The tone of media reports is that things are getting better after the storm, which is no doubt largely true, but there are still a lot of people in distress and discomfort. It was apparently a madhouse on the bridges and tunnels into Manhattan, with delays of up to three hours. That will hopefully be better tomorrow as Metro North Service is restored (as in it will help shift some of the New York and Connecticut commuters off the road, although New Jersey residents have tremendous damage in their communities as well no PATH service as of yet).
The good news is some of the subways will be resorted. The bad news is the areas that are not badly impacted are the ones that will get normal service: Manhattan above 42nd Street (2 lines will go to 34th Street), much of Brooklyn but only parts of Queens.
The crowded roads limit resupply of Manhattan and the outer boroughs. For instance, the New York Times reported that almost all gas stations in Queens ran out of fuel. But in the dark zone, food and supplies are an issue. Power was restored only to 2,000 of the estimated 220,000 in the outage area. I imagine many have left but clearly a lot haven’t. Reader nathan, who lives in a generator-supplied complex, made an extensive tour and called in the following observations:
1. While there are some stations dispensing water, they don’t look to be adequate
2. Food is not being delivered consistently, and it appears to be mainly not being delivered. From his canvassing, many restaurants and groceries were expecting deliveries and most did not get them. The high end restaurants appear to be getting priority in resupply.
3. He spent some of the day volunteering at a home for the disabled and blind near him, which houses a couple of hundred people. He hauled pails of water up stairs to help flush out toilets. They were expecting a delivery of food from the National Guard by 6:00 PM and when he left, as of 7 PM, it had not arrived. He’s generally concerned about the home bound disabled and elderly in townhouses, because some may not have people watching out for them (see related Bloomberg story) because landlines are down too (as in unless they have a charged cell, and a lot of older people aren’t keen about cell phones, they have no way of calling for assistance).
4. Nathan found a lot of National Guard types on Lexington between 24th and 27th Street doing nothing useful. He asked them about the overdue food delivery to the blind/disabled peoples’ home (on 23rd between 6th and 7th) and they didn’t seem very interested. A loud self-identified investment banker theorized that they were there to contain riots (the Times report that they will distribute meals tomorrow, maybe after containing those riots).
5. The forecast now is that power will be restored Saturday or Sunday. That’s a really long time away, particularly since a lot of people probably assumed an outage would last only 2 days maximum and planned accordingly (and even if you did plan, you are reduced to pickled and canned foods, and other stuff that keeps at room temperature after about three days, that’s probably the limit of keeping a fridge or freezer cool enough). Even though I am sure lots of people have left and are camping out with relatives and friends or at a hotel, there are more people who are stuck.
Finally, the rats took a hit:
The city’s health department believes the storm has had a significant impact on the rat population, for better and worse. Sam Miller, a spokesman for the department, said that some percentage have most likely died in the deep floodwaters inside the subway tunnels. “They are pretty good swimmers,” he said, “but they also drown, especially the young ones. The flooding kills them in their burrows.”
The result, he said, may be a “net reduction” in the rat population.
Now for the bad news. The stronger rats have probably fled the rising waters and emerged on the surface. Pedestrians and bicyclists have reported seeing clusters of dead rats in Riverside Park and isolated victims on the bike path that runs along the West Side Highway. Mr. Miller said that the health department had yet to observe an increase on the streets and sidewalks, but he added, “We’re monitoring that.”
According to the department’s rodentologist – yes, that’s a job title – New Yorkers need not worry about increased numbers of rats in terms of disease. “There’s no demonstrated health risk from flushed-out rats,” said Mr. Miller, noting that the predominant species in the city was the Norway rat.
Of course, the stock pickers are pencilling this out, with jobless claims expected to rise, and some cheerily forecasting higher GDP due to rebuilding after some weakness this month. Of course, that simply verifies what some economists, particularly Joseph Stiglitz, have argued: that GDP is a misleading metric, particularly for policy, since growth does not equal social well being. And it’s also funny how many of the people who favor disaster Keynesianism (witness the newest convert, New Jersey governor Chris Christie) oppose the garden variety type.