Sandy survivors face voting — and another storm

Nor' easter threatens the northeast (AP Photo)

Nor' easter threatens the northeast (AP Photo)

(CNN) — One week after Superstorm Sandy beat up the Northeast, tearing apart homes and lives in New Jersey, New York and other areas, there’s another worry on the horizon: A nor’easter is coming.

Rain will start to move in early Wednesday and will gradually become heavier, according to CNN meteorologists. As the day goes on, the weather will get worse, with temperatures hovering in the 40s — bad news for about 1.2 million people who are still without power in the area.

The primary concern from the nor’easter — defined by the National Weather Service as a strong low pressure system with powerful northeasterly winds blowing in from the ocean ahead of the storm — is the impact it could have on the ravaged Jersey Shore. Coastal flooding and beach erosion are possible.

“When it rains, it pours. When it storms, you get more storms I guess,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Under normal conditions, the nor’easter wouldn’t be problematic, he said, but because many areas are still picking up the pieces from last week, it could cause fresh havoc.

Ahead of the storm, authorities in Brick, New Jersey, ordered residents in the low-lying waterfront areas of town to evacuate.

The storm is not another Sandy, and its path and severity could change throughout the day, according to CNN meteorologists.

“I haven’t even really thought about the nor’easter,” said Ryan Hanley.

The 27-year-old’s chief worry is the home she had to abandon in Wantagh, on New York’s Long Island. It’s 4 feet deep in water. All her belongings are on the curb.

“I cannot think right now about voting (in Tuesday’s presidential election) either,” she said. “I don’t even know where to go if I wanted to vote.”

To help with such concerns, Cuomo signed an order Monday allowing affidavit voting. Basically, what that means is that voters registered in a federally declared disaster county can vote at any poll site in the state by signing an affidavit.

“We want everyone to vote. Just because you’re displaced doesn’t mean you should be disenfranchised,” the governor said.

Voters in some New York counties may get an extra day to cast ballots if disruptions caused by Sandy prevent enough citizens from voting, a state official said Sunday. New Jersey announced that residents displaced by Sandy can vote in Tuesday’s elections via e-mail or fax, the first time civilians in the state have been allowed to vote remotely.

There are other signs that New York is making progress. Construction work started again at the 9/11 ground zero site, which was flooded by Sandy.

Some 94% of schools in New York City were open Monday, according to the mayor, and the subway system is back in operation.

But in everyday lives, progress can’t come fast enough.

Hanley is living with her boyfriend’s family a few towns away from Wantagh, and her confusion about where to vote is a secondary concern right now.

“I’ve heard from neighbors who are still around there that we’ve had looters,” she said.

“What am I supposed to do right now? How do I deal with that?” she said. “I don’t have electricity, so I cannot pump the water. It is just sitting there. Whether someone takes what we have … I have no control over that. I have no control over any of it.”

Hanley has been talking with her insurance company. But she said she hasn’t been able to reach a real person with the Federal Emergency Management Agency yet.

“We have not been directly contacted, nor can we reach anyone when we call,” she said.

FEMA has defended its response to people in need.

While Hanley struggles with the bureaucracy of post-disaster life, many others are receiving help from the Red Cross, which has opened 190 shelters along the Eastern Seaboard. The organization has hundreds of disaster workers on standby with emergency supplies.

‘It’s a humbling experience’

Katie Fairley, a Staten Islander who lives in New Dorp, one of the harder-hit areas, said she’s seen people sleeping in their cars.

A 51-year-old vice president for finance at a health care facility, Fairley said lines for food and for gas are blocks long.

“Thank God, we have each other here,” she said, insisting that Staten Islanders have been forgotten.

Another Staten Islander, Tara Saylor, spent her weekend volunteering to hand out clothing and food. The 25-year-old works at a Manhattan interior design showroom. She and her home on a hill in St. George escaped Sandy’s wrath.

Helping people touched her deeply.

“I was almost crying when people are thanking me,” she said. “(They were) throwing their family photos out in the middle of the street. It’s a humbling experience. You really begin to appreciate what you have.”

In the Long Island community of Floral Park, Kevin Cordova’s family members tried cooking hot food to stay warm and wore their coats indoors. His house is uninhabitable, thanks to Sandy.

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

Teacher: ‘I want them to tell their stories’

To the southwest in Red Bank, New Jersey, about a 90-minute drive from Floral Park, Chris Ippolito has been luckier than many folks. So far, he’s only had to wrestle with sporadic power outages. But his mother-in-law’s home was severely flooded.

Her historic house, more than 100 years old, sat a block from the ocean in Monmouth County.

Her family built it, and she spent her childhood there.

She left the house before Sandy hit, so she’s physically all right. But she’s devastated by the loss.

“It’s incredibly difficult for her,” Ippolito said.

Things are returning to some semblance of normalcy, he said.

CNN reached Ippolito shortly after he had delivered food and supplies to a local firehouse.

“Businesses are breathing back to life,” he said. “Schools are limping back to life.”

Ippolito is a high school teacher. His district is closed for now, but he’s thinking about all his students.

“I want them to tell their stories, to feel like they can open up if they want or need to,” he said.

He’ll use his free time Tuesday to cast his vote for president.

“I understand that voting isn’t the priority for a lot of people who are dealing with more immediate needs,” he said. “But I’m not going to miss it.”