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Isaias outage: In Storm’s Wake, millions still without power in NY, NJ and CT



An owner of a bar and restaurant in a suburb of New Jersey wondered if he would stay in business after an outdoor seating area, recently opened after months of lockdown, was virtually wiped out.

A mother in a city north of New York City, already worried about what the new school year might look like for her two young sons, was shopping for food that would not spoil because she was not sure when her power would return.

And in another city in New Jersey, an elderly woman who mostly lived at home shopped to avoid the risk of being exposed to coronavirus with a large tree that had broken through a window.

One day after Tropical Storm Isaias ravaged the New York area, residents suffered extensive devastation with trees smashed into cars and houses, streets blocked by fallen wires and hundreds of tools working to restore power to more than two million people from southern New Jersey to northern Connecticut.

Officials acknowledged that some people may not get their power restored in days, and Con Edison said the disruption in its service area in New York and Westchester County was the second largest in its history, destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

For many, the storm added another layer of pain to their lives that was already complicated by the pandemic.

“It’s like I wish 2020 did not even show its face,” said Scott G. Morgan, administrator and emergency coordinator for Upper Township, NJ, a coastal town near the southern tip of the state, where a tornado struck Tuesday. “It’s just been a hell of a year – for all of us.”

By Wednesday morning, the fast-moving but vicious storm had left the area and crossed into Canada before disappearing.

But Isaias left a path to destruction and death as it raced up the east coast after falling in North Carolina.

Two people were killed when a tornado hit a neighborhood in northeastern North Carolina. A woman died in St. Mary’s County, Md., When a tree loose from the winds landed on her vehicle.

In New York, the storm claimed at least one life when a 60-year-old man, who was sitting on the passenger side of a car in Briarwood, Queens, was killed on Tuesday when a tree fell on the vehicle.

And on Wednesday in New Jersey, a 68-year-old man from River Vale, in Bergen County, was killed when he came in contact with low-hanging pipes while clearing storm debris from his lawn, authorities said.

Governor Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said Wednesday that the damage could have been worse if the storm had not moved through the area so quickly. “Like a knife through hot butter,” he told a local radio station.

The extent of the damage was still extensive with fallen trees taking a huge toll on the overhead lines, which form a significant part of the region’s electrical network.

“We’ve had over 16,000 service requests for fallen trees, which I think is the most we’ve ever had in the city,” Deanne Criswell, New York City’s rescue commissioner, said in an interview with WPIX television station on Wednesday.

In New Jersey, government officials complicated efforts to compile reports of hospitalizations and coronavirus deaths.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo slammed the tools, including Con Edison, accusing them of not preparing enough for Isaiah and saying the state would investigate “how such a failure could have taken place.”

This is not the first time Cuomo has criticized power outages after storms.

“The fact that many customers still do not know when their power will be restored makes it even more unacceptable,” Cuomo said. “The worst of this situation could be avoided, and it can not happen again.”

Con Edison did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Joe Fiordaliso, chairman of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, said some people may not be in power until the end of the weekend.

“Our hope is that by Friday night, 80 percent of customers will have been restored,” said Fiordaliso.

Nick Conforti, owner of Brook Taphouse in West Caldwell, NJ, said his restaurant was closed for more than three months due to the pandemic. But when the state allowed the outdoor restaurant to resume, he invested about $ 13,000 in a new outdoor area, including new tents, chairs, tables, a sound system and bar shelves. About five weeks ago, the tap house reopened.

On Tuesday, however, the entire area – including telephones, computers and tents – was destroyed by Isaiah, and Mr. Conforti did not know if he could continue working.

“The storm destroyed everything,” he said. “I’m almost ready to close here.”

On Wednesday morning, many residents were forced to navigate streets blocked to vehicles by trees and power lines. With people desperate for power, some stores sold out of generators.

Around 12 o’clock at a Target store in Mount Kisco, NY, Diliam Galvan and her two sons were shopping for bottled water and food that would not spoil in the heat. The family, who live in Katonah, had been without power for almost a day, and she was not sure if the chicken, beef, milk and eggs stuffed in her refrigerator would last.

Her sons – Dennis, 10, and Henderson Portillo, 6 – have been largely stuck at home since school closed in March.

“It’s been so boring,” Dennis said. “And now we do not even have electricity.”

His mother shrugged.

“Who knows if they will go back to school soon?” She said. “We do not even know when we will regain power.”

Morgan, the Upper Township emergency coordinator, said a tornado had caused extensive property damage but there were no reports of injuries and only one family was displaced.

“It could have been much worse,” Morgan said in an interview as he used a drone to investigate the damage. “We are not used to tornadoes in this area.”

The tornado came in from the Atlantic near Strathmere, NJ, but did not immediately land. It left a corridor with fallen trees and vegetation on either side of the Garden State Parkway, which the tornado had crossed.

“You can see a definite cut through the forest on either side,” he said.

In Brewster, about 600 km north of Midtown Manhattan, the stoplights on State Route 22 remained out on Wednesday morning. The drivers entered the busy intersections and waited for ruthless drivers to allow them.

Greg Semmeles, the owner of Brewster Wine and Liquor, stood outside his shop watching the traffic navigating the intersections.

“I’m surprised I’m still exhausted,” he said. “Usually those companies get started first, and the lights on 22 are still out, that’s not a good sign.”

Mr Semmeles, who lives in New Fairfield, Conn., Said he was lucky. His liquor store was considered necessary and allowed to remain open during the worst of the pandemic in New York. Even now, the power loss was mostly a hassle.

“Most of my things are not perishable, except for the ice,” he said. “And I can still take cash.”

The power outage meant that pumps at petrol stations in Brewster did not work. A gas station limited customers to three liters and only accepted cash.

Paul Bryson, 63, said he went out early Wednesday to get gas for his pickup in the few places it was available.

“I’m sure they’s out of gas now,” he said.

He planned to return in the evening to get gas for his generator.

“The last time I remember going through this was Superstorm Sandy,” Bryson said. “This is crazy. It’s not bad enough that we have coronavirus and now we are dealing with this.”

Lula Sisco, 82, of Englewood NJ, was sitting in her living room on Tuesday when she heard a loud pop – a tree falling through her dining room window.

The pandemic had largely kept her homebound. She only left the house for a doctor’s visit or a month-long trip to the bank. She lost power for more than five hours on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, she waited for insurance agents to show up before she could repair the window.

This year, she said, “is the worst year of my 82 years.”

The report was reported by Arielle Dollinger, Lauren Hard, Juliana Kim, Sean Piccoli, Nate Schweber, Lucy Tompkins, Tracey Tully and Debra West.


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