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Sandy Victims Struggle to Keep Warm as New Storm Nears

By DNAinfo Staff | November 5, 2012 7:28pm | Updated on November 6, 2012 9:13am

NEW YORK CITY — With temperatures plummeting, New Yorkers ravaged by Hurricane Sandy were trying desperately to stay warm as a massive new winter storm took aim at the city.

From Far Rockaway to Chelsea, people have struggled to survive without power, heat or hot water since the storm with no relief in sight as crews race to repair the city's severely damaged electrical and steam systems that still affect more than 80,000 residents.

In the meantime, desperate residents have been resorting to innovative — and in some cases dangerous — ways to stay warm, including using their ovens for heat.

Tow truck driver Eddie Pizarro, 44, who lives in Rockaway Beach, said his family uses the stove to keep the apartment warm.

“We boil water on the stove to heat the room up,” he said. “But the heat couldn’t reach the bedrooms so we all slept on quilts and blankets in the living room — near the kitchen.” 

“What can I say? I just thank God that we are okay."

Their building has not had power since the monster storm tore through New York City last Monday night, killing 40 and leaving hundreds of thousands in the dark.

Power has been restored to nearly all of the more than 200,000 Manhattan customers who lost electricity, but tens of thousands in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx remain in the dark. Hundreds of customers who got power back still have no heat because they rely on steam heat, which can't be turned back on until the pipes are checked for water, officials said.

Restoring steam is slow because water has to be cleared from within and around the pipes in order to prevent explosions — a painstaking process that could take another week to complete, officials said.

"We're working steam-main by steam-main," said John Miksad, Con Edison’s Senior Vice President of Electric Operations. "We've got a lot of water to remove from our system — just as folks are removing them from basements and subway tunnels and everything else."

He said the brunt of the steam outages were located in Manhattan south of 14th Street, and added that he hoped to restore steam heat to all outage customers by Sunday. 

Carmen Nunoz, who lives in a public housing development on Beach 84th Street, has been piling on extra layers to fight off the chill.

“It’s just so cold in my house. No heat," said the 58-year-old retiree, who was sifting through a pile of clothes Friday that volunteers left at Rockaway Boulevard and Beach 94th Street. "The power was back yesterday but still no heat.”

Nunoz has been putting on extra sweaters, gloves and wore five light jackets and a white puffy coat to keep warm.

“I had to put on two pairs of socks and three pants to be warm,” she said. “I am trying to find some pajamas now as I just can’t sleep in jeans all the time.”

The lack of heat has also been tough on the younger members of her family, including her 18-year-old son, who suffers from asthma, and her 2-year-old and 4-year-old grandchildren.

“It’s very hard for my two grandchildren ... to deal with the cold. My son is 18 and he had asthma also,” she added. “The heat should have been back. The whole building just had nothing to survive on. No food, no nothing.”

Tyron Gamble, 39,  the cold has hit his infant son at the Ocean Bay Apartment complex on Beach 54th Street particularly hard.

“It’s been rough. My son got too cold and he cried all the time,” he said. “I wrapped him in blankets but it didn’t help.”

The frigid temperatures have also been tough on his ailing mother.

“It took the toll on my mother. She had arthritis so she ached,” said Gamble, who lives on seventh floor. “It’s too hard for her to go up and down. She stepped one step at a time and stopped. It took her 10 minutes going down and 25 minutes to go up.”

Desite wearing two sweatpants, two coats, two blankets and two socks, Gamble wasn't able to fend off the chill.

“I didn’t have any gas or water to boil," he said. "I came out here for the sun."

Those left reeling by the storm have more bad news coming their way — a Nor'easter is developing off the Atlantic coast and taking aim on our area amid plunging temperatrues.

The tempest could bring wing gusts as high as 40 to 50 mph and up to 2 inches of rain when it arrives during the day on Wednesday.

"If we didn’t just have Sandy, I don’t know that we'd be making a big deal about this storm," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Tom Kines.

"The fact that it’s following in the heels with Sandy…it is going to be a big deal."

The biggest risk, he said, would be from falling trees and flying debris although storm surge could be an issue as well, depending on the wind direction.

"If the winds are northeasterly, it could push some water in," Kines said.

The MTA, which experienced severe flooding during Sandy, said that it is "monitoring" the storm.

Cold temperatures will be another factor for New Yorkers struggling without power.

The mercury was set to drop into the 30s Monday night and lows for the week will hover around 40 degrees. And highs will only reach into the 40s for the rest of the week, according to AccuWeather.com.

To heat his apartment at the Grand Street Guild on the Lower East Side, Armin Madera, 56, has been pushing a ceramic heater from room to room and boiling water on the stove to bathe, a technique employed by many in the building and around the city without heat.

"It's the only one I have," he said. "The heater warms about half of the room."

And while he has no water, he filled a bathtub before the blackout so he could flush the toilet and bathe.

"Luckily, we did have gas so I could warm the water to sponge-bathe myself," he said.

Ohters in the building decided to stay in their homes, no matter how cold they got.

Rafaela Diaz-Lopez, 94, a former shoe factory worker, tried to keep warm by tucking herself under blankets alongside a space heater.

During Sandy, she had stayed with a nearby relative — who along with a caregiver, dropped in to check on her every day — but hurried home after a few days.

"I wanted to be back," she said.

At the Fulton Hosues on Ninth Avenue between 16th and 19th streets, where some residents didn't even have gas, housing staff have been going door-to-door to check on residents and the National Guard has been handing out food water and blankets.

But the building is facing the prospect of not having heat until the weekend.

"We have cold water. We have power. We need the heat," said Emilio Feliciano, 82.
"Suffering," he added. "That's the name of the game."