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Tropical Storm Isaias' aftermath: Latest updates

Trees down due to high winds from Tropical

Trees down due to high winds from Tropical Storm Isaias at Madison Avenue and Beltagh Avenue in Bellmore on Aug. 4, 2020. Credit: Howard Schnapp

What's happening:

Wednesday updates

Staff works through night to clear Freeport streets

Freeport Mayor Robert T. Kennedy said Wednesday the village’s department of public works had worked overnight to clean up streets in order to get repairs done.

“There was an excessive amount of damage and as a result trees blew down into wiring,” Kennedy said. “The only people that, to my knowledge are without power, are ones that need to have a licensed electrician repair service at their house. It’s called the mast where the wires are fixed to their house. If they didn’t repair that, we can’t reenergize them.”

Kennedy said he expected crew workers to remain working to remove debris from the streets to make them safe.

Cemeteries are open but they also had clean up to do from Tuesday's storm.

At Long Island National Cemetery, Sue Jehlen, the cemetery’s director, said no headstones were damaged.

“We had several large trees that came down,” she said. “We have some roads that are blocked, so we’re just working with our leadership in order to remedy that situation.” — Keldy Ortiz

Crews clear branches, some trees in Northport

Northport Village Mayor Damon McMullen said streets were open thanks to efforts by his crews who cleared branches and, when possible, trees. However PSEG was needed for larger jobs because of the power lines.

He said village crews cleaned up until around 9 p.m. Tuesday and resumed work at 6 a.m. Wednesday. McMullen said he was “annoyed” that since early Wednesday village officials hadn't been able to reach PSEG despite repeated calls.

“I’m annoyed that they told us on Monday they were well prepared for this and they did expect a certain amount of outages, which is fair. But for municipalities to have difficulties in contacting them that’s really annoying. I can see it’s frustrating for a homeowner, you can’t get through to report a wire down. But when you think about it, municipalities do so many essential services that are needed whether, sewer plant, police, fire, so many things that are critical to the safety and well-being of the residents.”

He said village hall, the firehouse and the 911 system were up and running thanks to a generator. But there was no internet. He said residents had power in pockets and internet and cell service was spotty.

“It’s very hard to communicate without cellphones,” he said. “These cellphone companies with their giant towers; do they not have emergency generators for when things like this happen? Were they not prepared?”  — jDeborah S. Morris

PSEG must deal with live power lines in toppled trees

Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said four downed trees in the village that were tangled with live power lines had been cordoned off until PSEG could get to them.

“We’re just waiting for PSEG to take care of it,” Ekstrand said. “Our crew is not going to try to cut up the tree with the live wire.”

About 20 trees were knocked down by the storm but as of early Wednesday afternoon village crews had cleared all roadways, Ekstrand said.

“The rest of today and tomorrow they’ll be picking up little stuff, the branches in front of people’s houses,” Ekstrand said. — Ted Phillips

Islip supervisor: Roads couldn’t be cleared right away

Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter said many roads could not be cleared right away because of downed power lines. She said the town was working with PSEG LI to clear the power lines so that town crews could remove fallen trees.

“I don’t think it was anticipated to be as bad as it was,” Carpenter said. “The heavy gusts of wind, the fierce wind … it just kind of made projectiles out of the tree limbs and everything.”

Town hall lost power and phone service Tuesday afternoon. The town used generators to power up the building at 50% capacity before electricity was restored.

Early reports from Fire Island communities showed damage to beaches and dunes was “not as bad as expected,” Carpenter said.

She said it may take several days to clear all the debris from town roads.

“We’re asking our residents to be patient,” she said. “We may not get it all done on the first pass.” — Carl MacGowan

Cable, communication companies frustrated with lack of power

It’s not just PSEG Long Island that is dealing with frustrated customers in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias. 

Cable company Altice and telecom giant Verizon have also seen system outages caused by fallen lines and in some cases lack of power.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in calling for a probe of local utilities, including PSEG, for their response to the storm, also included Verizon, which PSEG has blamed for part of its communications problems.

Verizon spokesman David Weissmann said elements of the company’s cellular network that rely on commercial power to operate have been impacted.

He blamed the problem on local restrictions that he said required the company to design networks using “a small-cell system without backup power,” relying solely on commercially available electricity from PSEG to operate.

“Our network is operating as designed, however, until commercial power is restored, our coverage and capacity will remain impacted,” Weissmann said, declining to say how many Long Island customers have been impacted. “We have deployed portable network assets in the area and will continue to look at all options available to us to ensure we can provide the service level our customers rely upon.”

He didn’t immediately respond to a question about just how much at fault Verizon was for PSEG’s communication problems, which PSEG Wednesday said it has largely resolved.

Altice, the regional cable TV, Internet and telephone provider, said it continues to work to restore service for its impacted Optimum customers, noting the “majority of service issues experienced by customers are related to commercial power outages.”

Spokesman Ashwin Bhandari said Altice is “engaged with” utility companies “to ensure our network is restored as safely and quickly as possible.”

Arthur Swerdloff, an attorney who works from home using Optimum services in Oceanside, said he woke Wednesday with no Optimum service at all. He said the Optimum site didn’t provide any information about outages or restoration times, and he couldn’t get through on the phone or online.

“The absolute lack of communication is mind boggling,” he said. — MARK HARRINGTON

About 125 trees down in Southold

In Southold, roughly 125 trees had been estimated to have fallen due to the storm, many of them tangling in power lines, Southold Highway Superintendent Vincent Orlando said Wednesday morning. Town officials said roughly 2,700 people were without power as of noon Wednesday.

While town highway crews worked through Tuesday night to get the town’s main roads passable, there were some that still had branches and other debris on them as of 10:30 a.m., Orlando said. Those roads include Peconic Lane in Peconic, Ackerly Pond Lane in Southold, North Bayview Road and Indian Neck Lane, among others.

The trees that are tangled in wires require work by PSEG to remove them, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said. “Crews have been getting out, it’s just been a little slower than we’re used to without utilities,” he said. 

In Riverhead, road closures were reported due to downed trees and power lines, according to Town Hall officials. The majority of the damage appeared to be concentrated in Wading River.

Roughly 2,911 PSEG customers were without power in Riverhead as of Wednesday morning. 

A quarter-mile stretch of Sound Avenue along County Road 105 remains closed for repair work due to the severity of the wind damage caused by the storm, Town Hall officials said. Several secondary roads will be closed throughout Wednesday for tree removal and repair of fallen electric wires. — JEAN-PAUL SALAMANCA

Bellone: Power could be out for days

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Wednesday that he expected it was "going to take at least a couple days to get the overwhelming majority of people back on” with power.He said outages affecting only single locations rather than larger areas might take longer.

Bellone also called for a review of PSEG’s “major communications issue” during the storm, when customers reported they could not get through to the utility company. That analysis is “critical” so the issue can be remedied before another storm hits.

“We need to be prepared for whatever may be coming down the line" during hurricane season, Bellone saidEven though Long Island was not in the eye of the storm,  Tropical Storm Isaias “packed an incredible wallop,” he said. Some of “our worst scenarios came to be,” with so many downed wires and trees and power outages, he said, though flooding was not much of an issue.

“This was a tropical storm not expected to deliver that great of a punch and it clearly did. This hit us hard, knocking out power to nearly 5,000 customers,” Bellone said. “That’s a huge impact.”County phone lines, including 311 and 911, were “overwhelmed with calls,” Bellone said.

Fire, rescue and emergency services department reportied a 400% increase in calls, he said. Suffolk 311 had more than 650 calls during Isaias, mostly for downed wires, trees and residents seeking assistance with PSEG, he said.

Suffolk received 250 calls about downed trees, branches and debris on county roads, Bellone said. The majority were cleared by early Wednesday morning, but five county roads -– four in Huntington and one in Islip -- have partial closings because of downed wires, he said. Those roads are county roads 17, 67, 86, 35 and 9.

Most of Suffolk's golf courses were closed Wednesday morning to clear fallen trees and debris, officials said. Bergin Point was open for cash only business and West Sayville’s driving range and pro shop were open while the course was not. Timber Point and Indian Island were closed.

Smith Point Beach in Shirley was closed to swimming because of power outages at the bathroom facilities. — RACHELLE BLIDNER

Amid criticism, PSEG LI reports progress on outages

PSEG Long Island, facing a tidal wave of criticism over customers’ inability to get through to report outages, said Wednesday that it has restored more than 220,000 impacted by tropical storm Isaias.

The company’s outage map said 343,620 customers remain without power.A PSEG official said the company made “great progress overnight” in restoring customers, even as a delegation of Long Island senators held a press conference calling for a state investigation of PSEG’s response to the storm, which left customers in the dark with few answers about restoration times.

PSEG said it has “overcome many of the issues with Verizon that affected our call center operations yesterday,” but some customers Wednesday morning were still reporting an inability to get through. Spokespeople for Verizon didn’t respond to Newsday requests for comment.

PSEG officials weren’t available for an interview, but in prepared remarks, PSEG Long Island president Dan Eichhorn said, “We understand how critical it is to share accurate and timely information with our customers and we continue working diligently to fully resolve these issues.”

The company is recommending customers use the automated reporting system at 1-800-490 0075.

PSEG spokeswoman Ashley Chauvin said problems with the company’s communication system, which included texts that bounced back to customers and a web site that could not take outage reports, did not impact the restoration efforts, which are being handled by 700 PSEG crews and Long Island contractors, plus some 2,000 off-island crews. Eichhorn said Wednesday that outages could last six or seven days for some customers. Chauvin today called damage “severe” and said “some outages could last for an extended period.”

Sen. Anna Kaplan, who joined Sens. Todd Kaminsky, Jim Gaughran and Kevin Thomas in calling for a probe of PSEG’s response, said she has had constituents calling her office continually since the outages began Tuesday expressing their frustration with PSEG’s system. One 59-year-old man was “literally crying” after trying for hours to reach the company.

“The big frustration is they are not able to reach PSEG,” Kaplan said. “But PSEG actually sent emails to people telling people their bill is due tomorrow, and they should pay it and make sure it goes through.” Kaplan said she received such a notice herself.  PSEG today has opened outreach centers for customers to receive free water and ice: 

  • Hicksville, 175 E. Old Country Road
  • Roslyn, 250 Willis Ave. (Roslyn Heights)
  • Greenlawn, 288 Pulaski Rd.
  • Brentwood, 1650 Islip Ave.

— Mark Harrington 

Service still down at some LIRR branches

The Long Island Rail Road had restored service early Wednesday on the Babylon, Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Huntington, Ronkonkoma, Long Beach, Port Washington and West Hempstead branches. Service remains down on the Port Jefferson, Montauk, Oyster Bay and Greenport branches “due to fallen trees, downed utility poles and power lines caused by high winds from Tropical Storm Isaias,” according to a statement by the agency.

The LIRR said 1,000 employees have been covering the rail system, assessing and repairing storm damage.Earlier in the morning, the LIRR announced cancellations on several lines due to lingering signal problems and “a shortage of equipment resulting from Tropical Storm Isaias.” Trains on the Hempstead branch also temporarily skipped some stops because of the storm-related signal issues.

“This was a wind event [that was], in some ways, a worse storm than super storm Sandy was. That was certainly the case on Long Island,” MTA chairman Patrick Foye told WCBS 880 radio. “There was extraordinary damage done to the Long Island Rail Road system — about 100 trees down in over 30 to 40 locations.” — ALFONSO A. CASTILLO

Downed trees, accidents in Smithtown

Smithtown looked “like a war zone” after Tuesday’s tropical storm, town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said. 

“You would turn around to look down the street and five seconds later another tree was down,” she said.Hundreds of trees were downed, she said, and power was knocked out at multiple locations, including town hall, which was operating on a generator Wednesday. 

A number of traffic signals were also knocked out, which may have contributed to motor vehicle collisions on Main Street, Veterans Highway and other major roads, she said.

Traffic signals were knocked out on major roads including Route 25A, 347 and Southern Boulevard.

Town parks were closed Wednesday morning for damage assessment and cleanup, but could open later in the day. Short Beach and Long Beach remained open. — Nicholas Spangler

Tuesday updates

Smith Point County Park visitors

At Smith Point County Park in Shirley the gusty wind sprayed bits of ocean and sand at those on shore. The rain began to fall shortly after noon as the wind started to pick up. Most followed a no swimming directive although a lone surfer could be seen riding the waves.

Joseph and Carole Martinez of Manorville visited the shoreline to take in the sight of the breakers. Although they said it was not as rough as previous storms, Joseph Martinez said he wouldn’t be taking a dip today.“At my age,” said Joseph Martinez, 78. “I’m not as daring as I once was.”--Vera Chinese

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's press briefing:

Watch Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's press briefing:

Wind forces Freeport residents to take cover

Anne Yarrow and Dorothy Roth, both of Freeport, decided to take a walk at Cow Meadow Park in Freeport around 11:15 a.m. The park gives a view of a waterway and is just a few miles from the waterfront area. They were among just a handful of people at the park, and most were heading out before Isaias’s full presence was felt. But now Yarrow and Roth, with umbrellas in hand, were set to walk.

“If nobody gets hurt or [there is] property damage, it’s the best time to be out,” Yarrow said. “It’s exciting.”

Roth said when Yarrow suggested they get out, she was for it because “I had been in the house too long.”Yet a few minutes later, the wind gusts picked up considerably and the rain began to fall hard, and the pair hustled back to their cars. A young man who had been on the tennis court could be seen sprinting to his car.

An hour earlier, the scene was much calmer at the Freeport waterfront. Tom Limerick, owner of Brew SA Brewery Co., said he wasn’t worried.“We’re not expecting any problems.” Limerick said, noting the entry to his business was several feet above the sidewalk. – OLIVIA WINSLOW

Bellone gives update on storm

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said during a morning news briefing that the “biggest impacts of (Isaias) will be just to the west of us, which is good news.” He also said it was “good news” that the storm was expected to move in and out of the area quickly.

But he reminded residents, “This is still a serious storm, a real storm with serious impacts” and urged them to stay indoors, avoid travel during the expected peak storm hours of 12 to 5 p.m. and to tie down any items that could “become a projectile.”

Bellone said he is concerned high winds could bring power outages and noted PSEG has “called in a significant amount of reinforcements.

”Another “real concern” for Bellone is that the area is under a tornado watch. He noted that tornadoes in small areas in recent years have caused “significant damage when they occur.

"Officials will also be monitoring for high tides tonight.Bellone, speaking from the county’s department of public works yard in Commack, said crews are “ready to go” to deal with “downed trees or emergencies that are out there.”Bellone noted that this storm and hurricane season comes in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and that “we certainly hope not to see a significant storm this season.

”“Hopefully our luck will change in 2020,” Bellone said.But in case there are more storms, “this is, in many ways, a run through for that,” Bellone said.“Nevertheless, this is a real storm with significant winds. People need to follow precautions,” Bellone said.In a tweet during the press conference, Bellone’s account posted that the county’s three ocean beaches, Cupsogue in Westhampton Beach, Smith Point in Shirley and Meschutt in Hampton Bays, will be closed to swimming. Lifeguards will be on site in case they need to do emergency rescues, but they will not be in the stands. -Rachelle Blinder

Curran: 400 Nassau customers without power

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said that while the storm likely will bring less rain than predicted, the county is “on high alert” for a tornado watch currently in effect until 8 p.m. As of 11:30 a.m., 400 Nassau customers were without power, Curran said, and county officials are working with PSEG. No flooding had been reported, she said.

She warned of dangerous rip currents and high winds of between 40 and 70 mph. The storm is “churning by so quickly” that is will not coincide with high tide, Curran said, which will make for safer conditions.

“Do not let your guard down. If you don’t need to be out and about, please stay inside,” Curran said.Shelters are open, and county officials are working with the Red Cross to provide personal protective equipment and making sure people are physically distancing. She is asking residents to bring outdoor items such as patio furniture and wind chimes inside. – CANDICE FERRETTE

In Westhampton, it's summer business as usual

It was summer business as usual along Dune Road in Westhampton on Tuesday. Winds are only occasionally stirring beyond a normal sea breeze, roads have not yet flooded as they typically do— even when there’s not a storm— and summer vacationers are carrying on outdoors without any apparent sense of concern for storms on the horizon.

Dune Road just 50 yards from the Atlantic and South Shore bays, is seeing a normal contingent of joggers, bicyclists and walkers. Landscapers are working, a Westhampton golf club was in full swing and cars are trickling into private and public beach parking lots, although Southampton Town beaches are closed to swimmers.--Mark Harrington

NYC advises residents to stay indoors due to possible tornadoes

Deanne Criswell, New York City’s commissioner of emergency management, urged New Yorkers to stay indoors, avoid beaches and swimming, secure loose furniture and take cover from the tornado if it strikes the city, citing a tornado watch in place until 4 p.m. She said that the storm’s strongest wind band was forecast to track over the city, with sustained windows between 45 mph and 55 mph gusts up to 70 mph between noon and 5 p.m.

If there is a tornado, “You need to go to your safe place immediately. Seek cover indoors, on a low floor and away from windows” and a hallway in a high rise and never elevators, she said.

She added that there was a flash-flood watch that could flood roads and cause “significant wave action.”

Flood-protection barriers to protect Lower Manhattan have been deployed along the southern tip of the Manhattan to prevent flooding, the kind the city saw during storms like Sandy, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday at his morning news conference focused on the storm.

“Take it seriously,” de Blasio said, adding: “Let’s be careful over these next hours.”La Guardia Airport reported 78 cancellations so far Tuesday morning. The websites of the region’s other main airports – Kennedy and Newark -- urged checking airline websites for flight cancelations or delays. -- MATTHEW CHAYES

LIRR commuters appear to be unfazed

On the Long Island Rail Road, dozens of commuters boarded trains at the Lynbrook station Tuesday, unfazed by the potential of a system-wide transit shutdown because of potential high winds.

“I don’t worry about it. The work’s got to get done . . . If the train’s not there, I’ll find a place,” said David Madera, a homeless outreach worker on his way to Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “I think of the people I work with, and they’re going to be out in the street . . . People are going to be there. We have to be there for them.”

In a message to customers on Twitter, the LIRR advised customers to allow for extra travel time because of the storm, and to use caution on station platforms and staircases.

“In preparation for the storm, we have personnel and equipment pre-positioned to address weather-related issues,” the railroad said.

Nassau’s bus provider, NICE, also warned riders to expect “systemwide delays” during the storm.

“This weather will affect today’s PM rush, you will require more time for your trip,” NICE tweeted. -- ALFONSO A. CASTILLO

Southampton Town closes beaches

Southampton Town this morning said it was closing all town beaches due to National Weather Service projections of swells up to 10 feet and a dangerous rip current threat that would affect all Atlantic Ocean beaches. The town is posting no-swimming signs and maintaining life guards at beaches to enforce restrictions until 1:30 p.m. -- MARK HARRINGTON

Bayville prepared, mayor says

Bayville Mayor Robert De Natale said the village’s department of public works was fully staffed Tuesday morning in preparation for the storm, with pumps ready in case of flooding.

“We’re hopeful this won’t be as bad as it might have been predicted,” De Natale said. “We’re reading the weather [reports] that there will be more rain and wind than it will be high tides. Tides are the real threat to the village.”

De Natale said the real concern would be high tide around 1 p.m., but “from what I see now, it doesn’t really look like anything to be concerned about.” – TED PHILLIPS

PSEG prepping for Isaias' impact

PSEG expects elevated outages from winds that could gust to 70 mph. The utility is still requesting 2,500 off-Island workers and has commitments from 2,000, said spokeswoman Ashley Chauvin. Many of the 1,000 outages Tuesday are due to high winds and gusts from the storm Monday night, she said. PSEG said it still expected 200,000 to 400,000 outages for its 1.1 million customers on Long Island. -- MARK HARRINGTON

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