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LIPA: Power back to 99% of customers able to get it

A LIPA crew arrives to turn power back

A LIPA crew arrives to turn power back on in a small section of Island Park. (Nov. 12, 2012) Credit: Ed Betz

The Long Island Power Authority Tuesday said it achieved a goal of restoring power to 99 percent of customers able to receive it, but pockets of outages -- some new, some 2 weeks old -- remained.

Meanwhile, LIPA has begun to release some outside repair crews, including up to 400 tree trimmers and transmission system crews Tuesday, but it still has the largest force of workers in the field in its history -- about 13,400.

LIPA chief operating officer Michael Hervey Tuesday said the authority's calls to customers in areas where power had largely been restored have identified newly discovered outages within restored areas. That, along with new outages, added 4,000 to 5,000 to the outage total Tuesday.

"It's just natural that sometimes when we restore large outages, there are small pockets that remain off within that large outage," he said.

Those factors kept outages to around 13,000 for most of Tuesday. Another 28,400 are in areas that cannot be readily restored until they have electrical certifications and, in some cases, repair work. LIPA has again removed those customers from its outage map.

One customer who had power restored late Tuesday was Costas Papayanopoulos, of Seaford Harbor, who said his home passed a LIPA electrical inspection two days ago and was assured by a crew that power would be on that night, but was left in the dark for the next two days.

"It was frustrating because we just didn't know what was going to happen, and when we were finally given information, it was incorrect," he said.

One of the newly darkened homes was that of Joe Barone, of Levittown, who said he lost power Tuesday after a LIPA-contracted repair truck came down his block and snapped a power line and knocked over a telephone pole, which fell into his backyard. Barone said he spent hours trying to get through to LIPA to call in a repair.

"There's no way you can get LIPA on the phone," he said. "You get an answering machine that says all lines are tied up. When you can't reach the people responsible, that is really pathetic."

After two weeks in which the utility said it restored power to more than 1 million customers, LIPA said the end of the restoration was near, though much work remained. "Today, we were solidly past it," Hervey said Tuesday of LIPA's 99 percent goal.

Hervey said crews are expected to be dispatched to all remaining outage jobs within the next day or so. "We clearly want to get it done as early as possible," he said.

But there's still work to be done beyond the immediate outages. Making the fixes permanent is key -- a worry of Emanuel Zuckerman, deputy mayor of the Village of East Hills. "It's all temporary," he said Tuesday. "I'm very concerned about it."

Hervey acknowledged that "we have a significant amount of work to do to get the system back to normal configuration," but he said extra crews will be kept on once the primary work is done to complete it. LIPA has already begun efforts to survey all 13,000 miles of distribution wires, starting in Suffolk, to make sure the system is fully back to normal.

Hervey acknowledged that some LIPA customers who were asked to certify that their systems were able to receive power after crew evaluations were also required to sign "hold harmless" letters, releasing LIPA from any responsibility if turning on the juice caused damage.

"We have to take customers' word" about the damage they did or didn't suffer, he said. "It's just a precaution to take so that the seriousness of whatever they are telling us is reinforced."

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