U.S. disaster relief in a race against freezing cold

Sat Nov 3, 2012 11:33pm GMT

By Joseph Ax and Jeanine Prezioso

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fuel supplies headed toward disaster zones in the U.S. Northeast on Saturday and a million customers regained electricity as near freezing temperatures threatened to add to the misery of coastal communities devastated by superstorm Sandy.

The power restorations relit the skyline in Lower Manhattan for the first time in nearly a week and allowed 80 percent of the New York City subway service to resume, but more than a million homes and businesses still lacked power, down from 3.5 million on Friday.

The power outages combined with a heating oil shortage meant some homes could go cold as unseasonably frigid weather sets in. Forecasters saw temperatures dipping into the upper 30s Fahrenheit (around 3 degrees Celsius) on Saturday night with freezing temperatures expected next week.

In Staten Island, the New York City borough whose half a million residents bore the brunt of Sandy, people tried to stay warm.

Tom Clark, 43, and family members were burning wood in a steel drum on their front yard. Clark said the family and their dogs planned to go stay at his mother-in-law's heated house.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Staten Island on Friday amid assertions by some angry residents that they had been ignored by emergency relief workers.

The weather forecast remains bleak. An aggressive early-season "Nor'easter" storm was expected to hit the battered New England coast next week with strong winds and heavy rain.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Saturday urged those without power and heat - especially the elderly and other vulnerable groups - to head to shelters where they could keep warm and receive food.   Continued...

Residents try to keep warm as they line up for gasoline at a temporary fueling station at the National Guard armory in the Staten Island Borough of New York, November 3, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford
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