A satellite image of Hurricane Lee on Sept. 7, 2023....

A satellite image of Hurricane Lee on Sept. 7, 2023. NOAA forecasts up to 25 named storms. Credit: NOAA

Are we ready?

That's the question 3 million people who live on an island that extends into the Atlantic Ocean must ask after predictions that the upcoming hurricane season will be stormier than ever.

Hopefully, Long Island will dodge calamity but it's worrisome when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts up to 25 named storms — with winds of at least 39 mph — in the Atlantic basin. Of those, eight to 13 are forecast to become hurricanes with winds higher than 74 mph. Up to seven could become major hurricanes with winds exceeding 111 mph, which could reshape our costal communities. Forecasters have a 70% confidence in the numbers. The respected modeling done by Colorado State University says Suffolk County has a 33% probability of being impacted by one of these 2024 storms.

Later in June, LIPA and many Island elected officials, first responders and emergency relief organizations will conduct a drill to coordinate activities. Recently, LIPA chief John Rhodes said it and PSEG Long Island, the utility under contract to operate LI's electric grid, did “functional drills” to test the system. “There is always more to do,” he said. 

Yes, there is. Here are our most pressing concerns about LIPA and PSEG:

  • Long Island has bountiful tree cover and our electricity is delivered by overhead wires. Adding wind to the mix creates big problems. How quickly will help from other utilities arrive? Significant damage to the overall region or the southern Atlantic coast will require equipment and personnel from more distant utilities but those regions are also experiencing major storms and not so quick to commit, according to reports. Canadian utilities can help but their response time is longer.
  • PSEG's outage management system that failed spectacularly during 2020's Tropical Storm Isaias purportedly has been transformed from a pig to a princess. The 646,000 homes and businesses that lost power remember the frustration of trying to report their problem and get an estimated restoration time. Now, as a backup, 95% of LIPA's smart meters can automatically send an outage signal but how well that will function remains unknown.
  • Until recently, PSEG and LIPA executives — who must trust each other and work closely to effectively respond during a major storm — had the iciest of relationships. Exceptional communications with elected officials, first responders and customers is critical. Eliminating dangerous situations and removing debris must be coordinated locally to allow work crews to get the power flowing again. For customers, an honest estimate of the restoration time can help with decisions about relocating, reopening a business, and figuring out what to do with food in the freezer.

On Wednesday, LIPA announced it is seeking competitive bids to manage LI's grid starting in 2026 after PSEG's contract expires. One requirement to win the new 10-year contract is “demonstrated ability” to handle storm preparedness and emergencies. For PSEG, the 2024 storm season will be the ultimate stress test. 

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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