The Long Island Power Authority Thursday committed to bring in 970 restoration workers from outside Long Island as Hurricane Irene marches toward the region.
In addition, LIPA has already committed to 786 on-Island contractors, including electrical repair workers and tree-trim crews, to help restore potential outages, a LIPA spokeswoman said. Full-time National Grid repair and customer call-center crews have also been enlisted to respond to the storm.
"We continue to monitor Irene and follow forecasts," LIPA spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said. The utility is working on the assumption that Irene will be a Category 1 hurricane when it hits Long Island on Sunday. Off-Island crews, mostly from Pennsylvania, are expected to begin arriving Saturday.
In addition to the contractors, all LIPA and National Grid workers contracted to LIPA are on notice for extended work hours, Baird-Streeter said. All vacations have been canceled.
Hiring outside crews in advance of the storm is no small decision for LIPA. The authority took criticism last year when it contracted for 1,600 outside crews in advance of Hurricane Earl, which left Long Island unscathed. The $34-million tab set off several investigations, including an ongoing probe by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Other utilities in the hurricane's path also are making plans for Irene. In New Jersey, PSE&G, a firm bidding to take over the contract to manage LIPA's system, said it has "all available personnel ready to respond," and is hiring an additional 280 linemen from other states and about 250 tree trimmers, spokeswoman Karen Johnson said.
Con Edison spokesman Chris Olert said the utility is calling outside crews, but he didn't expect them here until after the storm hits. "We don't want to charge our customers for work that doesn't have to be done," he said.