It has been over two weeks since Hurricane Sandy rolled into the New York tri-state area, and the eastern seaboard is slowly coming back to life. Power has been restored to millions who lost it during the superstorm, in New York City limited subway and bridge transit has been restored, and rescue and relief workers are working hard to pick up the pieces.
There is still a great deal of work left to do.
More than 80 homes in Breezy Point alone have burned to the ground. In the latest announcement from CNN, the death toll is still rising. The most recent update counts at least 113 dead across several states, 43 of them in the New York City limits. Of the 2.1 million people who lost power, there are still about 28,500 in the coastal areas of Long Island awaiting service resumption.
According to utility company ConEdison, electricity on Staten Island has returned to all but a few dozen homes in the city’s southernmost borough. However, the damage there goes well beyond the power grid.
On Sunday, Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of Homeland Security, arrived in Staten Island for the second time this month, walking through the destruction, surveying the relief work and progress. On this most recent visit she identified housing as the number one priority.
Some of the prolonged outages resulted from preventative measures taken before Sandy even made landfall. The hurricane’s surge raised sea level at least fourteen feet in some areas, flooding Battery Park, Chelsea and the East Village. ConEdison shut the power off in lower Manhattan, hoping to limit the damage the water could to do their equipment.
The slow return to normalcy has prompted a larger investigation into the structure and operational capacity of New York’s electrical system. New York also has one of the oldest power grids in the country, built in the early 20th century.
A week ago, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo began an investigation into how utility companies responded to Sandy, and whether or not they were prepared to take a storm surge like that in the first place. The commission will also look into the roles of various state regulatory agencies in his state’s utility system.
That same day, Michael Hervey, chief operating officer and chief executive officer of the Long Island Power Authority, the same company serving the storm-ravaged Rockaways, in Brooklyn, stepped down from his position. According to Newsday, Hervey had been looking to resign before the storm hit. However, Hervey’s resignation does coincide with his company’s confession that it was behind schedule on routine tree trimming around power lines, prior to these outages.
“We need to seriously overhaul the energy regulatory and power distribution in this state,” Gov. Cuomo told reporters at Tuesday’s press conference.
Gallery by Kate Morris on Hurricane Sandy Below: