The lights came back on in small clusters for a few thousand lucky homeowners Wednesday night, but progress was slow as utilities struggled to return power to more than 380,000 homes and businesses in the Hudson Valley.
Officials, who described Hurricane Sandy as twice as bad as 2011's Hurricane Irene, said there were myriad difficulties with repair work, pointing to burnt-out transformers, malfunctioning substations and felled trees heightening the difficulty of bringing customers back online.
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"This is the worst," said Orange & Rockland spokesman Mike Donovan.
As of Wednesday night, more than 380,000 Hudson Valley customers remained in the dark, according to the four utility companies serving the area. Statewide, 1.9 million were without power Wednesday evening, down from 2.2 million at the height of the storm.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a midday news conference, said he did not know how soon power would be restored in Westchester County, but it would likely happen sooner than on Long Island, the state's hardest-hit region.
Of those blacked out in the Hudson Valley, 197,071 were in Westchester, according to Con Edison and NYSEG. Rockland County had the second-highest number of outages, with 76,885, and Orange County had 57,050 between Central Hudson and Orange & Rockland, the two utilities serving those counties.
The repair effort came as politicians began applying pressure for a rapid resolution for residents forced to use flashlights to navigate their dark, chilly homes.
State Sen. Greg Ball, who is running for re-election, chided the utility companies.
"According to the current predictions, utilities are expecting power restoration to take over a week -- this is absolutely unacceptable. Ten days is too damn long," he said.
Donovan declined to respond directly to Ball, but said O&R is facing a multilayered problem: dealing with 7,000 downed lines, restoring transformers and substations and preparing the distribution system.
Ten out of 17 substations are disabled and 14 of 27 transformer lines remain out of action, he said.
After taking a helicopter tour of the hardest hit areas, County Executive Rob Astorino said he spoke Con Edison CEO Kevin Burke and NYSEG CEO Mark Lynch, receiving assurances that crews won't be pulled from the county.
"We have been assured that Con Edison is not diverting any resources from Westchester to New York City or other parts of the region. We will hold the company to its promise," said Astorino, who told News12 viewers he did not have power in his own home Wednesday.
Hospitals and nursing homes were the first priorities, the county executive said.
Central Hudson, which serves Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Ulster counties, distributed more than 46,000 pounds of dry ice Tuesday. The utility was giving out more dry ice and bottled water at locations in Newburgh, Fishkill, Accord, Poughkeepsie, Woodstock, Olive, Cornwall and the town of Lloyd. The locations are available at www.centralhudson.com and by calling 845-486-5796.
O&R was giving out dry ice at Provident Bank Park in Pomona from 2-5 p.m. and Middletown City Hall from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday. A tweet from the company's official Twitter account late on Wednesday afternoon brought some good news -- Orange & Rockland managed to restore power to more than 40,000 people since the height of Hurricane Sandy, and the company said it had more than 2,000 crews involved in repair efforts.