Sandy-Ravaged Towns Did Little To Prepare

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HOBOKEN, N.J., (UPI) — Many coastal cities and towns hit by Hurricane Sandy, now blamed for 81 U.S. deaths, did little to protect themselves from flood damage, federal records show.

More than 100 municipalities where federal emergencies were declared this week have the lowest ratings from the federal government under a program that rewards communities for trying to minimize flood damage, USA Today reported.

The program gives residents of communities that take flood-prevention action higher discounts on their insurance premiums.

However, coastal New Jersey communities, such as Sea Bright, Lacey, Barnegat and Ocean Township, get no discounts because they took either minimal or no flood-prevention action, federal records show.

“This is not a difficult thing to do,” said Larry Larson, senior policy director for the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

The incentive program “is one of the best things we have,” he said.

“A lot of communities aren’t doing it because they say, we have to do the work and the individuals are the ones getting the benefit,” Larson said. “There are a lot of property owners who don’t know the [incentive] program exists.”

During President Barack Obama’s flight to Wisconsin for a campaign event Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force the president would maintain contact with Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate and “the rest of his team to ensure that bureaucracy and red tape are not impeding efforts to respond to communities recovering from the storm.”

Carney said Obama would conduct conference calls during the day with local elected officials in areas affected by the storm.

The White House announced Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will travel to Connecticut and New York to meet with state and local officials, and inspect response and recovery operations.

Subways and buses rolled again in some parts of New York City Thursday and mandatory water restrictions were in effect across New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.

Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi of hard-hit New Jersey and Billy Joel of New York’s badly damaged Long Island are scheduled to perform in a one-hour telecast benefit concert for victims of Sandy Friday.

The 8 p.m. EDT “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together” concert — which is also to include Christina Aguilera, Sting, comedian Jimmy Fallon and NBC News anchor Brian Williams — will benefit the American Red Cross, NBCUniversal Media said.

The event, which will be taped-delayed in the West, will be shown on NBC and NBCUniversal cable stations Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, E! Entertainment Television, G4, Syfy, Style Network and USA Network, NBCUniversal said. It will also be streamed live on the NBC.com website.

Channels not owned by the company will be allowed to carry the concert, broadcast from NBC facilities in New York City’s Rockefeller Center and hosted by Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today” show.

Service resumed Thursday on 14 of New York’s 23 subway lines, but no service was below 34th Street, much of which was still without power. City buses and suburban commuter rail lines also ran with limited service.

All transit fares were eliminated Thursday and Friday after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy authorized the Metropolitan Transit Authority to waive fares Thursday and Friday as an inducement to get people to take mass transit.

Much of New York City faced gridlock. Taxis picked up multiple passengers. Gasoline was increasingly hard to come by — some cars ran out of gas while waiting for hours in mile-long lines.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered Manhattan-bound cars on all bridges except the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to have at least three occupants from 6 a.m. to midnight Thursday and Friday. Taxis and livery cars were exempt from the restriction.

All four major New York-area airports were in operation, including LaGuardia, which was shut down until Thursday morning because of severe flooding.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said the first plane landing at LaGuardia was a Delta Air Lines flight from Syracuse, N.Y.

Kennedy, Newark and suburban Stewart International Airport were expected to be at full operation Friday, the Port Authority said.

In New Jersey, which bore the brunt of the storm, most mass transit systems remained shut down.

Gov. Chris Christie said mandatory statewide water restrictions were in effect as a result of power outages from Sandy that sapped water-treatment systems.

Any water use that’s not essential will not be allowed, he said in announcing the restrictions late Wednesday.

“Maybe take a little bit of a shorter shower,” Christie suggested.

About a quarter of the state’s population — more than 2 million people — remained without power early Thursday, and more than 6,000 were still in shelters, state emergency officials said.

At least eight people died in New Jersey, and officials said they feared the toll would rise as additional home searches were carried out.

The total number of U.S. deaths attributed to Sandy rose to at least 81, with nearly half in New York City, as authorities identified victims in flooded homes and vehicles.

At least 67 people were killed in the Caribbean as a result of the storm.

All told, an estimated 6 million households and businesses remained without power across the Northeast, and authorities warned it could take a week or more to restore service for many.

The storm led to power failures in at least 17 states.

Large portions of West Virginia, as well as western Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania, were digging out from snowfall accumulations of as much as 2-3 feet in some places.

Obama viewed the destruction with Christie Wednesday, then met with residents in a community-center shelter set up in Brigantine, 5 miles from Atlantic City.

“The entire country has been watching what’s been happening,” Obama said. “Everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit.”

Boardwalks along beaches were blown away. Amusement parks, arcades and restaurants were turned to rubble. Barrier island bridges buckled, keeping residents from inspecting property damage, the Times said.

In Hoboken, N.J., a city of about 50,000 across the Hudson River from Manhattan, thousands of residents remained stranded in apartment buildings Thursday, cut off from help by streets still waist-high in contaminated water.

“This is historic,” Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. “We are trying to reach everyone as quickly as we can.”

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