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STORM UPDATE - Cleanup efforts underway from SuperStorm Sandy

Bronx Times

Bronxites continued to get back on their feet from Hurricane Sandy after long days - and nights - of no electricity and nervous eyes on their car’s gas gauge.

The storm tore into homes, displacing thousands of homeowners.

Compounding the headache is the threat of a nor’easter blowing into the borough on Wednesday.

“We’re forecasting 1-2 inches of rainfall,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Pollina. “Not forecasting any snow - for right now.”

The major problem, he said, will be 20-30 mile an hour wind gusts, putting trees already weakened by Sandy at risk.

Beach erosion is another possibility, while a 2 1/2 foot storm surge could flood neighborhoods by the bay.

As of Monday afternoon, about 6,700 Con Edison customers remained in the dark, down from a high of around 61,000 after Sandy finished doing her worst after sweeping through Tuesday morning, Oct. 29.

Faced with worse power outages in heavily battered Staten Island and Queens, Con Ed said late Monday that remaining Bronx outages could extend into the weekend.

Those without power can go to one of forty warming centers throughout the Bronx from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For locations, as well as other emergency information, go to nyc.gov on the web.

Meanwhile, locals were helping bring aid to those badly in need.

The long vacant Kingsbridge Armory has been transformed into a relief center, with volunteers working round the clock to haul supplies to Bronx churches for distribution. Volunteers also worked the phones, calling on churches as far as Florida for donations. Collected food, baby supplies, bottled water and other items were shuttled to Bronx neighborhoods, along with hard-hit Queens and Staten Island.

“It takes a grassroots organization who knows what’s happening on the ground to channel information to bigger organizations,” said west Bronx City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, spearheading efforts inside the landmark castle.

He said he’s desperate for volunteers as the workload piles up.

Among those helping is Manhattanite SaMi Chester. He spent hours loading and unloading a truck from Convoy of Hope, a disaster response group.

“When people need help, you don’t ask questions,” said Chester.

Over the weekend, the Silver Beach Community Center become a central relief center for eastern Bronx residents. Volunteers shipped supplies to devastated Staten Island.

“The Bronx was hit hard during Hurricane Sandy,” said Councilman Jimmy Vacca, “but other areas in our city, such as Staten Island, were hit with incredible damage.”

Vacca was joined by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Joe Crowley at Silver Beach, where the trio lent a hand to volunteers, loading boxes of can goods and supplies for Staten Island residents.

With more recovery efforts needed, Vacca will host a weeklong collection drive for areas affected by Sandy, with help also coming from Community Board 10.

He’s asking anyone to donate cleaning supplies, non-perishable food and heavy-duty garbage bags to his office 3040 East Tremont Avenue from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Locally, power outages remain the big problem for some neighborhoods.

The bulk of Morris Park, impacted by days of no power, had its juice turned back on Sunday night. Pelham Parkway South near Lydig Avenue, however, remained in the dark on Monday.

In Woodlawn, power problems persisted at a nine-story building housing a large number of seniors, many with health issues.

Without power, seniors at the Mitchell-Lama building are stranded inside their homes, refusing to walk the dark corridors.

“There’s people who can’t get out,” said Jim Murphy, a 30-year tenant who’s become somewhat of a hall monitor, leading the elderly up and down stairwells.

“This is like the Old West,” said Peggy Hogan, 67, a 15-year tenant who called the outage the worst she’s lived through.

“I can’t use my oxygen machine,” said Jerry Binasinski, a senior living with COPD, a breathing condition. His electric-powered machine has been out of commission since the storm.

And with electricity problems, came gas problems after power was knocked out to pumps at gas stations across the borough and city.

Where deliveries were even possible, lines of cars stretched for blocks, with several hours wait, while drivers on foot with gas cans had similar long waits at the pump.

“My wife Hurricane Sandy left me stranded without gas,” joked resident George Hernandez. “I want a divorce.”

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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