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Long Island

LIPA outages ebbing after 2-storm punch

A utility pole in Uniondale (Nov. 6, 2012)

A utility pole in Uniondale (Nov. 6, 2012) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

The Long Island Power Authority appears to be making progress in restoring power to the roughly 20 percent of its customers who remain without power after a second storm walloped Long Island on Wednesday. Just over 173,000 homes and businesses remained in the dark at 9 a.m. Friday, the number dropping to 166,244 by 10 a.m.

LIPA said some 1,200 new line workers and tree trimmers were due in the area Friday, bolstering a total workforce of more than 12,000. LIPA on Thursday also added back to its outage list about 60,000 customers in the Rockaways and Long Beach who had been removed because devastation there had been so widespread that many weren't able to receive power. At its height, the storm knocked out power to more than 945,000. LIPA said 100,000 were restored Thursday, despite the weather.

But the numbers were little solace to the hundreds of thousands who remain in dark, freezing homes, primarily along the South Shore, or who have been displaced because lack of power has driven them out.

"We have hundreds of homes out of power as our area has obviously not been a top priority," said Helen Dadiego of Baldwin Harbor, one of the communities considered a flood zone that had required electrical evaluations before power could be restored. Yesterday, Nassau and Suffolk scrapped the plan in favor of one that will turn on large blocks of customers in flood zones that weren't impacted by high water.

"We believe the damage is limited enough that we can put a large number of customers back on," Michael Hervey, LIPA's chief operating officer, said Thursday night. As a precaution, he urged customers in these areas who may have had flooding to turn off the mainline electric switch in their electric panel and individual circuit breakers to avoid problems.

Legis. David Denenberg (R-Merrick), said Freeport, which has its own electric utility, had already begun and in large part completed the evaluations necessary to restore power to those whose power had been turned off for safety reasons but who suffered no water damage. And while not all residents there were restored, he said the efficiency of the system was a lesson for LIPA and other towns that appear flat-footed on the effort.

LIPA has come under increasing heat from state, county, town and local officials, and has been the subject of numerous online petitions and demonstrations as outages linger on. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared Thursday that LIPA had "failed," and threatened the latest in the series of reforms for the "antiquated" utility. He had previously noted that National Grid, the London-based utility conglomerate, is managing the restoration effort with LIPA's oversight.

Even some who never lost power are lashing out.

"I cannot tell you how angry I am that 11 days after Hurricane Sandy, there are still 200,000 people on Long Island without power," wrote ratepayer Donna Cricchio. "This situation is absolutely inexcusable. These people are suffering in the dark and the cold. There is no excuse good enough for this."

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