LIPA: 99 percent to be restored by Tuesday

LIPA has started work on a $6.5-million transmission-line LIPA has started work on a $6.5-million transmission-line upgrade to deal with growing power demands on the East End. (Aug. 29, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

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Ninety-nine percent of LIPA customers who are able receive power will have their electricity restored by the end of the day Tuesday, the president of National Grid's Long Island electric group said at a Saturday afternoon news conference.

In addition, John Bruckner said, all Suffolk County residents who live within a flood zone, but who did not sustain water damage, will have their power restored Saturday night.

In Nassau, he said, there are 38,000 customers within flood zones that need to be restored, although he did not have details on how many would need electrical inspections before getting power restored.

In total, officials said power has been restored to 93 percent of Long Island customers.

"We are just about wrapped up," Bruckner said.

Bruckner and LIPA chief operating officer Michael Hervey also defended their company's response to the storm, including their communication with the public.

"We are an open book," Hervey said. "We communicate openly at all times."

At its height, superstorm Sandy knocked out power to more than 945,000 customers, some 700,000 of which had been restored before the nor'easter arrived Wednesday. Tens of thousands of additional customers lost power after that storm battered LI into Thursday. About 130,000 customers remained without power Saturday afternoon, according to LIPA's website.

LIPA said some 1,200 new line workers and tree trimmers were due in the area Friday, bolstering a total workforce of more than 12,000. LIPA on Thursday also added back to its outage list about 60,000 customers in the Rockaways and Long Beach who had been removed because devastation there had been so widespread that many weren't able to receive power.

But the numbers were little solace to the tens of thousands who remain in dark, freezing homes, primarily along the South Shore, or who have been displaced because lack of power has driven them out.

About 400 people rallied outside LIPA headquarters in Hicksville on Saturday morning calling for the resignation of the utility company's top officials.

"This is not about the workers," said demonstrator Keith Hickey, 41, of Hicksville. "This is about the management failing. They [LIPA management] have been failing since 2006."

The group carried signs that read "Help Us" and "Shame on LIPA" as they chanted and pumped their fists.

Police officers made sure the crowd did not spill into the street, where several passing cars honked in support of the demonstration.

"We want to stop being lied to," said Joanne Feaster of Hicksville, one of the event's organizers. "Someone has to be held accountable."

Anger toward the Long Island Power Authority for its response to Sandy was also evident Friday as residents demonstrating against the utility in Oceanside cursed and booed Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, and Nassau County and federal elected officials demanded the federal government play a key role in the restoration of power.

That anger was bared in Oceanside, where both Murray and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) appeared at an elementary school. And at a news conference in Bethpage, a bevy of officials -- including Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Steve Israel (D-Huntington) -- argued that LIPA was incapable of restoring power in a speedy manner.

They called on the White House to deploy every available resource, including manpower and equipment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the departments of Defense and Energy.

"People are desperate for information," Skelos said. "When are they going to respond to the human needs out there? . . . This is our Katrina."

Repeated attempts to contact LIPA officials for comment were unsuccessful throughout the day Friday. National Grid, the private company that oversees utility operations, held a news conference Friday night at which it said 95 percent of customers not affected by flooding should have power by Tuesday night.

With Mark Harrington

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