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Falling temps add urgency to superstorm recovery

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 9:55 a.m. MDT

President Barack Obama visits the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for an update on the recovery from Hurricane Sandy that hit New York and New Jersey especially hard as well as much of the East Coast earlier this week, Saturday morning, Nov. 3, 2012, in Washington. He is joined by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, right, as he displays a photo of an Air Force C-17 transporting utility trucks to aid the devastated areas. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite, AP) President Barack Obama visits the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for an update on the recovery from Hurricane Sandy that hit New York and New Jersey especially hard as well as much of the East Coast earlier this week, Saturday morning, Nov. 3, 2012, in Washington. He is joined by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, right, as he displays a photo of an Air Force C-17 transporting utility trucks to aid the devastated areas. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite, AP)

NEW YORK — Storm victims went to church Sunday to pray for deliverance as cold weather settling in across the New York metropolitan area — and another drenching in the forecast — added to the misery of people already struggling with gasoline shortages and power outages.

Hundreds of parishioners in parkas, scarves and boots packed the pews and stood in the aisles for Mass at a chilly Church of St. Rose in storm-ravaged Belmar, N.J., where the floodwaters had receded but the streets were slippery with strong-smelling mud. Firefighters and police officers sat in the front rows and drew applause.

Roman Catholic Bishop David O'Connell said he had no good answer for why God would allow the destruction that Superstorm Sandy caused.

But he assured parishioners: "There's more good, and there's more joy, and there's more happiness in life than there is the opposite. And it will be back. And we will be back."

A woman scavenges a sack of onions discarded by a Coney Island supermarket in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 in New York. Many people in Coney Island are still living without heat, and some without electricity, six days after Sandy struck the region.  (Mark Lennihan, Associated Press) A woman scavenges a sack of onions discarded by a Coney Island supermarket in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 in New York. Many people in Coney Island are still living without heat, and some without electricity, six days after Sandy struck the region. (Mark Lennihan, Associated Press)

With temperatures dipping into the 30s overnight and close to 700,000 homes and businesses in New York City, its northern suburbs and Long Island still without electricity six days after the storm, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that many homes are becoming uninhabitable and that tens of thousands of people are going to need other places to stay.

Over the weekend, the city opened warming shelters in areas without power and Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged elderly people without heat to move to them. The city also began handing out 25,000 blankets to those who insisted on staying in their homes.

"Please, I know sometimes people are reticent to take advantage of services. The cold really is something that is dangerous," Bloomberg said.

Staten Island resident Sara Zavala had no power and was relying on a propane heater, but she was using it only during the day. She didn't want to go to sleep with it running at night.

A volunteer at Hoboken High School passes a wall of Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) intended for distribution to the public, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Hoboken, New Jersey. About 1 million homes and businesses across New Jersey are still without electricity due to Superstorm Sandy on Sunday, and officials say many of those customers may not have service restored until Wednesday.  ( John Minchillo, Associated Press) A volunteer at Hoboken High School passes a wall of Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) intended for distribution to the public, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Hoboken, New Jersey. About 1 million homes and businesses across New Jersey are still without electricity due to Superstorm Sandy on Sunday, and officials say many of those customers may not have service restored until Wednesday. ( John Minchillo, Associated Press)

"When I woke up, I was like, 'It's freezing.' And I thought, 'This can't go on too much longer,'" Zavala said. "And whatever this is we're breathing in, it can't be good for you. Mildew and chemicals and gasoline."

A rainy storm was in the forecast for the middle of the week, worrying those who got slammed by Sandy.

"Well, the first storm flooded me out, and my landlord tells me there's a big crack in the ceiling, so I guess there's a chance this storm could do more damage," John Lewis said at a shelter in New Rochelle, N.Y. "I was hoping to get back in there sooner rather than later, but it doesn't look good."

After the abrupt cancellation of Sunday's New York City Marathon, some of those who had been planning to run the 26.2-mile race through the city streets instead headed to hard-hit Staten Island to volunteer to help storm victims.

Thousands of other runners from such countries as Italy, Germany and Spain poured into Central Park to hold impromptu races of their own. A little more than four laps through the park amounted to a marathon.

Volunteer Jamie d'Amico, 25, of Fort Lee, helps sort through donations at Hoboken High School as surrounding neighborhoods remain without power due to damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Hoboken, New Jersey. About 1 million homes and businesses across New Jersey are still without electricity due to Superstorm Sandy on Sunday, and officials say many of those customers may not have service restored until Wednesday.  ( John Minchillo, Associated Press) Volunteer Jamie d'Amico, 25, of Fort Lee, helps sort through donations at Hoboken High School as surrounding neighborhoods remain without power due to damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Hoboken, New Jersey. About 1 million homes and businesses across New Jersey are still without electricity due to Superstorm Sandy on Sunday, and officials say many of those customers may not have service restored until Wednesday. ( John Minchillo, Associated Press)

"A lot of people just want to finish what they've started," said Lance Svendsen, organizer of a group called Run Anyway.

Though New York and New Jersey bore the brunt of the destruction, at its peak, the storm reached 1,000 miles across, killed more than 100 people in 10 states, knocked out power to 8.5 million homes and businesses and canceled nearly 20,000 flights. Damage has been estimated $50 billion, making Sandy the second most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina.

More than 900,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey were still without electricity.

With fuel deliveries cut off by storm damage and many metropolitan-area gas stations lacking the electricity needed to operate their pumps, drivers waited in line for hours for a chance at a fill-up, snapping at each other and honking their horns in frustration.

At a gas station in Mount Vernon, N.Y., north of New York City, 62 cars were lined up around the block Sunday morning even though it was closed and had no fuel.

Roxanne Boothe, right, use a flashlight as she walks a hallway at Sam Burt Houses, where she is president of the tenants association, checking residents on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 in Coney Island, N.Y.  The complex, which has been without power since Monday, flooded during superstorm Sandy and a 90-year-old woman who had lived there for more than 40 years drowned on the first floor. Roxanne Boothe, right, use a flashlight as she walks a hallway at Sam Burt Houses, where she is president of the tenants association, checking residents on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 in Coney Island, N.Y. The complex, which has been without power since Monday, flooded during superstorm Sandy and a 90-year-old woman who had lived there for more than 40 years drowned on the first floor. "We have no heat, no water, no electricity, itís dark in the whole building," said Boothe, frustrated that the Red Cross or FEMA assistance has not reached her neighborhood." (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) (Bebeto Matthews, AP)

"I heard they might be getting a delivery. So I came here and I'm waiting," said the first driver in line, Earl Tuck. He had been there at least two hours by 9 a.m., and there was no delivery truck in sight. But he said he would stick it out.

The cashier at the station, Ahmed Nawaz, said he wasn't sure when the pumps might be running again. "We are expecting a delivery. But yesterday we weren't expecting one, and we got one. So I don't know," he said.

Bloomberg said that resolving the gas shortages could take days. Across northern New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie imposed odd-even gas rationing that recalled the gasoline crisis of the 1970s.

Fears of crime, especially at night in darkened neighborhoods, persisted. Officers in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island early Saturday saw a man in a Red Cross jacket checking the front doors of unoccupied houses and arrested him on a burglary charge.

Runners board the Staten Island Ferry in New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. With the cancellation of the New York Marathon, hundreds of  runners, wearing their marathon shirts and backpacks full of supplies, took the ferry to hard-hit Staten Island and ran to neighborhoods hard hit by Superstorm Sandy to help.  (Craig Ruttle, Associated Press) Runners board the Staten Island Ferry in New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. With the cancellation of the New York Marathon, hundreds of runners, wearing their marathon shirts and backpacks full of supplies, took the ferry to hard-hit Staten Island and ran to neighborhoods hard hit by Superstorm Sandy to help. (Craig Ruttle, Associated Press)

After complaints about people posing as utility workers to gain access to people's homes, police on Long Island reminded residents that most repair work will be done outside so legitimate workers usually have no need to enter a home.

Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols in Wall, N.J.; Katie Zezima in Jersey City, N.J.; Jim Fitzgerald in Mount Vernon, N.Y.; and Verena Dobnik, AJ Connelly, Cara Anna and Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.

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