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Hurricane Sandy Hits the East Coast

With 60 million people in the path of Hurricane Sandy, officials across the east coast of the US have started preparations and evacuations.

Sandy is currently rated as a Category 1 hurricane.

As of Monday, 67 people have died as a result of the storm. The majority of the deaths come from the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

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FunTown Aumsement Pier is washed away in Sandy

Michael Holmes/CNN

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN)-

The promise of $60 billion can do a lot to calm outrage.

That point was underscored Wednesday, when House leaders met with irate representatives from New York and New Jersey who felt they had been ignored by House Speaker John Boehner when he scrapped a planned vote late Tuesday on a massive aid package for Superstorm Sandy victims.

“We’re getting what New York and New Jersey need, and that’s all that counts,” Rep. Peter King, R-New York, told reporters after emerging from a 20-minute meeting with Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “We’re all big boys; we understand that all that counts is the bottom line.”

A vote on $9 billion for immediate aid is now set for Friday, with the balance of $51 billion due for consideration January 15.

For its part, the Senate plans to vote by unanimous consent on Friday on the $9 billion but is waiting to see what is in the larger package before announcing a plan for that, a Senate Democratic leadership aide said.

“On the second tranche, we will need to see more details before we decide how to proceed,” the aide said. “As the Senate has shown by passing our bipartisan bill, we consider getting aid to the victims of Sandy a superlative priority, but we need to know more about the contents of the bill before deciding on a path forward.”

Democrats were less mollified.

“While it would have been far better had they passed the Senate’s bill today, at least this provides a path to produce the needed $60 billion for New York and New Jersey by the end of the month,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, in a statement.

“It’s really unbelievable how Speaker Boehner and his party could just walk away,” said Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council. “To promise us a vote weeks from now? Why should we believe him at all? It’s just shocking.”

In a statement, Boehner and Cantor said “critical aid” to storm victims should be the first priority of the new Congress, which convenes Thursday.

The comity contrasted sharply with the outrage that had exploded earlier in the day over Congress’ inaction on the package, pitting even fellow Republicans against Boehner.

It was “disappointing and disgusting to watch,” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, blaming “the toxic internal politics of the House majority.”

“New Jersey deserves better than the duplicity we saw on display,” he said, adding, “shame on Congress.”

Christie, a Republican, said he had tried to reach Boehner on Tuesday night after the latter canceled a vote on the aid bill, which had already been approved by the Senate. “He did not take my calls,” said Christie.

In a news conference, Christie said he joined people of his state in feeling “betrayed” and added that the move summarizes “why the American people hate Congress.”

In a statement, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote: “This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented. The fact that days continue to go by while people suffer, families are out of their homes, and men and women remain jobless and struggling during these harsh winter months is a dereliction of duty. “

Boehner did not make public remarks and did not post about the issue on social media.

GOP leadership sources said Boehner was worried it would be a bad political move for him to allow a vote on the new federal spending after a long day of getting pummeled by his own House Republicans for not demanding enough spending cuts in the fiscal cliff bill.

Civility was restored late in the afternoon. “As far as I’m concerned, that was a lifetime ago,” King said. “I know it was last night, but the bottom line is we’re going forward getting what we believe is necessary.”

Earlier, King had slammed his own party. “The Republican Party has said it’s the party of ‘family values.’ Last night, it turned its back on the most essential value of all, and that’s to provide food, shelter, clothing and relief for people who have been hit by a natural disaster,” King told CNN.

King said he chased Boehner “all over the House last night” and that Boehner had said everything would be taken care of after the vote on the fiscal cliff. But Boehner left.

King called the House leadership’s move a “knife in the back.”

“Anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined,” King said. It’s very rare for a lawmaker to call on anyone not to support his own party.

But on Wednesday afternoon, King said he would vote for Boehner in leadership elections scheduled for Thursday.

A senior GOP leadership aide said Boehner will make a Sandy aid package “his first priority in the new Congress,” which begins its term Thursday.

When a new Congress begins, both chambers have to begin from scratch with legislation, so the Senate’s passage of a previous bill will be moot.

Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman, said the speaker is “committed to getting this bill passed this month.”

Before the House adjourned Wednesday, President Barack Obama urged a vote.

“It has only been two months since Hurricane Sandy devastated communities across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as well as other Eastern states. Our citizens are still trying to put their lives back together,” Obama said in a statement.

“When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to support those in need. I urge Republicans in the House of Representatives to do the same, bring this important request to a vote today, and pass it without delay for our fellow Americans,” Obama said.

Some of the harshest comments came from King.

Scott Mandel, vice president of New York’s Long Beach City Council, told CNN, “The money was needed yesterday, and the fact that there’s an obstacle in the way for whatever reason and a vote wasn’t allowed to go forward was inexcusable.”

The money would improve the city’s ability to withstand damage from winter storms, Mandel said.

Fiscal cliff battle held up the measure

The tumultuous process of getting the fiscal cliff deal passed in the House had held up the relief measure, and many House Republicans opposed the size of the Senate bill.

“Leadership was all-consumed with the cliff procedure,” Rogers told reporters off the House floor late Tuesday. “And they really have not had the time to devote to this because of that.”

Sandy killed at least 113 people in the United States and left millions of people without power after running up the East Coast in late October. The storm hit hardest in New York and New Jersey.

Cuomo has put storm-related costs at $41.9 billion, while Christie has estimated a price tag of $36.8 billion.

The bill includes grant funding for owners of homes and businesses, as well as funding for public improvement projects on the electrical grid, hospitals and transit systems to prevent damage from future storms.

John Stone, a resident of New York’s Staten Island, owned two homes before the storm. One was destroyed; the other was so severely flooded that it remains unlivable.

But he expressed no anger over the House’s decision. “They’ll just have to do it all over again, I suppose. What can you say?”

“It’s a lot of money,” he said, adding “there’s a lot of other things they’ve got to do.”

He tends to vote Republican and doesn’t plan to turn away from the party, he said, although, he added, “I don’t give them much money anyway.”

He’s been living with relatives in New Jersey.

By Josh Levs and Tom Watkins

CNN’s Lesa Desjardins, Victor Blackwell, Deirdre Walsh, Steve Kastenbaum and Dan Merica contributed to this report.

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Cruise ships could be used as temporary Sandy housing in new proposal

LINCOLN-

Dozens of volunteers are waiting patiently for seven cats rescued from hurricane Sandy to arrive in Sacramento.

After Sandy took the life of Joy Smith and Jann Flanagan’s relative, the two decided to give a new life for cats left behind from the storm.

“Our hope is that each one of these cats will have a home for the holidays,” said Smith.

Red Rover, an animal disaster rescue group, funded the cats trip from New Jersey to sacramento.

Two of the cats belong to Smith and Flanagan’s relative that died in the storm.

“I’m from new jersey originally. When Sandy hit New Jersey that is what hit home for myself and my family,”  Smith said.

The cats will be greeted by Smith, volunteers and foster families tonight then taken to Field Haven Feline Rescue and Adoption shelter.

The shelter was founded by Smith and Flanagan 10 years ago.

The cats will be giving to foster families.

Families interested in adopting the pets can contact the shelter at (916) 434-6022

(CNN) -

Superstorm Sandy is blamed for at least 110 deaths in the United States.

The figure includes 47 in New York, 24 in New Jersey, 13 in Pennsylvania, 11 in Maryland, four in Connecticut, two in Virginia, six in West Virginia, one in North Carolina, one on the HMS Bounty, and one in New Hampshire, according to officials in those states.

There were also two deaths reported in Canada and 67 in the Caribbean, bringing the overall death toll to 179.

The 110 death toll figure as of late Sunday afternoon is one below what was reported earlier in the day, after New York lowered its storm-related deaths to 40 “after one fatality was determined not to have been caused by the storm,” according to police.

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Local residents gather around a charging station for phones and computers opened up at St. Peter and Paul Church. Power had still not been restored to most of Hoboken three days after Hurricane Sandy knocked it out. Residents were invited to come in, charge up, and get warm. (Credit: Liz Roll/FEMA)

(CNN) — As they cleaned up drenched debris, waited in hours-long lines for gas and coped with yet another day without power, the goal Saturday for millions in New York and New Jersey was simple — to inch a few steps closer to normal.

There were some positive signs. The number of customers without power in the wake of Superstorm Sandy fell by over a million in 24 hours, to about 2.4 million Saturday afternoon. Gas stations were filling up once more with millions of gallons of gas — some of it compliments of the federal government and, in other cases, a rival company. And with travel bans lifting, more residents of places like Atlantic and Cape May counties in New Jersey were finally being allowed to return home.

“We need to continue to focus now on the next phase — returning to normalcy,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.

That’s all Pankaj Purohit wants. But the Jersey City resident’s patience is wearing thin after five days without electricity. An e-mail from his utility said it might take several more days before power is restored even as temperatures plunge into the 30s at night.

His apartment building flooded with 5 feet of water, Purohit said his family and his dog moved in with a friend who has electricity. Two other families are also taking shelter at the house.

“For me, until there is power, I cannot get back to normal life,” he said early Saturday.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said restoring electricity is the top priority, reiterating Saturday that his state will hold utilities accountable if they weren’t prepared for Sandy. More than 835,000 customers were in the dark statewide by mid-afternoon.

One of the state’s top utilities, Con Edison, has restored power to all but 270,000 of its initially 940,000 customers affected by Sandy, Senior Vice President John Miksad said. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised that company, while blasting the Long Island Power Authority — which services the Rockaway peninsula in the borough of Queens — for not having “acted aggressively enough.”

“We realize that LIPA has outages throughout Long Island, but the Rockaways were the hardest hit by the storm,” he said, adding that the utility indicated it could take two weeks to restore power there. “When it comes to prioritizing resources, we think they should be first in line. So far that has not appeared to be the case, and that is certainly not acceptable.”

LIPA did not immediately respond Saturday evening to CNN requests for comment on the mayor’s criticism.

Cold weather is a growing concern in places without power. Bloomberg said he’d be surprised if temperatures in the Rockaways would get out of the 40s, warning people to guard against hypothermia and find someplace warm to stay if possible.

Both he and Cuomo, meanwhile, lavished praise on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for restoring 80% of subway services in New York City. The mayor said it should be up to 90% by Sunday.

“Not only did they try hard, but they got it done,” Cuomo said.

Powering cars and trucks is another issue, as evidenced by long lines at gas stations around the region.

Christie noted that about 70% of gas stations from Interstate 195 and points north weren’t operating Saturday — not necessarily because they did not have gas, but because they couldn’t pump it due to power outages. (By comparison, about 95% of stations south of Interstate 195 were working, he said.)

Yet there’s been a concerted effort in recent days to address the gas shortage.

The federal government announced Friday night that it would deliver 12 million gallons of unleaded gas and 10 million gallons of diesel to dispense around the hard-hit region. Such fuel had already arrived at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and was being shipped out to stations, Christie said Saturday.

The governor also singled out Hess, based in Woodbridge, New Jersey, for distributing gas to rival companies whose stations had run dry.

“That’s what New Jersey is all about,” he said.

Drivers in New York City and Long Island, meanwhile, were able beginning Saturday to fill up directly from 5,000-gallon fuel trucks moving around the area.

In another 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.

The U.S. Energy Administration reported significant progress. Whereas there was no gas in 67% of metropolitan New York stations on Friday, that figure plummeted to 38% on Saturday, according to the federal agency’s estimates.

Still, sizable pockets of out-of-work gas stations remain — as do scenes of drivers in New York and New Jersey waiting at length at places where it is available.

Leah Cepeda-Winfield said that, around 3 a.m. Saturday, people were sleeping in their cars outside gas stations in Suffolk County on New York’s Long Island. About eight hours later, lines were still about a quarter-mile long.

“It seems that these long lines are everywhere you go,” said Cepeda-Winfield, a CNN iReporter.

President Obama echoed the states’ priorities during remarks at FEMA headquarters Saturday — restoring power, pumping out water, covering people’s basic needs, and removing debris.

“What I told the governors and the mayors is what I’ve been saying to my team since the start of this event: … We don’t have any patience for bureaucracy, we don’t have any patience for red tape, and we want to make sure that we are figuring out a way to get to yes, as opposed to no, when it comes to these problems,” Obama said.

The 900-mile-wide superstorm left a huge swath of damage when it hit the Northeast this week, claiming at least 106 lives in the United States and two in Canada after earlier killing 67 around 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.

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.

Officials on Saturday were able to cheer progress on several fronts though. With one small exception, the Port of New York and New Jersey is now open to all vessels, the Coast Guard said. All water has been removed from the once-flooded World Trade Center work site, said Cuomo. Nearly $28 million in federal disaster emergency grants have been allocated across nine counties, the governor added.

Still, as millions will attest, the headaches are far from over. And they could grow, with a weaker storm expected to hit the region next week.

But Christie, for one, isn’t ready for that quite yet.

“I know there are some forecasts of a Nor’easter next week,” the governor said. “I can’t believe it.”

 

By Mariano Castillo and Greg Botelho. CNN’s Faith Karimi, David Ariosto, Erinn Cawthon, Henry Hanks and Maria White contributed to this report

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SACRAMENTO-

Employees with the US Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District will be helping those affected by Superstorm Sandy in the coming days and weeks.

Four of them are already en route to Albany, NY to help with debris removal. Dennis Potter, a wastewater treatment plant expert, will help rebuilt infrastructure.

“You have to be flexible because you never know exactly what you’re going to run into,” said Potter.

As a whole, the Corps has sent 500 of its people to the East Coast.

Removing water from the Bowling Green subway station in New York City after Hurricane Sandy.
Courtesy: Steve Machalek/CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) — The New York City Marathon — scheduled for Sunday — was canceled Friday due to lingering effects from Superstorm Sandy, the city’s mayor said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had said earlier in the week the race would go on — despite transportation, power and other issues — contending, among other things, that businesses could use the economic boost the event provides.

But on Friday, he issued a statement saying city officials and race organizers decided to cancel the race because they did “not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants.”

“While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division,” Bloomberg said.

“We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event — even one as meaningful as this — to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track.”

Officials had been in meetings over the course of the day to decide if the race would go on in the midst of storm recovery efforts, according to a city official who declined to be named.

The 26.2-mile course typically winds across New York’s five boroughs, but does not include lower Manhattan, where heavy flooding left many neighborhoods in the dark.

The race had been scheduled to begin Sunday morning on Staten Island, where runners would have crossed the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn and run through Queens before crossing the 59th Street Bridge into Manhattan and the Bronx.

Report filed by Deborah Feyerick

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SACRAMENTO, STOCKTON, CHICO -

People in Sacramento can help Superstorm Sandy victims by donating blood, platelets and plasma to victims at various locations this weekend.

The collection site in Midtown will be taking blood, platelet and plasma donations at 1608 Q St, Sacramento 95811.

In Stockton, people can donate blood at 6385 Pacific Ave, Stockton 95207. And the collection site in Chico is at 555 Rio Lindo Ave, Chico 95926.

PG&E, BloodSource and the American Red Cross are worked together to have a big donation event Friday. But anyone can donate all weekend to help the victims of Sandy.

Donations can be made at any BloodSource location. To find one near you, click here. You can also call 866-822-5663 to schedule an appointment.

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE-

The sun was still minutes from rising over Travis Air Force Base Friday when a loaded C-17 headed south east into the morning sky.

On board were 49 passengers from the air bases 621st Contingency Response Wing and the 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron; each knew what they were there to do, while not knowing when they’d be back.

The mission on this day is to transport electrical supplies to the Arizona National Guard, and help load generators and other power supply equipment onto other planes that will head directly to New York to help restoring power to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

“This is the first time I have gone on a mission here in the United States, it’s great to help here,” said Wendy Farnsworth, a member of the response wing, who has been all around the globe to provide aid.

The 49 people aboard the plane were joined in Phoenix with some others from the base who had to fly commercial because of the weight of the equipment onboard the plane.

The destination in Arizona is called a “pod” by the air force, with more pods popping up around the country, this group says they’ll go where needed.

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