No power and soaked with oil, Bayonne's Avenue F residents cope

Sat Nov 3, 2012 8:40pm EDT
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By Janet McGurty and Randsdell Pierson

BAYONNE, New Jersey (Reuters) - In the shadow of the huge tanks where oil companies have stored their gasoline for decades, residents of gritty Bayonne, New Jersey, watched in horror as Sandy's winds and rain brought more than water into their homes.

"I've been living here for 30 years and we have had water, but never oil," said Rose Trombetto, who has survived many other storm surges. "I'm heartbroken."

First the power went out Monday night, she said. Then a frightful oil and water mixture poured into her basement and crept into her first-floor living room, collecting about her ankles and saturating the furniture and family mementos.

Although Trombetto's son and other relatives had sandbagged and secured vulnerable windows and doors before the storm, the strong winds opened cracks inside the plaster walls of the building.

The damage from megastorm Sandy was more than she, or any of her neighbors along a two-block stretch of Avenue F, had bargained for.

Oil companies for generations have stored their gasoline and diesel in the "Peninsula City" of 63,000 people, perched conveniently between New York Harbor and Staten Island, east of Newark. Driving on the New Jersey Turnpike toward New York, the tank farms and form an indelible industrial landscape.

Rose and her neighbors on Saturday looked with suspicion at dozens of oil storage tanks arrayed a few hundred yards in the distance, and patches of bare ground where other tanks had once stood in their working-class neighborhood.

Still without power, they continued to pile belongings onto the sidewalk in front of their multi-family homes, salvaging what they could from the oily heaps.   Continued...