NEW YORK — Motorists fumed in long lines at gas stations around the metropolitan area and screamed at each other Friday morning as fuel shortages hindered the region’s efforts to recover four days after Superstorm Sandy.
The U.S. death toll climbed past 90 in 10 states, and included two boys who were torn from their mother’s grasp by rushing floodwaters in Staten Island during the storm. Their bodies were found in a marshy area on Thursday.
With fuel deliveries in the East disrupted by storm damage and many gas stations lacking electricity to run their pumps, gasoline became a precious commodity, especially for those who depend on their cars for their livelihoods.
Some drivers complained of waiting three and four hours in line, only to see the pumps run out when it was almost their turn. Cars ran out of gas before they reached the front of the line. Police officers were assigned to gas stations to maintain order.
At a Hess gas station in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, the line snaked at least 10 blocks through narrow and busy streets. That caused confusion among other drivers, some of whom accidentally found themselves in the gas line. People got out of their cars to yell at them.
In addition, at least 60 people were lined up to fill red gas cans for their generators.
Vince Levine got in line in his van at 5 a.m. By 8 a.m., he was still two dozen cars from the front. “I had a half-tank when I started. I’ve got a quarter-tank now,” he said.
“There’s been a little screaming, a little yelling. And I saw one guy banging on the hood of a car. But mostly it’s been OK,” he said.
Cabdriver Harum Prince joined a line for gasoline in Manhattan that stretched 17 blocks down 10th Avenue, with about half the cars yellow cabs, a crucial means of getting around in a city with a still-crippled mass transit system.
“I don’t blame anybody,” he said. “God, he knows why he brought this storm.”
In Queens, a man was charged Thursday with flashing a gun at another motorist who complained he was cutting in line.
More 3.8 million homes and business in the East were still without power, down from a peak of 8.5 million.
On Thursday, police recovered the bodies of two brothers, ages 2 and 4, who were swept away after the SUV driven by their mother, Glenda Moore, stalled in Sandy’s floodwaters Monday evening.
“Terrible, absolutely terrible,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said as he announced the bodies of Brandon and Connor had been found on the third day of a search that included police divers and dogs. “It just compounds all the tragic aspects of this horrific event.”
The discovery was another heartbreaking blow to Staten Island, a hard-hit borough that residents say has been largely forgotten.
Garbage is piling up, a stench hangs in the air and mud-caked mattresses and couches line the streets. Residents picked through their belongings, searching for anything that could be salvaged.
“We have hundreds of people in shelters,” said James Molinaro, the borough’s president. “Many of them, when the shelters close, have nowhere to go because their homes are destroyed. These are not homeless people. They’re homeless now.”
Molinaro complained the American Red Cross “is nowhere to be found” — and some residents questioned what they called the lack of a response by government disaster relief agencies.
A relief fund is being created just for storm survivors on Staten Island, Molinaro and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Friday. And Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and a top Federal Emergency Management Agency official planned to tour the island.
There were hopeful signs, though, that life would soon begin to return to something approaching normal.
Consolidated Edison, the power company serving New York, said electricity should be restored by Saturday to customers in Manhattan and to homes and offices served by underground power lines in Brooklyn.
More subway and rail lines opened Friday, and the Holland Tunnel into New York was open to buses.
But the prospect of better times ahead did little to mollify residents who spent another day and night in the dark.
“It’s too much. You’re in your house. You’re freezing,” said Geraldine Giordano, 82, a lifelong resident of the West Village. Near her home, city employees had set up a sink where residents could get fresh water, if they needed it. There were few takers. “Nobody wants to drink that water,” Giordano said.
“Everybody’s tired of it already,” added Rosemarie Zurlo, a movie makeup artist. She said she planned to temporarily abandon her powerless apartment in the West Village to stay with her sister in Brooklyn. “I’m leaving because I’m freezing. My apartment is ice cold.”
There was increasing worry about the outage’s effect on elderly residents.
Community groups have been going door-to-door on the upper floors of darkened Manhattan apartment buildings, and city workers and volunteer in hard-hit Newark, N.J., delivered meals to senior citizens and others stuck in their buildings.
“It’s been mostly older folks who aren’t able to get out,” said Monique George of Manhattan-based Community Voices Heard. “In some cases, they hadn’t talked to folks in a few days. They haven’t even seen anybody because the neighbors evacuated. They’re actually happy that folks are checking, happy to see another person. To not see someone for a few days, in this city, it’s kind of weird.”
Along the devastated Jersey Shore and New York’s beachfront communities, a lack of electricity was the least of anyone’s worries.
Residents were allowed back in their neighborhoods Thursday for the first time since Sandy slammed the coastline Monday night. Some were relieved to find only minor damage, but many others were wiped out.
“A lot of tears are being shed today,” said Dennis Cucci, whose home near the ocean in Point Pleasant Beach was heavily damaged. “It’s absolutely mind-boggling.”
After touring a flood-ravaged area of northeastern New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said it was time to act, not mourn.
“We’re in the ‘triage and attack phase’ of the storm, so we can restore power, reopen schools, get public transportation back online and allow people to return to their homes if they’ve been displaced,” he said.
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