Progress Being Made In Hard-Hit Westchester County, But Residents Say Patience Is Running Thin

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Utility crews were working feverishly to restore power across the Tri-State Area ahead of another winter storm, which is expected to impact the area on Wednesday.

Progress appeared to be made in hard-hit Westchester County, where Con Edison said the number of its outages was down to 20,055 on Tuesday evening. Many residents told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner their status on the utility company’s website changed from 11 pm Tuesday to “please be patient.”

A room at the Radisson New Rochelle was serving as a temporary shelter for the newborn Rojas twins have spent nearly half of their lives. The nightstand-turned-diaper station has been regularly replenished by quick trips to their powerless home — an apartment building in Mount Vernon, left cold and dark since last Friday’s storm.

“And now we have another storm coming so we don’t know, maybe we’ll be here a month,” mom Samantha Rojas told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.

Residents who’ve stuck around at the building say they’re wearing gloves to stay warm and use candles to light their apartments. Everyday life was made a struggle without a working elevator.

Others worry what Wednesday’s storm will do to the efforts to get their power back.

“If we get the weather they’re predicting we’re gonna be in a jam, we really are,” Mildred Force said.

Crews scrambled across Westchester to do what they could, while they could do it. NYSEG said earlier it was working to restore roughly 4,948 outages in Westchester as well as outages in other counties, including 9,015 in Putnam.

But calling the power failures from the storm “dangerous and completely unacceptable,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he has directed the New York State Department of Public Service to conduct a full review, adding “we will hold these utilities accountable for their failure to quickly restore power to New Yorkers.”

Cuomo said 93 percent of the outages from Friday’s nor’easter were in Dutchess, Putnam, Sullivan and Westchester counties.

Meanwhile, the new storm Wednesday is expected to drop several inches of snow with up to a foot possible in some spots. But the winds won’t be as strong as last week’s system.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer called it “a crisis beyond just a normal one.”

“We’re going to go into a snowstorm with a temporary fix,” Latimer said. “Gov. Cuomo said the response by these two utilities has been absurd.”

Latimer praised the individual workers who are out there trying to restore power as “heroes,” but said the utility companies failed Westchester by not providing accurate estimates for power restoration.

“I think they underestimated the severity of the storm,” Latimer said. “I don’t doubt that yesterday they made progress. That should’ve been the third day of progress, not the first day of progress.”

He added that whatever happens with the next storm, “we will get through this.”

Residents without power have been asking what they are supposed to do when the storm comes, Latimer said. He called on those with power to lend a helping hand to friends and neighbors in need.

“If you don’t have power, take the resources that are being made available to you,” Latimer said. “We’ve opened up the County Center for the first time in 15 years as a warming center.”

“We get it, and we are taking it all of our actions to [restore power] as quickly as possible,” said John McAvoy, CEO of Con Ed at Tuesday news conference. “We understand the very significant nature of the length of these outages on our customers.”

McAvoy said the number of outages was more pronounced due to the unusually high number trees that went down, taking power lines with them. He defended the utility’s planning and preparation ahead of the storm, asserting mistakes hadn’t been made preparing for the storm.

“There is nothing I would categorize as a mistake or failure,” McAvoy said, adding that he understood why customers were still without power days later. “We get it. We understand the tremendous disruption.”

Across its Westchester service area, Con Ed said it has almost 1,800 people involved in restoring power, line repair, site safety and planning, including 400 mutual aid workers, who are from as far away as Canada, Texas and Wisconsin.

MORE: Track The Con Ed Outages In Westchester County

Con Ed and NYSEG said last week’s nor’easter had the fifth-worst storm damage in history.

“Our goal is to get our customers back to their daily routines,” NYSEG president and CEO Carl A. Taylor said. “The primary focus for our crews and contractors today is on repair and restoration.”

“All of these outages are related to tree damage,” McAvoy said, saying that the utility has over time taken steps to lessen the damage falling trees can cause to power lines.

Residents were still angry Tuesday, considering they initially lost power on Friday.

“It’s frustrating. I was 13 days without power during Hurricane Sandy, which was a nightmare,” Chappaqua homeowner Dawn Dankner-Rosen told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner. “We were told this would never happen to us again by Con Ed. They said it was a pivotal moment, that they would have backup plans in place, a whole disaster force. Nothing. Nothing has changed. Six years have passed. Nothing has been done.”

Scarsdale foreman Gary Racaniello said it’s a race for Con Ed and village crews to get roads clear before Wednesday’s storm hits.

“We’re up against the clock with the weather coming in tomorrow,” he told CBS2. “Our main concern at this point is to get all of the streets open so that the salt trucks and plow trucks can come out and take care of all the streets.”

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, New Yorkers weren’t alone in their troubles. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency effective as of 8 pm Tuesday.

Thousands of families in the Garden State were also without power as a second round of severe weather made its way East.

 

Donna Maione was one of 40,000 customers statewide who remained in the cold. She says her family is getting the runaround from JCP&L, which reported late Tuesday that they had nearly 30,000 customers without power.

“Been out of power since Friday,” she said. “It’s now Wednesday.”

Officials say they’ve added another hundred crews to help clear trees and repair power lines. Some residents in Flemington said they weren’t seeing nearly enough action.

“They promised us it would be resolved by tonight which you know before the storm hits we just got updated an hour ago via text message that it’s not going to be done until tomorrow and you know tomorrow’s not going to happen because the storm is coming,” Karim Daoud told CBS2.

Murphy said the state was still learning from Friday’s blast, and admitted Tuesday there will not be a full resolution before the next one starts.

“We’re pressing on utilities to resolve this,” he said. Murphy has called for more help from neighboring power companies, including Atlantic City, as well as coordinating with New York an Pennsylvania to get more boots on the ground.

Murphy added he doesn’t want people to panic, but he urged everyone to stay inside once the storm hit.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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