As temperatures drop after super storm Sandy, thousands of New Yorkers… (Jason DeCrow / Associated…)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- With nighttime temperatures dipping into the 30s on Long Island, thousands of people without power and heat are arriving at shelters, carrying what they can, hoping to trade a cold bed for a warm cot.
After two cold nights in her Long Beach apartment with no heat or running water, Peggy Connelly, 59, chased down her two beloved gray tabby cats, Sammi and Jingles, and brought them with her to the Red Cross shelter at Nassau Community College a few miles inland.
Connelly, grateful to find hot showers in the college locker room, joined about 900 other souls on cots spread across two floors of the cavernous college basketball gym. Volunteers from the North Shore Animal League cared for the cats in nearby trailers.
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More than 7,000 people checked into Red Cross disaster shelters in the New York region on Thursday, Red Cross spokesman Steve Beyer said. The shelters have seen a surge in new arrivals as the temperatures drop.
"They're saying, 'I'm not going to put up with this cold any more, not when I can have a hot meal and a shower,'" Beyer said.
Connelly, a legal secretary, said she's grateful to have a warm, safe place to sleep. The response has been orderly, she said.
"I keep thinking back to Katrina and that mess, and this is no Katrina," Connelly said. She praised the Red Cross organizers here for handling so many people. "This job is almost impossible," she said.
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Despite a mandatory evacuation order Sunday, Connelly decided to stay in her home on the third floor of an apartment building on the coast in Long Beach because Hurricane Irene didn't do much damage there in 2011.
"I've learned my lesson," she said.
The wind blowing around her building on Monday night sounded "like a freight train," she said. At one point, she looked out her balcony -- which faces away from the ocean -- and saw waves breaking in the parking lot below. Sparks from transformers lit the horizon like fireworks, she said.
"You hear about these disasters but you never think it will happen to you," she said.
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