keleman, adds:
 
Here in northern Brooklyn we’ve barely lost any power, so many people from lower Manhattan have migrated into Brooklyn until things are sorted. They just walked across the Williamsburg Bridge [which links Manhattan to Brooklyn]. Most folks are working from home, until the subways are back up. It’s a strange atmosphere – people have been going out and partying every night. The bars and restaurants are packed.
 
Some kind souls have even decided to share their electricity with strangers.
 
Photo published on Facebook by Sean Elrige.
 
Bikes used to generate electricity during Occupy Wall Street have been put back to work to help people recharge their phones.
 
Photo courtesy of NY Natives
 
Meanwhile, many New Yorkers are expressing outrage over news reports that generators are sitting idle in Central Park, in preparation for Saturday’s New York City marathon, which is scheduled to go ahead as planned.
 
 
Electricity cuts have also led to a major gas crisis, as many gas stations can no longer operate their pumps. Lines stretch for miles in some parts of New York and New Jersey.
 
Video published on YouTube by Andrew Drumm.
 
Some working gas stations have simply run out of gas in the face of heavy demand.
 
A gas station in Long Island. Photo published on Twitter by AnnMarie.
 
One of our Observers in New York, Priya Shamsundar, tells us she is desperate to find gas to keep her car running:
 
There is no petrol available in Queens and Brooklyn. I have been to approximately 10 gas stations within my neighborhood and each gas station did not have any gas available. I'm a nurse, so my hospital is making arrangements for me to stay there overnight. Many doctors and nurses have no way to get to work. This situation is becoming alarming. 
 
As tempers flare, police have been deployed to gas stations to keep the peace.
 
A gas station in Roxbury, New Jersey. Photo published on Twitter by @JohnCholish.
 
Residents of New York and New Jersey may have to wait another week before life starts getting back to normal. Utility companies say they may not be able to completely fix their electrical grid until next weekend. In the meantime, many people commenting on social networks are seeing this as a test of their wills – and of the modern world.
 
 
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Gaelle Faure. 
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