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Nov 7, 2012 10:59 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

LIPA Says It's Prepared for Nor'Easter

Nov 7, 2012 12:15 PM

More than a week after Hurricane Sandy hammered the Eastern Seaboard, pulling the plug on power to a record-breaking number of Long Island Power Authority customers—about 945,000—many residents of the South Fork remained in darkness and without heat, amid plunging temperatures and a nor’easter in the forecast Wednesday.

While many power-starved residents lacked a working furnace, elected officials were turning up the heat on the power authority.

“I am unsatisfied with all of the utilities. I don’t believe their response has been adequate. Period,” tweeted Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday afternoon.

LIPA, for its part, noted that its crews—as well as thousands of high-voltage linemen and tree trimmers from across the country, some of whom were airlifted in by the National Guard, were working around the clock and bringing back power to tens of thousands of customers daily. LIPA maintained on Tuesday that it was still on track to hit its goal of restoring power to 90 percent of customers by Wednesday. That goal, however, was longer than the seven to 10 days LIPA had initially said it would take to get the power back on.

U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said on Friday that fallen trees, branches and other storm debris such as shingles, bricks and wood had greatly slowed power restoration efforts. They also announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had provided $10 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help clear major debris that has been in the way for utility workers trying to restore power. The funding is slated to go toward cleanup efforts on Long Island, as well as in New York City and Westchester County.

As for the nor’easter, which was traveling up the coast and last expected to move into the area between Wednesday and Thursday—the effects of which the National Weather Service was last predicting would be felt on the South Shore of Long Island and could bring sustained winds of 30-45 mph, with gusts reaching 45-60 mph, in addition to coastal flooding—LIPA is ready, according to spokesman Mark Gross.

“This is the type of storm that rolls in and we’re usually prepared for,” he said on Tuesday. “The good thing with this is that we have 7,300 restoration crews already on the ground.” Of those, he estimated more than 1,000 were in East Hampton and Southampton towns.

He acknowledged that the power authority’s transmission distribution system was still in a fragile state from Sandy, which struck last Monday, October 29, but said crews were still prepared to do their job.

East Hampton and Southampton towns had 2,307 LIPA customers without power as of Wednesday morning, with 1,264 of those in East Hampton and the remaining 1,107 in Southampton. Immediately following Sandy’s sweep-through, some 70,000 East End residents were left in the dark, including more than 30,000 in East Hampton Town and nearly 40,000 in Southampton Town.

Most of the outages in East Hampton were in Springs, which had 708 customers out of power as of Wednesday morning. The East Hampton Village area had 274, followed by Montauk with 67, Northwest Harbor with 63, Wainscott with 21, and Amagansett with 12.

In Southampton Town, Hampton Bays had the most outages, with 267 on Wednesday morning. It was followed by the Southampton Village area with 250, followed by Shinnecock Hills with 202. There were fewer outages remaining in the more eastern parts of town, with 17 in Water Mill, zero in North Haven, seven in Noyac, fewer than 5 in Bridgehampton and zero in Sag Harbor. In the west, Flanders had 9 and Westhampton fewer than 5.

Mr. Gross, when asked about particular challenges presented by Sandy, replied, “It’s just a lot of work, pulled trees, flooding, etc. Sometimes we get an event and it’s located in one special spot,” he said, noting that Superstorm Sandy was an island-wide disaster.

Asked to respond to the criticism leveled against the authority, he said, “Look, we’re the power company. Most of our system is an overhead system, so we are vulnerable to the elements. When the storms come through Long Island, there’s going to be outages.”

Along with the loss of electricity, many East End residents were also still faced with the loss of their cable television, internet and phone services this week.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Cablevision Systems Corporation reported that 57,343 Optimum households and small businesses on eastern Long Island still had no power, a primary cause for disruption of service. Of those with power, however, 286,940 had Optimum service and 1,577 were without.

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