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Response to Sandy power outages typical, analysis finds

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By The Associated Press
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 5:26 p.m.
 

NEW YORK — As the number of nights without power stretched on for thousands left in the dark after superstorm Sandy, patience understandably turned to anger and outrage.

But an Associated Press analysis of outage times from other big hurricanes and tropical storms suggests that, on the whole, the response to Sandy by utility companies, especially in hardest-hit New York and New Jersey, was typical — or even a little faster than elsewhere after other huge storms.

The AP, with the assistance of Ventyx, a software company that helps utilities manage their grids, used federal Energy Department data to determine how many days it took to restore 95 percent of the peak number of customers left without power after major hurricanes since 2004, including Ivan, Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Ike and Irene.

After Sandy, New York utilities restored power to at least 95 percent of customers 13 days after the peak number of outages was reported. New Jersey reached that level in 11 days and West Virginia in 10 days.

Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005 and Ike in 2008 all resulted in longer outages for customers in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Florida.

The longest stretch to 95 percent restoration since 2004 was Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, where local utilities had power restored to only three-quarters of their customers after 23 days before Hurricane Rita hit and caused additional outages.

Rita left Texas customers in the dark for 16 days; Katrina knocked out power to Mississippi customers for 15 days; Wilma and Ike knocked Florida and Texas out for 14 days each before power was restored to 95 percent of those who lost it, according to the federal data.

New York and New Jersey recovered far faster after last year's Hurricane Irene. It took seven days for New York to restore 95 percent of customers and six days for New Jersey. But the number of outages in each state was less than half than from Sandy.

The restoration target of 95 percent allowed the AP to compare responses to the largest number of recent storms using Energy Department data, and is considered by industry experts to provide a meaningful picture of the speed with which utilities restored service to the vast majority of customers.

Michael Redpath of Toms River, N.J. was without power for 15 days before getting it back this week. He and his wife stayed in their home for the first week after Sandy because their friends also had lost power. As some power in the region was restored, and Redpath's wife got sick from too many nights in the cold, they started staying over with friends.

“It's just so disorienting to be without power, to be out of your house and to not know what's going on,” he said.

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