Temperatures drop, tempers rise as Sandy power outages linger

(CNN) - Survivors of Superstorm Sandy welcomed glimmers of hope as services resumed in some areas, but for those quivering in dark and unheated homes, relief was not coming fast enough.

About 2.7 million customers remained without power Saturday across 15 states and the District of Columbia. And some may be in the dark for another week, according to utility officials.

Frustrated residents, worried about plunging temperatures, said companies are not working fast enough to restore power.

"The power company sent us an e-mail alert saying we'll have to wait more days," said Pankaj Purohit, whose apartment is next to a marina in Jersey City, New Jersey. "We have already been waiting for five days."

Purohit, who works in New York City, said his family and his dog moved in with a friend who has power. Two other families are taking shelter at his friend's house.

"For me, until there is power, I cannot get back to normal life," he said early Saturday. "It's cold, temperatures are dropping, our building had five feet of water after the storm."

In the New Jersey town of Lebanon, Terry Landers described a hectic scramble for gas.

He said lines of cars are snaking around gas stations. As soon as word gets out that a particular station has gas, he said, a convoy of cars heads there.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered gas rationing in 12 counties with the hope it will cut lines and prevent a fuel shortage.

Those with a license plate ending in an even number will purchase fuel on even numbered days; the opposite is for those with plates ending in an odd number.

In neighboring New York City, survivors in Staten Island, one of the hardest-hit communities, pleaded for basic necessities. The Red Cross was trying to help, officials said.

"We're ... so cold (be)cause we have nothing -- no electricity, no gas," resident Michele Belloli said Friday.

In addition to power and food shortages, looting concerns are growing, according to another Staten Island resident.

Nick Camerada said he moved to an upper floor with his wife and four sons to escape rising floodwaters.

He thought he had survived the worst. Until his small engine repair business in his side yard was hit again -- this time, by looters.

"They pushed my shed open and went through all my tools. I got nothing. ... There's nothing in the drawers but handprints," he said Friday.

Elsewhere, signs of recovery emerged after the 900-mile-wide superstorm this week claimed at least 106 lives in the United States, two in Canada and 67 in the Caribbean.

Worst-hit New York state suffered 48 deaths, including 41 in New York City, authorities said. Twenty of those were in Staten Island.

New York City residents cheered Friday when lights came back on in parts of Manhattan, a big milestone for the crippled city.

As communities grapple with the human toll, the price of the damage is stunning: between $30 billion and $50 billion, according to disaster modeling firm EQECAT. That far exceeds the firm's pre-storm estimate of $20 billion.

In a move to relieve fuel shortages, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a temporary waiver of the Jones Act, allowing oil tankers from the Gulf of Mexico to enter northeastern ports.

A far weaker storm is forecast to take aim at mid-Atlantic states next week.

CNN's David Ariosto, Mariano Castillo, Henry Hanks and Maria White contributed to this report
 


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