Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Hurricane Sandy: Life without power

On Wednesday night 44 million in the Northeast still had no power. The scale of destruction brought by Hurricane Sandy has been beyond anything power companies have dealt with before.

By Jonathan Fahey and Scott MayerowitzAssociated Press / October 31, 2012

Barbara Brasel, (l.), pays Rosa Rosas for a slice of pizza and a glass of wine at Frank's Trattoria on First Avenue between East 21st Street and East 22nd Street in New York Wednesday. The establishment had water but no electricity or phone service. Brasel, who lives in the neighborhood and has no power or water, said it was her first time out since the storm.

Tina Fineberg/AP

Enlarge

New York

Homes grew chilly without heat. Food spoiled in refrigerators. Televisions remained silent. And people everywhere scurried for a spot to charge their cellphones.

Skip to next paragraph

Two full days after Superstorm Sandy ripped through the Northeast, most Americans who lost power tried to make the best of a situation that was beyond their control while utilities struggled to restore electricity — a massive job they warned could last well into next week.

Sandy blacked out some of the nation's most densely populated cities and suburbs, instantly taking away modern conveniences from Virginia to Massachusetts and as far west as the Great Lakes.

For power companies, the scale of the destruction was unmatched — more widespread than any blizzard or ice storm and worse than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"It's unprecedented: fallen trees, debris, the roads, water, snow. It's a little bit of everything," said Brian Wolff, senior vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, a group that lobbies for utilities.

Initially, about 60 million people were without power in 8.2 million homes and businesses. By Wednesday night, that number had fallen to roughly 44 million people in 6 million households and businesses.

Even as power slowly returned to some pockets, a new headache emerged: Backup batteries and generators running cellphone towers were running out of juice. One out of every five towers was down, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

That — plus more people relying on their cellphones to stay connected — overwhelmed the system in some areas, making it hard to place calls.

With many businesses and schools closed, people looked for ways to keep themselves entertained.

John Mazzeo, of Monroe, Conn., had a small generator that doesn't really provide him much power. But it was enough to keep his 7-year-old daughter occupied with a Christmas movie. Meals consisted of McDonald's and cereal.

In New York, Vildia Samaniego traveled four miles uptown to a bar, the Blarney Stone, to watch the Boston Celtics play the Miami Heat.

"I really needed to watch the basketball game," she laughed. "The place was packed. It's amazing how much you miss television."

Peter Nikac, a teacher who lives in Fairfield, Conn., took a more old-fashioned route: His family spent their time playing board games and sorting through photos.

"You get back to when we were young with no electronics," he said. "You realize you don't need a lot of that material. You get back to just doing simple things which is somewhat pleasing."

For others, the outage had graver consequences.

"I have several hundred dollars' worth of insulin in the refrigerator," said Joan Moore of New York's Staten Island, who is diabetic.

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Editors' picks