ASBURY PARK, N.J. -- Before the storm, Kimberly Brooks went to the store and bought some extra food. Now her fridge stinks.
“I wasn’t thinking it was gonna be like this,” she said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Brooks, 32, found herself standing outside a fire station with several dozen other Asbury Park residents whose power hasn’t come back on since Hurricane Sandy swept through town. They were using an outlet on the firehouse wall to charge their cell phones.
Printed-out signs said SORRY NO POWER AFTER 7PM, which is when a county-wide curfew goes into effect, requiring all residents to stay inside. Brooks and others hadn’t heard about the curfew until told by a reporter.
“There’s nobody to tell you anything,” Brooks said. “I’m a little scared because I don’t think there’s a plan. I don’t feel secure. I feel like it’s anarchy.”
Garrett Giberson, a spokesman for the Asbury Park Fire Department, said the curfew was instituted county-wide. “Everybody’s without power, it’s dark,” he said. “We don’t want people running around ... At nighttime, it’s dangerous.”
Huge swaths of the Jersey Shore are still without power, and residents are hunkering down for what they’ve been told could be seven to 10 days before the lights come back on. Since the storm hit, one of the most densely populated areas of the country has turned virtually pitch-black each night once the sun has gone down.
More than six million people in states hit by the storm were without power Wednesday, down from a peak of 8.4 million, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
To those who were huddled and clamoring for a cell phone charge, Sandy’s novelty was quickly wearing off. Several residents from Asbury Park’s poorer pockets told HuffPost they didn’t have the means to get out of town. They seemed bothered most by the uncertainty of the situation.
“In my [housing] project, we’re all just living in the dark and the cold,” said Denise Carpenter, a 53-year-old resident of Asbury Park’s West Side. “Nobody’s worried about our side of town. The fire department thought about us, but nobody else.”
“I’m on the East Side, the so-called better side, so why am I still in the dark freezing?” said F. Jones, 46. “I have a 15-month-old nephew [next door] who needs warm water to bathe. We all need heat.”
Residents of Carpenter’s housing complex had started bonfires the previous night for some light and warmth, as the post-Sandy temperatures dropped into the forties.
Some businesses are doing what they can to serve customers without electricity, though only until 7:00 p.m. A gas station in nearby Neptune used car batteries to power small pumps that siphoned gas directly out of the station’s well. Hundreds of people carrying orange gas cans stood in line for hours.
Not far from the fire station in Asbury Park, a corner store powered its grill with a portable generator. The store’s workers wore headlamps to serve customers.
“We ran out of batteries, we ran out of flashlights, we ran out of ice,” said Sam Ayyashe, 43, one of the owners of the Sheffield Market. “We’re trying to make do with whatever we have.”
Ayyashe filled seven gallons’ worth of gas canisters ahead of the storm and said he’ll wait on line for more if he has to. The store will stay open “as long as we’ve got gas in the generator and we’ve got food to cook,” he said.
“When it all comes down to it, people will come together,” said Jose Pizarro, 48, after he ordered two subs.
The power outlet at the firehouse didn’t last until 7:00 p.m. -- more than an hour before curfew, the station shut it down. Too many people, apparently, had brought their own power strips so they could charge multiple devices.
“It got so overloaded it tripped a circuit,” a battalion chief at the station told HuffPost. He said the station, powered by a portable generator, couldn’t risk undermining its communication system.
Brooks said she is an out-of-work phlebotomist with three kids. She said her sister and sister’s newborn had come to stay with her here to wait out the storm’s aftermath.
“We don’t have heat but we all pull together to stay warm,” she said.
The Huffington Post is eager for insights from our community, especially people with experience in power, infrastructure and engineering, on the adequacy of emergency preparation in advance of Hurricane Sandy, and the degree to which past disasters have informed adequate planning and construction. Please send a note to email@example.com with insights and suggestions for the important questions that need to be asked of relevant private sector and government officials, and point us toward stories that need to be pursued.