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LI blizzard adds $4M to LIPA's storm costs

Joe Hudson, 83, takes a momentary break from

Joe Hudson, 83, takes a momentary break from shoveling snow in front of his house on Polk Street in Freeport (Dec. 27, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

The Long Island Power Authority, already more than $100 million over its storm budget for 2010, added $4 million to that cost in responding to the blizzard, which left more than 32,000 without power over two days. By last night, a few thousand customers still were in the dark, as high winds complicated some repairs.

The fact that the blizzard was fueled by heavy winds that reached as high as 63 mph throughout the night and until yesterday afternoon complicated LIPA's efforts to restore power. Still, all but 4,700 were back by 2 p.m. yesterday, and crews hoped to have all of them restored by last night.

Most of the outages were in Suffolk County, with the bulk, around 3,000 as of 10:30 a.m., in Babylon Town.

More than 300 National Grid line workers, and some local outside contractors, worked through the night and yesterday to restore power, but the authority did not bring in off-Island contractors. "We don't need out-of-state assistance," said LIPA spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter.

This year has been an expensive one for LIPA's storm budget. A March nor'easter, several smaller storms, and the expectation of a wallop by Hurricane Earl in September caused LIPA to exceed its storm budget.

LIPA was criticized for bringing in 1,600 outside crews in advance of Hurricane Earl, which ultimately skirted Long Island but left ratepayers with a tab of more than $32 million. A probe by LIPA's board of trustees found the authority responded properly for the storm, but could have waited a day before calling in outside crews.

For those affected by an outage, the authority's new storm center website gave little relief.

A map and outage summary showed the areas with the most active problems, but the section that listed the "estimated restoration" times in almost all cases showed the message "assessing condition" rather than an actual repair time.

Baird-Streeter said the map also didn't show the latest repair numbers, but said LIPA was working to update the site.


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