02-19-2017  6:10 pm      •     

(CNN) -- Kevin Cordova's family tried cooking hot food to stay warm. They wore their winter coats inside and buried themselves under blankets.

But on Sunday, six days after powerful winds from Superstorm Sandy knocked out their power, temperatures dipped so low they couldn't spend another night in their home in Floral Park, New York.

"There's really no amount of blankets that can stop you from being cold in 30-degree weather," said Cordova, 28. "We feel a little homeless right now. We have our house, but we can't really use it."

Officials say thousands of New Yorkers left without heat after Superstorm Sandy might need to leave their homes as temperatures plummet, but it's not clear where they'll go.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 people in New York City could need housing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday. Officials are working on coming up with a solution, he said, but they haven't yet.

"We don't have a lot of empty housing in this city," he said. "We are not going to let anybody go sleeping in the streets. We're not going to let anybody go without blankets, food and water, but it's a challenge and we're working on that."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo described it as a "massive housing problem."

"People are in homes that are uninhabitable," Cuomo told reporters. "It's going to become increasingly clear that they're uninhabitable when the temperature drops and the heat doesn't come on."

In Long Island's Nassau County, where 266,000 customers were still without power Sunday, some people have died while trying to heat their homes with propane grills and other improvised methods, County Administrator Edward Mangano said Sunday.

"We've very concerned about people sheltering in places without proper heat," he said.

Utility officials warned some residents that it could take until Wednesday for power to be restored, Cordova said. The freelance editor said his family was grateful their house survived the storm, but they're unsure of what to do if their power stays out much longer. On Sunday night, his family planned to stay with friends.

"We're all staying in different houses," he said, "but I don't know how long we can keep that up."

More than 10,000 people across nine states spent Saturday night in shelters, American Red Cross spokeswoman Attie Poirier said. The Red Cross is sending 80,000 blankets to the region ahead of colder weather predicted this week.

"As we move through energy and gasoline, housing is really the No. 1 concern," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who spoke in Hoboken, New Jersey.

"And we don't even know yet which of the houses are reparable and which are irreparable losses. Those assessments are going on right now, as well as finding temporary housing for individuals who can't move back to their home right away."

As of Sunday, roughly 182,000 people in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York had applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has approved more than $158 million in aid.

In her apartment in Yonkers, New York, Julie Munn huddled under the covers, watching her breath in the air before she went to sleep. Her 6-month-old cat, Sheldon, got skittish, trying to crawl under things to keep warm.

"It got so cold that I left Saturday morning," she said. "It was the same temperature inside the apartment as it was outside."

Munn, 25, who stayed at her parents' house, got word that her power came back Sunday.

But many others were still in limbo.

"People aren't leaving their homes," said Staten Island resident Tara Saylor, 25. "They have no place to go."

For many, keeping warm isn't simply a matter of turning on the heat, after Superstorm Sandy knocked out gas lines and electricity. More than 1.5 million customers were without power across 15 states and the District of Columbia.

Among those still in the dark Sunday was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who urged patience.

"I know it stinks. I still don't have power at my house. I'm not happy about it ... but it's the way it is," he said.

Less than a million households in New Jersey were without power Sunday, he said, down from 2.7 million soon after the storm.

Colder weather is only one concern the region faces, with the presidential election on Tuesday.

Election officials in New York City will temporarily relocate or combine some poll sites because of damage from Sandy, the Board of Elections said in a statement Sunday.

In New Jersey, Christie ordered early voting sites to offer extended hours through the weekend to encourage voters to make it to the polls.

For those who can't make it to their voting precincts, Christie ordered election officials to allow displaced New Jersey voters to cast their ballots electronically by submitting a mail-in ballot application via e-mail or fax. Once approved, the voter will be sent an electronic ballot that can, in turn, be e-mailed or faxed back to the county clerk.

The 900-mile-wide superstorm left a huge swath of damage when it hit the Northeast last week, claiming at least 110 lives in the United States and two in Canada after earlier killing 67 around the Caribbean.

Worst-hit New York state suffered 47 deaths, including 40 in New York City, authorities said. Half of those were in Staten Island.

Almost a week since the storm hit, Staten Island resident Diana Cristiano is struggling to make sense of its surreal aftermath.

 

She found valuables in the bushes, a generator in the pool and a fish -- still alive -- inside her flooded childhood home. A boat from a nearby canal ended up on a neighbor's lawn.

"It looks like a war zone with people's stuff all out everywhere," said Cristiano, 24.

Volunteers were on hand to aid in the recovery effort, including hundreds of would-be New York City Marathon runners, reported CNN affiliate NY1.

The race, scheduled for Sunday, was canceled for the first time in its history so as not to draw resources and attention away from the response.

Other marathon runners decided to go ahead with the race, "without any official support from the city and without diverting any resources," said CNN iReporter Talis Lin, who sent photographs from the course.

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 said Sunday that relief was in sight for residents facing fuel shortages, with Defense Department plans to deliver generators and fuel to stations that need electricity and gasoline.

"We think things will be getting better. We know what a disaster this is," New York Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday. "My wife waited two and half hours for gas yesterday and called me every half hour to see what I was doing about it, so this is an answer to her as well as to every New Yorker."

Meanwhile, Bloomberg said he plans to take the subway on Monday, a sign that transit is coming back.

New York City students will also go back to school Monday, Bloomberg said. Some students will be bused to other locations if their schools have been damaged and cannot reopen.

Adding to concerns, a storm is forecast for the region this week.

"As we have this nor'easter coming ... we have to remain extremely vigilant about our neighbors," New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Sunday.

While many residents are seeking disaster relief help from federal and state officials, she said, some of the state's seniors may be afraid to leave their homes, even if they don't have heat. And they may not know what resources are available.

"What I'm most concerned about right now are the people we haven't met and we haven't seen," she said.

CNN's Dana Ford, Devon Sayers, Sarah Hoye, Josh Levs, Erinn Cawthon, Henry Hanks and Maria White contributed to this report.

™ & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

 

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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