PSEG moves people, equipment in place before snowstorm
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Two days after taking over Long Island's power grid, PSEG Long Island, the region's new utility company, faced its first major test -- mobilizing thousands of employees and the equipment needed to handle snowstorm-related outages.
More than 2,200 Long Island utility workers were called on duty and some 1,000 utility vehicles prepped for dispatch Thursday as Nassau and Suffolk expected a deluge of snow into Friday.
"We're very confident we're ready for this event," David Daly, president of PSEG Long Island, said in a phone interview Thursday.
As of 10:30 p.m. Thursday, there were just four active outages on Long Island, according to the PSEG outage map on its website.
On Wednesday the utility company -- a subsidiary of New Jersey's power provider PSEG -- replaced National Grid, the previous contractor for the beleaguered Long Island Power Authority. The state-approved change was largely prompted by public outcry over LIPA's handling of superstorm Sandy damage in 2012, when thousands of customers were left in the dark for weeks.
Daly said he was aware that customers and elected officials alike would be closely watching the company's storm response given LIPA's troubled past, but noted PSEG Long Island has been working on Nassau and Suffolk since 2011, when it was selected to administer some of LIPA's power service.
"We have been here two years preparing," Daly said. "We understand the history here on Long Island. We have said very clearly that among our top three priorities for improving service here on Long Island . . . is improving the storm-restoration process."
Daly said that process, which includes surveying major equipment before a storm, was tested last month alongside staff from the state Department of Public Service, a state agency that will handle customer complaints filed against the utility.
Before joining PSEG Long Island, Daly oversaw storm-recovery efforts for the utility in New Jersey, and said many of the employees overseeing repair work in Nassau and Suffolk were part of the "battle tested" teams that had dealt with previous Northeast storms.
Daly said the company also has spent the past year putting in place a $31 million storm-outage management system to speed up response time, but that system will not be fully operational until July.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who publicly criticized LIPA officials following superstorm Sandy for delivering "inaccurate" and "untimely" information, said Thursday that "this blizzard will certainly test the improvements PSEG brings with respect to communication and storm response."
Daly said improving communication to customers and public officials was a key part of PSEG Long Island's improvement plan, and the company planned to regularly update its website and Twitter account with outage information.
Yesterday, the company sent an email to county, town and village officials outlining its preparation efforts. Customers also received an email, and the company made calls to some 10,000 clients currently relying on life-sustaining electronic equipment.
Seymour Speigel, 67, of Jericho, who spent 14 days without power after Sandy and recently lost power for six hours on Thanksgiving Day, said he's hoping PSEG's response would be quicker than that of LIPA.
"They look like they hopefully have the potential to do better," Spiegel said. "I have my fingers crossed that they can manage."