TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The head of the agency that regulates New Jersey’s utilities gives the state’s power companies an ‘F’ for how they communicated with customers and mayors during Superstorm Sandy.

Board of Public Utilities President Bob Hanna said the utilities needed better methods of telling customers when their power will be restored.

Hanna and utility executives testified Wednesday before the Senate Budget Committee, which is examining how the power providers responded to the superstorm.

The head of JCP&L, Donald Lynch, tried his best to sell lawmakers on a job well done.

“It was more that twice the size of Katrina in terms of the width of the storm,” Lynch said.

Lynch was quickly met with a barrage of angry attacks, calling the utility’s Sandy response a disaster and unorganized.

There was also heavy criticism when it came to the issue of proposed rate hikes.

“It’s a real stick in the eye Mr. president that your folks are asking for a $31 million increase when some of them are barely are getting their lights on right now,” said State Sen. Kevin O’Toole. “It’s hard to understand and it’s insulting.”

The historic storm socked the state on Oct. 30, leaving 2.7 million customers in the dark.

PSE&G CEO Ralph LaRossa said it cost $250 to $300 million to restore power and much more to move low-lying substations.

Recommendations include improving communication, building stronger energy systems and more aggressive tree trimming.

What actions do you think could be taken to strengthen future storm response by the utilities?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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