Sandy's aftermath causes nightmare commute, housing crisis

Mon Nov 5, 2012 11:59pm GMT

By Daniel Trotta and Philip Barbara

NEW YORK/BELMAR, New Jersey (Reuters) - Commuters battled unruly crowds and snarled traffic to return to work Monday, a week after superstorm Sandy devastated the U.S. Northeast, as authorities scrambled to clear debris ahead of more bad weather and put special measures in place to ensure residents could vote in Tuesday's presidential election.

Many of Sandy's victims were still suffering, and living conditions were harsh for tens of thousands of people unable to return to their homes. Some 1.4 million homes and businesses were due to endure another night of near-freezing temperatures without power or heat.

The devastation could also send ripples through Tuesday's presidential election, with President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney locked in a close race.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New Yorkers would be able to vote in any polling place - instead of just their assigned location - by presenting an affidavit, while in New Jersey storm-affected residents will be designated as overseas voters, allowing them to submit an absentee vote by fax or email.

An exhausted region now faces the prospect of a new storm. A strong "Nor'easter" was forecast to bring freezing temperatures and more rain and wind by the middle of the week, possibly flooding coastal areas that have yet to recover from Sandy.

"A 60-mile-an-hour wind with a street filled with all sorts of personal belongings and glass and fixtures, you could have a lot of dangerous material flying around," Cuomo said. "This storm on any other given day I don't think would have been life threatening. In this situation it's serious."

Cuomo also ratcheted up his criticism of the state's power companies. "The progress is unacceptable. To say that I am angry, to say that I am frustrated, disappointed, would be the understatement of the decade," he said.

The U.S. death toll rose to at least 113, and thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged by the gigantic storm, which slammed into the U.S. East Coast a week ago, bringing a record storm surge that flooded low-lying areas with seawater.   Continued...

People look through piles of clothes at a sand-covered parking lot, used as an unauthorized donation center, in the Rockaways neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York November 5, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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