NYC Reaches Milestone in Sandy Recovery

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By Julia Talanova, CNN

(CNN) — Odd-even gas rationing is ending in New York City, a milestone as the city continues to recover from Superstorm Sandy, which hit more than three weeks ago.

The rationing will end at 6 a.m. Saturday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Friday.

Rationing began on November 9 to keep escalating lines and chaos at the gas stations manageable after the storm left many stations closed just as people without power needed fuel for generators.

The city extended the rationing system through Thanksgiving so the lines would remain manageable during the heaviest travel days of the year.

“With more than 85% of gas stations now operating — a substantial increase from just 25% two weeks ago — and Thanksgiving and Black Friday behind us, the odd-even license plate system will be rescinded starting tomorrow morning,” Bloomberg said.

Over Thanksgiving, the mayor’s office distributed thousands of Thanksgiving meals at 30 sites in the areas affected by Sandy.

Since the storm recovery began, the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have distributed more than 2.7 million meals, 704,260 bottles of water and 170,856 blankets, along with thousands of other supplies that are helping people survive after their belongings were washed away and destroyed in the storm, according to the mayor’s office.

Despite the progress, the recovery is far from complete. More than 30,000 people remain without power in New York and New Jersey. Many of those people are also without heat.

The NYC Health Department said Friday that it will start distributing electric blankets to people who were affected by Sandy, but also urged those people to try to find a warm place with friends or relatives.

“The weather is getting colder and winter is not far off,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.

“Living in cold buildings is not good for your health. If your building heat is not going to be restored very soon, look for another warm place to live until it is,” he said.

The traffic pattern in and out of the city is almost restored. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that signal problems that prevented some of the traffic lanes to be open at the Queens-Midtown Tunnel are fixed in time for the post-holiday rush hour commute on Monday morning. The tunnel connects the island of Manhattan to Long Island and Queens.

So far, sanitation crews have collected more than 280,000 tons of trash and debris from the storm, officials said.

Bloomberg has authorized $1.2 billion for cleanup and damage repairs to homes, public schools, public hospitals and city property. Bloomberg’s office also said that donors from around the country have contributed nearly $41 million toward Hurricane Sandy relief.

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