Hurricane Sandy: A Hoboken Perspective

Tickers in this article: PEG VZ CVC MS

HOBOKEN, NJ ( TheStreet) -- On Oct. 28, Hoboken, N.J., was a vibrant, urban city full of life, as bars and restaurants filled with thousands of patrons watching football and enjoying life. A day later, that all changed thanks to one unwanted guest: Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy (or superstorm Sandy) arrived in Hoboken, an affluent Northern New Jersey town, Monday evening like a force of nature the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region of the United States has never seen before. Hurricane force winds tore up the Hoboken pier, the Hudson River surged over and flooded large portions of the town, leaving 22,829 Public Service Enterprise Group (PEG) (PSE&G) customers without power initially, according to Hoboken's Twitter account.

Since the hurricane hit, some 9,000 of those customers have gotten their power back, but there are many more to go. My apartment in Hoboken managed to survive the storm and its aftermath with power, losing only cable and Internet, but many more lost much more.

Ground-floor apartments were flooded beyond belief, cars were swept away in rivers that had once been streets. The sights and destruction caused by the wind and flooding were that of a war-torn area, not an affluent North Jersey city 10 minutes from New York City.

By Friday, Hoboken, a town known for its hustle, had become a ghost town. Many of the residents left, seeking to stay with friends or family where power had returned. Despair had long since set in on the remaining residents faces, and stories of hardship were the soundtrack of the otherwise silent city.

People who had been without power since Monday afternoon, residents who were using baby wipes to clean themselves, as hot water and running showers were scarce. Some used tin cans, stuffed with toilet paper, soaked in rubbing alcohol to heat food for themselves and their roommates. The tales broke my heart, as I looked into the eyes of those telling their war stories of the past few days.

The National Guard, FEMA, and Red Cross have set up shop in lower Hoboken, becoming tenants as important as the pizza shops, boutiques and many bars on Washington Street, Hoboken's main strip.

Of the few businesses that somehow held on to power, lines were ostensibly long as residents clamored for food and drink. I had to wait on line for well over an hour at a local deli, just to get something to drink, and I was one of the lucky ones. The majority of these businesses were operating by generators, some doing so with no lights, as they served their customers, who braved the conditions, waiting on lines, sometimes as long as two hours.

There were other businesses that did not fair so lucky, losing power, and not opening. Some of these were looted, as Hoboken residents felt stranded in the 2 square-mile city. There were reports of 1,000 Xanax pills stolen at a pharmacy, gas being siphoned from cars, a local supermarket being broken into, and a construction site vandalized.