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LIPA aims to cut number of outages by 150,000 by Sunday

Lela Leslie, 77, stopped while on a walk

Lela Leslie, 77, stopped while on a walk in her Locust Valley neighborhood to hug and thank a LIPA worker she saw servicing her area. (Nov. 02, 2012) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Long Island Power Authority expects to cut the number of customer outages by 150,000 by Sunday night, officials said Friday.

With about 465,000 customers out as of 12:06 a.m. this morning, that reduction would put LIPA on course to restoring the power to all but about 97,000 of its customers who can receive power by Wednesday, said Michael Hervey, LIPA's chief operating officer.

"By the end of the day Wednesday, we expect to have 90 percent of all customers who can receive power restored," he said.

LIPA is putting to the side the roughly 100,000 customers who, because of damage to or the loss of their homes, cannot receive power.

The LIPA system isn't badly damaged in those areas, including Lindenhurst and Freeport, but turning on the juice there may not be safe given flooding and other damage to homes, Hervey said.

LIPA also expects that it may take up to a week longer to restore power to areas of Brookville, Port Jefferson and St. James, which aerial surveys have shown to have more extensive damage than originally thought, Hervey said. There are about 80,000 customers without power in those three areas, he said.

Reinforcements arrive

On day five of the largest outage in Long Island history, LIPA received unprecedented levels of reinforcements -- 900 line workers from Canada, Florida and Arizona, some airlifted here with their equipment, according to Hervey. The flights were arranged by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo working with federal officials. The total workforce is now well over 3,100 workers.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said the number of workers in the field would be 4,300 by this morning, with another 1,000 being added by day's end, which would be more workers than any prior LIPA restoration effort.

Hervey acknowledged that customers are increasingly frustrated when they see repair crews travel through neighborhoods to restore power, only to find their specific outage not addressed.

LIPA is focusing first on the main power lines from substations, in the hope of getting the most customers restored at once.

Smaller jobs that restore the fewest number of people will generally be done toward the end of the work.

LIPA said it expects to have the vast majority of customers back up by the weekend of Nov. 10-11, though a limited number may remain for a week or more after that.

At the height of the outages caused by Sandy, LIPA said more than 945,000 customers of its 1,126,633 customers in Nassau, Suffolk and the Rockaway Peninsula were without power -- a record for outages. The bulk of the 523,000 outages from Irene took five days to resolve. After Hurricane Gloria in 1985, it took 11 days to restore service.

Earlier Friday, Cuomo reiterated his ultimatum to LIPA, saying, "I want them held accountable for their performance . . . they're businessmen, why shouldn't they be?"

At a morning news conference, Cuomo also announced that 200 additional crews would be coming to Long Island from Quebec.

In all, LIPA has restored power to more than 600,000 customers since the superstorm began affecting Long Island last Sunday, Hervey said. Many customers experienced an outage and were restored before the storm hit on Monday, and crews were pulled off the job for safety.

Hospitals get power

Cuomo had issued a written ultimatum Thursday to officials of LIPA, a state authority, and those of other top utilities in the state, including Con Edison, saying they had time to prepare for the storm, and that the state certificates of the private companies, and even the officials' jobs, were on the line.

"I will make every change necessary to ensure it lives up to its public responsibility," the governor said of LIPA, adding: "It goes without saying that such failures would warrant the removal of the management responsible for such colossal misjudgments."

Friday, LIPA said power had been restored to 19 of 21 hospitals, 34 of 50 substations and that it had energized the Ronkonkoma and Babylon lines of the Long Island Rail Road.

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