Nearly 20,000 Rockland County residents remain without power one week after Hurricane Sandy hit, inciting the ire of state and county officials, who are demanding answers from Orange and Rockland Utilities.
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy joined Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef in New City on Monday afternoon to denounce the utility's efforts to get power up and running in the aftermath of the storm.
Vanderhoef, who spoke with utility officials earlier in the day in what he called a "heated" exchange, said the total outages affect one in every five Rockland residents.
"One in five people after 7 1/2 days is unacceptable," Vanderhoef said. "They are angry and frustrated and they want to know what we're doing. It's just impossible to think that that many people will spend a cold night in Rockland County without any power."
Among the hardest-hit towns is Clarkstown, where officials say some 7,500 customers are without power.
"Utility companies are regulated," Duffy said during a news conference in the county executive's office. "They are paid well. If you know our governor like I know our governor, there is going to be a series of accountability measures put in place after this that will hopefully make sure people do not end up losing power."
Cuomo echoed Duffy's comments during his own news conference two hours later. Cuomo ticked off a list of utility companies -- among them Orange and Rockland -- whose efforts he said will need to be dissected.
"If you can't provide the service, then we will find another vendor who can," Cuomo said of the utilities. "The service is not when the sun is shining and everything is perfect the lights come on. The test of the service is were you prepared for the storm?"
Orange and Rockland Utilities officials say Vanderhoef is overstating the outages that remain by about 5,000. They say just 14,300 customers are without power and that its around-the-clock efforts to repair wires downed by trees have restored power to 83 percent of its 250,000 customers.
The company promised that all its customers will have power by day's end on Nov. 10.
"O&R revised its restoration estimate today based upon significant progress in rebuilding the electric system made by an army of O&R employees and contractors totaling over 3,500 workers who have been working hard to return electric service as soon as possible," the company said in a statement.
"This extraordinary influx of resources represents the biggest emergency response workforce O&R has ever assembled to restore the largest number of outages ever in the most destructive storm in the region's history."
"We're doing everything we can," O&R spokesman Mike Donovan told Newsday.
With the exception of New City, Rockland polling places will be open Tuesday for Election Day, Vanderhoef said. He said residents should check in with city officials before heading out to vote. Information is also available from the Rockland County Board of Elections at 845-638-5172.
Duffy predicted that in the next two to three days, gas lines at stations throughout the state will be back to pre-Hurricane Sandy waits.
He was expected to tour the flood-damaged towns of Stony Point and Piermont on Monday afternoon.
"We always felt that we were prepared," Duffy said. "This storm, especially with the utilities, has taxed that preparation."
Duffy added, "I know that patience is wearing thin, so hopefully the power will be back on -- we hope sooner rather than later."
Vanderhoef encouraged residents with questions to contact the county's offices at 845-364-2020.