Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
The first voice mail from Jeanne Cappiello arrived last Sunday afternoon: "We are the only house on the street that has no power. It is now Day Whatever It Is."
She described the damage to their home and yard in Garden City: An enormous oak tree in the backyard had crashed -- Cappiello watched it as she was washing dishes -- damaging the house and bringing down a power line.
"We're a little bit cold at this point and would appreciate it if something could be done," she said.
When we spoke on Monday, Cappiello said the electric meter was hanging off the house and that an electrician would be coming to repair it. "I did speak to someone [at LIPA] who said perhaps we'll have power back by tonight . . . They only have to put a wire from the [utility] pole to the house."
The LIPA rep told her that restoration of power to individual homes takes longer because they're scattered and each one requires a visit -- "which made sense to me," Cappiello said.
We contacted LIPA and learned that a return of power looked promising: An electrician had done the necessary work "and now LIPA needs to restring service to the house. There should be someone out to do that sometime tonight."
On Tuesday, still with no power, Cappiello said she called LIPA several times.
"They said just be a little more patient," she said. It paid off in the afternoon when six utility workers from other states arrived. There was joy in the Cappiello household.
It didn't last.
When power returned, it didn't extend to all the home's electrical outlets. And the surge "blew out" the oven and dishwasher, she said.
Cappiello said she was told the house has a three-phase electrical service, a fairly unusual arrangement, and in the repair process, wires may have been crossed -- literally.
Even as partial power was retored, the house did not get a new electrical meter and cover for the new electrical box installed by the electrician.
"I called [LIPA] and I got the same runaround," she said Friday. She had learned that the exposed box "is very dangerous. We're not supposed to let anyone touch it."
So Watchdog asked LIPA when the household could expect the work to be complete. Late Friday afternoon, LIPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said she had checked on the address and "they are slated to get a meter by tomorrow."
Minutes later, Cappiello called: "He's here now," she said of a LIPA crew member. By the time we finished speaking, the new meter and cover were in place.
Power restored, the Cappiellos can move on to other repairs.
In Freeport, a resident inquired about how to get help with another storm byproduct: Oil spills.
"My neighbor's [heating] oil tank that he placed on the side of his house tipped over during the storm and has spilled oil onto my property," Lisa Stokes said in an email.
When we visited the street, the smell of oil was apparent and grew stronger near the Stokes' home. Grass in the side yard was darkened and, in the backyard, an absorbent sawdust-like material had been spread about to absorb the slick.
Stokes said that when she returned home after the storm, "I didn't realize I was stepping in oil" and wound up tracking it through the yard onto the steps.
It's hard to imagine trying to keep oil from getting tracked into the house: For starters, the family can't let their dogs into the yard.
Stokes sought assistance from the village to get the oil cleaned up. But the village told her the issue amounts to a dispute between neighbors.
She countered that the village should have a role because installation of such tanks need village approval. Here's the only Village Code entry Watchdog could find about such tanks: "Outside aboveground tanks shall not be located in a closely built-up area."
The case could be made that the Stokes' neighborhood qualifies as such an area, but the phrase is not defined.
Village code inspector Sergio Mauras would not address whether the tank was installed properly or should have been installed at all.
He did speak generally about what village inspectors have seen.
"Now that we've done major assessments [of storm damage], we have found issues where people have done work without permits," he said. "We are trying to address them as we go along."
Mauras said the village, along with other municipalities and Nassau and Suffolk Counties, is looking to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for help with oil spill cleanups, which he described as widespread.
"The issue is that there's oil everywhere," Mauras said, from "one end of Long Island to the other."
Such a mess won't be cleaned up quickly. Three weeks ago, such images would have occurred only in a nightmare.
Last week we told you about the powerless plight of the Cammarata-Snyder family in West Hempstead. Their house had remained dark and cold even as power had been restored to others nearby.
"I am overjoyed to announce that power has been restored not more than an hour ago," Joe Cammarata said in an email late last Sunday afternoon. "Needless to say, our furnace will be working extra hard tonight!"
And he asked us to extend the family's gratitude to the Long Islanders who contacted Watchdog offering assistance.