So yesterday (Friday) I received a text message that my workplace (a college) was now closed until Tuesday, when offices would reopen. The dorms would reopen Tuesday night and classes would resume Wednesday. Hard to believe the interviewing process for my position begins late next week…
Yesterday I went to the public library for the first time to donate some books that I did not have space for in my luggage, and back to Shoprite for a second time. Here was the sign outside of the public library:
The nice thing about libraries is they tend to be a place of relief during a disaster, at the time when they are needed the most. Last year during the freak October snowstorm, I lost power for about 4 days. That Sunday I first went to the deli to get a hot meal and then proceeded to the library to get my cell phone and netbook charged, and check my email. By the 3rd day the temperature in my unheated apartment was somewhere around 55F (13c), so any chance to get warm was just fine by me.
But this time… when I ended the library it just seemed twice as crowded, if such a thing were possible. Every single seat was taken. As the sign above stated, they had free wifi, heat, and children’s activities in the Community Room running all day. This has been going on since Wednesday and I suspect it will keep going for a while longer yet.
I suspect a lot of people drove up from New Jersey, though some places in Pearl River still do not have power. The seats you see above are rarely used as they do not have tables and are rather close to the front door.
Every seat was used today, four days after the hurricane had left.
Another interesting thing was the power outlets. Obviously, every outlet was taken. But this time (unlike last year) I saw a lot more surge protectors plugged into the wall (offering more outlets), showing how many more people needed to charge up. They were everywhere.
After this little adventure in the library, I continued on to Shoprite for another brief stop. I showed pictures of the local gas station yesterday, but unfortunately they have since run out of gas.
The gas shortage is a pressing problem in much of the tri-state area, as two oil refineries in the area were shut down due to the hurricane and many people have begun to panic and fill up their tank as much as possible. You also have the long lines of people (in their car or on foot) who are looking to fill up cans of gas for their generator.
One thing that will slowly begin to help with the fuel shortage is the waiver of the Jones Act. This waiver will allow foreign tankers in the Gulf of Mexico to begin transporting fuel to the Northeast. Normally only US ships can transport goods between US ports, in an effort to support domestic ships and maritime activity. The US will also be tapping the Northeast Heating Reserve for about 48,000 barrels of diesel for its emergency response vehicles, and the US also requested that the Defense Logistics Agency buy up to 12 million unleaded gallons and up to 10 million gallons of diesel.
Once I got into Shoprite, I was greeted by the welcome sight of them beginning to replenish the perishable sections of the store – produce and cheeses were fully stocked. They were currently working on the freezer section when I went in:
It’s hard to see, but there were about 5 people helping in that aisle.
I was able to grab a few items after confirming that they were for sale/safe to buy, including microwavable mashed potatoes, a box of microwavable soft pretzels, and a single serving of a frozen pizza. (As I do not have a stove, but only a microwave and George Foreman grill, my eating habits tend to skew more towards frozen than fresh.)
Finally, the public library’s website linked to some information from the local authorities in Orangetown (the overall name of the area I live in), including the fact that the town hall was open with free heat and wifi, and that Rockland County had been added to the “major disaster declaration”. This allows individuals to file a claim with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Orangetown also had a very helpful emergency information PDF, including information from the power companies, NY officials, and local officials. There is even a section on Election Day voting (this coming Tuesday!) and how a few election places might be moved due to lack of power, but not many.
Latest estimates closer to NYC were that over 100,000 homes in the Long Island or Rockaways area were severely damaged or destroyed – so we might be seeing more of those FEMA trailers that we saw after Hurricane Katrina.