No gas, and nowhere to go
As millions live without power or sanitation, or even gasoline, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it seems the North-East of America is getting its first big lesson in living without the access to the power grid and fresh water supplies that are taken for granted the rest of the time. While the big banks and financial institutions were largely up and running within 24 hours, millions of ordinary homes are last in the queue, giving way rightly to hospitals and schools, and wrongly to offices and factories. Shame also that it took a catastrophe to get America talking about Global Warming (see our story from last year about “Global Storming”)

It will be uncomfortable at times and relatively short-lived –up to several weeks in many cases. Although, look on the bright side, it may encourage folks to realise they can survive without the grid and save money doing it. It was only the well prepared who will have had the simple solar panel, charge controller and battery to manage their own power station

You could call them the “off-grid ready.”

For others, tempers frayed at the lack of fuel and zero guidance on when life might return to norma, the outages will complicate efforts to get mass transit systems rolling again, and will contribute to the troubles of housebound workers who need power for computers and cellphones. But some utilities plan to restore electricity first to hospitals and other critical locations.

The power outage and its aftermath have also brought a glut of wacky companies selling dubious solutions. Power for patriots, for example, a group which cynically exploits people’s fear of the next disaster in order to sell you a video on how build your own solar panels – a laudable aim, but there is a reason that most people buy their panels from legit suppliers – its high voltage box that can go wrong and if it blows up, you have had it.

Meanwhile here is the progress on fixing the problems:

Hundreds of thousands of NY State residents will have electricity restored in about three days, Con Ed said. Underground wires, in Brooklyn and surrounding areas, serve them
Customers in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx – whose power is delivered by overhead lines demolished by Sandy’s winds – will likely be without power for at least a week and, in some cases, up to several weeks.
In all, more than 22 percent of the Con Ed’s electricity customers in the city are in the dark.
New York and New Jersey, where Sandy made landfall Monday, continue to bear the brunt of the region’s outages. More than 2.6 million New Jersey customers are living without power, representing 65% of the state’s total, and nearly 2.1 million in New York state have been left in the dark, according to federal regulators. But outages were spreading to Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee on Tuesday.
The blackouts came despite preparations by utilities, after what many power companies said was the most severe storm ever to test their operations. “In many cases it’s worse than anybody thought in New Jersey,” said Deann Muzikar, a spokeswoman for Public Service Electric and Gas Co.
The utility pre-emptively shut down six electrical switching stations Monday, cutting power to 500,000 residents, Ms. Muzikar said. Still, about 1.3 million of its 2.2 million customers were without power Tuesday, she said, and electricity may not be fully restored for 10 days.
Jersey Central Power & Light, which provides power to communities along the coast that were among those hardest hit by the storm, said almost 85% of its 1.1 million New Jersey customers were in the dark Tuesday and many could remain without power for seven to 10 more days.
The utility had more than 1,600 line workers on the ground to repair electrical equipment and about 1,200 forestry crews to remove fallen trees and branches. But workers still were waiting for winds to die down so they could dispatch helicopter crews to assess damage to transmission lines, and for flood water to recede in some areas.
In New York City, where floodwaters swamped subway tunnels and parts of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn remained underwater, about 805,000 customers of Consolidated Edison were still without power Tuesday. Customers served by underground lines in Brooklyn and Manhattan are likely to have their power restored within four days, the utility said, but it could take at least a week before all electric lines in the city are back in service.
Workers at PECO, an Exelon Corp. utility in Philadelphia and western Pennsylvania, were contending with snow in the western part of their territory as they tried to restore power to 585,000 customers. Snow and high winds also led to widespread outages in West Virginia, where close to 300,000 residents were without electricity Tuesday afternoon.
In Connecticut, 626,559 customers remained off the grid , according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Widespread outages also have been reported in Washington, D.C., where government offices were closed for a second consecutive day, and surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.
Five nuclear plants developed problems from the storm, though the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said none posed a threat to workers or the public.
Reactors at three of the plants — Indian Point in Westchester County, N.Y., Salem in New Jersey on the Delaware Bay, and Nine Mile Point in Scriba, N.Y. — remained out of service Tuesday.
Exelon’s Oyster Creek plant in Lacey Township, N.J., lost grid electricity, forcing it to rely on a backup generator. It also had trouble because of rising water on Barnegat Bay, from which it draws cooling water.
The reactor — the oldest still operating in the U.S. — already was shut down for refueling, lowering the risk of a serious incident. Exelon also said 36 of the 43 sirens intended to alert nearby community of problems at the plant weren’t working.
Elsewhere, Public Service Enterprise Group said its Salem plant had problems with pumps due to the storm surge that forced operators to shut down the Unit 1 reactor Tuesday morning. A spokesman said the plant released steam with trace levels of radioactive tritium into the atmosphere to shed heat but at levels that should be “no cause for concern by the public.”

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