Many on Long Island still in dark as power outage persists after superstorm Sandy
HICKSVILLE, N.Y. — Two weeks after superstorm Sandy, while most utilities have restored electricity to nearly all their customers, there was one glaring exception on Monday: a Long Island power company with more outages — almost 60,000 — than all the others combined.
As people on Long Island fumed over the cold and the darkness and complained that they could not get answers from the company, the Long Island Power Authority said in its defense that the storm was worse than anyone could have imagined and that it did not just damage outdoor electrical lines; it caused flooding that touched home and business breaker boxes.
LIPA acknowledged that an outdated computer system for keeping customers notified has added to people's frustration.
Some say the government-run utility should have seen it coming. It was recently criticized in a state report for lax preparation before last year's Hurricane Irene and for the 25-year-old computer system used to pinpoint outages and update customers.
“It's antiquated. I think they're negligent,” said Phil Glickman, a retired Wall Street executive from South Bellmore who waited for 11 days to get electricity back.
LIPA has restored power to nearly 1.1 million homes and offices. About 46,000 still waiting for the lights to come back on are along Long Island's south shore and Rockaway Peninsula and had water damage to electrical panels and wiring, so their service cannot be restored without an inspection and possibly repairs. The utility said it expects to restore service to the last 11,000 customers outside flooded areas by late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
At its peak, the storm knocked out power to 8.5 million customers in 10 states, with New York and New Jersey bearing the brunt. Those outages have been nearly erased, though Consolidated Edison, the chief utility in New York City, has cited problems similar to LIPA's, saying about 16,300 customers in flooded areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island can't get service until their internal electrical equipment is repaired, tested and certified.
LIPA, whose board is chosen by the governor and lawmakers, contracts with National Grid for service and maintenance. Last year, its board chose a new contractor, New Jersey's Public Service Enterprise Group, which will take over in 2014.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the storm response of all New York utilities in the region, saying their management had failed consumers.
Asked Monday about LIPA board vacancies he has not filled and whether he takes responsibility for what's happening there, Cuomo called the authority a holding company that became “an intergovernmental political organization.” He said National Grid was the actual Long Island power provider, one of the monopolistic state-regulated utilities.
“They're going to be held accountable,” he said, citing lack of communication and preparation.