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Out-Of-State Utility Workers Say L.I. Power Restoration Became ‘Free-For-All’

LIPA, National Grid Reportedly Overwhelmed Trying To Dispatch 15,000 Workers
Utility worker (file/credit: CBS 2)

Utility worker (file/credit: CBS 2)

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Superstorm Sandy

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of emergency crews from across the country came to help storm-ravaged Long Island.

However, bottlenecks and red tape made getting back on-line nearly impossible for the powerless across Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Some of the 15,000 workers that converged on the island are camped at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, which is serving as a staging area.

The sheer number seemed to overwhelm the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid’s ability to dispatch them and effectively complete work, pushing costs to record levels and dangerously delaying power restoration.

Nan Smith is 98 years old and good at making multiple phone calls to LIPA. She and her neighbors did so for 15 days but to no avail.

“I am a former nurse, so I know what an emergency is. I think mine was an emergency,” Smith told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan on Thursday.

The great-grandmother from Garden City Park said she doesn’t own a computer, but she does have a good set of vocal cords. She used them to call out and attempt to flag down line workers.

“I am awed with the size of this utility provider and they did not come to my rescue or anybody else’s rescue in a timely fashion,” Smith said.

Smith’s neighborhood was powerless until Wednesday.

Peter Paese lives across the street.

“You couldn’t talk to a live person. Everything was recorded, so you didn’t know if you were getting through to anybody or not, Paese said. “We were one of the last to be brought on-line and it was a minor problem in talking to the workers who helped us.”

The workers who eventually helped were from Texas and had been idling in a lot a few blocks away awaiting assignment.

They told CBS 2 that LIPA instructed them not to talk about any chaos they were experiencing. Other linemen and tree trimmers said they were also told the same.

In the midst of clipboards, paper maps, no GPS and sporadic instructions, some had no idea where to go.

While LIPA trucks have mobile data terminals linked to dispatchers, the thousands of out-of-state workers did not.

One worker from Ohio called the situation a “free-for-all.”

LIPA’s chief admitted to CBS 2 on Wednesday that its antiquated Internet technology could not keep up with the staggering workload.

“An obsolete system. Our IT systems in the background – these are managed by National Grid, formerly owned by National Grid — are acknowledged to be in need of replacement,” LIPA Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey said.

How long did you wait to get your power restored?  Let us know in the comments section below…