Officials say 115 shelters were opened in nine states, including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Ohio and the District of Columbia. On Wednesday night, more than 7,000 people stayed at those shelters.
More than 160,000 meals have already been served, and 12 mobile kitchens capable of making nearly 200,000 meals a day have been deployed, according to the Red Cross.
"We know this is a very difficult and frustrating time for people who have lost their homes, are displaced or don't have power," said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of Disaster Services for the Red Cross, in an online statement. "The Red Cross is doing everything possible to get help quickly to those affected. We are providing aid and comfort to people right now, and our focus today is on ramping up a massive feeding operation to get hot meals to people in places such as Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island and New Jersey."
As more roads and airports reopen, more disaster workers were expected to arrive in the affected areas. Officials say more than two-thirds of Red Cross' fleet of response vehicles is distributing meals, water and snacks in affected areas.
On Staten Island, one of the hardest hit areas, Red Cross staged mobile feeding operations in six different locations. In New Jersey, four mobile kitchens have been set up that can feed about 80,000 people a day, and officials have stockpiled 350,000 ready-to-eat meals. In New York, over 250,000 meals a day will be provided.
During a news conference Thursday, Staten Island borough president James Molinaro criticized the Red Cross response, calling it "an absolute disgrace." He suggested that people not donate money to the American Red Cross because the Red Cross "is nowhere to be found." However, at that same time, 10 trucks began arriving to Staten Island and a kitchen was set up immediately to begin distributing meals.
"We are working under the same circumstances as everyone with road access, fuel and so on," said Shimanski. "We have mobile operations throughout Staten Island already underway and we will be continuing that."
Authorities say Sandy may turn out to be second only to Katrina in terms of damage. The bill is expected to be close to $50 billion.
You can help victims of the storm by sending relief checks for the American Red Cross to ABC7. Checks can be made out to: American Red Cross, with Sandy Relief in the memo line. Send checks to:
Superstorm Sandy Relief
P.O. Box 5967
Glendale, CA 91221