A utility pole split on Route 48 in Southold during...

A utility pole split on Route 48 in Southold during Tropical Storm Henri on Sunday. Credit: Randee Daddona

Utility outages on Long Island were less than expected Sunday after Tropical Storm Henri shifted to the east, before later making landfall in Rhode Island and causing more than 80,000 National Grid customers in that state to lose power.

"We dodged a huge bullet," said Mark Fischl, LIPA’s acting vice chairman.

PSEG Long Island, which manages the Island's electric grid under contract to LIPA, said total outages were around 3,400 for the day, a number the company had reduced to fewer than 1,000 by 3 p.m. PSEG had more than 3,700 workers, many from off Long Island, called in before the storm, to help restore power to customers who were affected.

Crews that had been in-transit to Long Island were sent back home, and all but 1,000 high-voltage workers were released at some point Sunday, PSEG said.

On Friday and Saturday, when forecasters projected a direct hit across most of Long Island, PSEG had warned of outages lasting as long as two weeks, with LIPA saying up to 600,000 customers could be impacted.

"Thankfully, the track of the storm moved toward the east more than predicted, and that’s what’s accounting for the [lower outage] numbers we’re seeing," PSEG spokeswoman Ashley Chauvin said, cautioning some additional weather was expected on the East End through Sunday evening.

The fact that Henri was primarily a rain and flooding event on Long Island was perhaps the greatest factor in reducing local outages. Winds whipped to tropical force status on the East End, notably in Montauk, but not in a sustained way. Most of the day’s outages were in Suffolk, particularly in East Hampton and Southampton, but the numbers never exceeded 1,000 for either town at any one time.

Long Island was largely spared from Tropical Storm Henri, which veered east. Residents reacted to the storm that didn't pack the powerful punch some had anticipated. Newsday's Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

By comparison, National Grid’s outage map by 3 p.m. was showing 78,600 of its 500,000 Rhode Island customers still without power by the afternoon. National Grid previously managed the Long Island electric grid, but lost the contract after missteps during Superstorm Sandy, which saw more than 900,000 outages for LIPA’s 1.1 million customers, some for weeks.

PSEG, in any event, said it was prepared for this Sunday’s storm, with extra crews in place and enhanced systems and protocols following its own missteps during Tropical Storm Isaias a year ago. By 10 a.m., PSEG said it had restored power to more than 1,000 customers, and it was able to reduce outages all day, even as lingering rain soaked the island through the afternoon.

PSEG in a statement said it wasn’t just additional crews and better-than-expected weather that helped. "The electric grid has been strengthened by PSEG Long Island to better withstand extreme weather and allow for faster power restoration, including elevating a number of substations above flood level in preparation for this kind of severe weather," the company said. "The system held up well," Chauvin added.

But PSEG could face new challenges in the coming week. Two of five major power lines to Long Island remain out of service, and a third is only at half capacity, as another week of 85-plus degree heat threatens.

"We’re going to look at the weather and make sure we’re making the appropriate plans," Chauvin said. "We continue to monitor the weather and the heat."

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