Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday convened officials on Long Island to get ready for the hurricane and storm season, and said she expects utilities including LIPA and PSEG to perform better than they have in the past.
Speaking at Farmingdale State College as the 10-year anniversary of the devastating Superstorm Sandy approaches, the governor said a repeat of past lapses would be unacceptable.
“I’m here to say that can’t happen,” Hochul said at a news conference after meeting with local politicians, law enforcement leaders and utility officials.
“So it is critical that LIPA and PSEG deliver for Long Island … especially in a crisis,” she said. “That’s why I came here in person, to convey that directly. When a storm hits … get the job done.”
An above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is still forecast for 2022, although the chances for it are slightly lower than initially predicted, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said earlier this month.
So far, there have been three named storms. The forecast calls for 14 to 20 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes and, of those, three to five could become major hurricanes.
PSEG came under heavy criticism after 2020's Tropical Storm Isaias left 535,000 customers in the dark for up to eight days because of a breakdown of computer and communications systems.
LIPA in December 2020 filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against grid operator PSEG Long Island in an unprecedented move that put a price tag on the New Jersey-based company's "grossly negligent" performance during Isaias.
The suit accused PSEG of "corporate mismanagement, misfeasance, incompetence and indifference, rising well beyond the level of simple negligence."
PSEG Long Island spokeswoman Ashley Chauvin said at the time that the company "stands by our dedicated and hardworking employees, our past accomplishments and our commitment to improve."
Jackie Bray, commissioner of the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said at the news conference that the utilities were making efforts to improve, though the test will be when an actual major storm hits.
She said the computer system that failed during Isaias “has been replaced by a new system as of this June” and that testing so far indicates it should function properly during a major storm or hurricane.
“It is our expectation that these systems must work during a significant” storm, she said.
The utilities are “in a much better place than they’ve been,” said Bray, who called their performance in Isaias an “absolutely unacceptable failure.”
She said billions of dollars have been spent in the last several years to strengthen the power grid on Long Island.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who also attended the session, said, “This is an issue that is incredibly important to us.”
He noted that many families are still “reeling” from the impact of Superstorm Sandy a decade later.
Both Hochul and Bray said New York can expect more turbulent weather in the months and years ahead because of climate change.
“Extreme weather is here and it’s not going anywhere,” Bray said.
Hochul noted that the entire South Shore of Long Island was elevated this week to a "severe drought" level by federal weather officials.
She also announced New York State Citizen Preparedness Corps training will resume this month after it was suspended in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program, since its creation in 2014, has provided nearly 350,000 New Yorkers with training and resources to prepare for disasters and know how to respond and recover from them as well.
"New York is no stranger to climate disasters and weather emergencies that require local emergency response agencies and the general public to be on alert and prepared," Hochul said in a statement.
The State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, along with the New York National Guard, will hold five citizen preparedness training courses, officials said.
One of them is scheduled for Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Residents can reserve admission by emailing CPCTraining@dhses.ny.gov.
Another session is planned for Riverhead, but details have not yet been announced.