Jul 30, 2014

LIPA: 95 Percent Done as Week 3 Begins

Utility expects most homes that can receive power to be hooked back up by Tuesday, though thousands in hard hit areas remain in the dark.

LIPA: 95 Percent Done as Week 3 Begins
Fifteen days after Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast, the Long Island Power Authority has announced that it has restored power to 95 percent of customers and it expects to have the remaining thousands without electricity back up and running by Tuesday night.

The utility, whose management has been under fire since Thursday for its communications failures during the recovery as well as its level of preparation before the monster storm hit, said the estimates do not include 17,500 customers in Nassau and Suffolk and 37,500 customers in the Rockaways whose homes are too damaged to safely receive power.

Remaining outages are highest in Nassau County, 37,161 — mostly in the Town of Hempstead — compared to Suffolk's 9,542. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is taking some of the credit for his county's restoration after he decided to sidestep LIPA's management, which he called useless, and work directly with the substations.

By Sunday night, 99 percent of Suffolk customers had been restored. LIPA also sidestepped its own electrical inspection guidelines, allowing outside electricians to inspect damaged homes to speed up the process. With most of Suffolk restored, the utility is now sending its surveyors to the hardest hit areas in Nassau.

"Survey teams are conducting visual assessments of homes and businesses within flooded areas along the south shore. In general, these areas are south of Atlantic Avenue, Merrick Road, and Montauk Highway," LIPA said.

In Levittown, for example, 1,859 customers are still without power as of Monday morning, a situation they've endured going on three weeks. Tempers over LIPA's handling of the storm recovery escalated this past Thursday, when winter storm Athena coated the region in snow and knocked power out tens of thousands, many who had just had their lights turned back on.

Across social media and in countless e-mails to Patch editors, weary customers are demanding accountability from the utility, and speak of a lack of communication that from their perspective borders on cruel.

"Zero preparedness, lack of tangible communication, outright lies to the families all over LI," St. James resident Jim Gelles told Patch in an email this weekend. "Day 13 – I'm watching a crew finally fix the wires. Tomorrow it will be Day 14 for another family – that's the story, and all the failures that created this."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week also called the utility's response a failure, and chided management for its poor oversight, which included running out of electric poles early in the recovery process.

Story by Henry Powderly

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