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With Blizzard Looming, Long Islanders Say They Have Major Concerns About LIPA

Utility Deferring To National Grid On Communicating Storm Prep To Customers
LIPA crews working. (credit: CBS 2)

LIPA crews working. (credit: CBS 2)

Superstorm Sandy

LEVITTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Long Island residents have been warned in advance of the possibility of many power outages during Friday’s snowstorm and for those whose memories of Hurricane Sandy are still fresh, that really is the last thing they wanted to hear.

As a precaution, the Long Island Power Authority — for the first time in its history — is deferring storm operations and response to its subcontractor, National Grid.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera, “As LIPA’s service provider and to ensure consistency in messaging, National Grid is commanding this incident and is best suited to communicate storm preparation and storm response to the public.”

Marie Bartnick said she has a message for LIPA as she pays her monthly bill.

“I hope that LIPA would be prepared and they better start now because we really were in bad shape,” Bartnick told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Thursday.

She and her Levittown neighbors were in the dark for two weeks after Sandy and just-recovering Long Islanders are being warned to get generators and batteries ready in anticipation of what Friday and Saturday have in store for the area.

“Residents could expect power outages and that’s why we ask them to prepare themselves now, obviously, with a battery-operated radio and flashlight,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said. “Certainly if they have generators this is the time to ready those generators if they’re gas-powered.”

While Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone acknowledged that LIPA is preparing for the storm, he said he has his own concerns about the beleaguered utility.

“I’m very concerned. In the aftermath of that, a lot of the electrical infrastructure is put together in a patchwork fashion just to get the lights back on. What will be the impact of a significant storm now hitting us again?” he said.

Municipalities are also preparing with tons of salt and sand at the ready. Trucks that barely finished cleaning up from the superstorm are now outfitted with plows.

But, ultimately, all eyes are on LIPA.

“We maintain literally hour-to-hour communications with them, urging them, making recommendations,” said Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto.

With howling winds expected, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office has told National Grid, LIPA’s service provider, that unpreparedness will not be excused.

Nearly all Long Island customers lost power after Sandy — many for weeks. The governor has called for LIPA to be replaced and little has changed since then.

“We still have not seen any real significant improvements in the infrastructure that we have here on Long Island. It is certainly very vulnerable to wind,” Mangano said.

Mounds of wood chips now sit where massive trees fell during Sandy. Folks said they fear the thought of being in the dark again.

“Above ground wires — it’s gonna happen,” one man said.

CBS 2’s Gusoff asked LIPA all day Thursday to speak about its plans and what customers can expect, but the utility would not.

Late Thursday, National Grid released a statement, saying the utility says its secured extra crews and has pre-stocked locations with restoration equipment.

Here are some of the specifics:

  • Securing hundreds of extra line crews, tree trimmers, and support personnel to support the more than 500 lineman and 150 tree trimmers on site and ready to restore power -Confirming logistics for housing electric restoration crews from outside the area at lodging sites on Long Island.
  • Preparing all restoration equipment and inventories and pre-stocking strategic locations across the Island with wires, transformers, and additional restoration equipment.
  • Notifying all internal personnel of the impending weather to set expectations of working extended shift.
  • Adding Call Center personnel and arranging schedules to allow extended coverage -Proactively reaching out to critical care and special needs customers and facilities -Contacting local municipalities to convey plans for coordinated tree and debris removal activities.
  • Coordinating efforts with town, state, New York City, county and local emergency management organization.
  • Conducting daily calls with elected officials and local municipality leaders to convey information and establish open lines of communication.

But National Grid warned this is the type of weather that can result in a significant number of potentially prolonged outages.

LIPA has reportedly asked National Grid to take the lead role in managing the response to the storm.

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