95% of LIPA to be Restored by Tuesday Night

Firmo Banez
Firmo Banez poses next to a downed tree in front of his home in Elmont, N.Y., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Firmo lost electrical power to the house following Superstorm Sandy ten days ago, had it restored Wednesday by the Long Island Power Authority, only to have it go out again Wednesday night during a Nor’easter snowstorm. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Officials said 95 percent of Long Island Power Authority customers will have their electricity restored by sundown Tuesday as more than 140,000 Superstorm Sandy blackouts continue into day 13, angry residents staged a series of LIPA protests and LI lawmakers called on the federal government for more help.

Leaders of National Grid, the utility company contracted to manage LIPA’s power infrastructure, defended their response to the storm that sparked unprecedented damage last week, leaving about 90 percent of homes and businesses on LI in the dark. Restoration progress was reversed this week when a nor’easter left 123,000 more in the dark and cold as tempratures drop at night. Some in the hardest hit areas on the South Shore fear they’ll be blacked out through Thanksgiving.

“Under the conditions, I think weve performed extremely well,” Tom King, president of National Grid US, told reporters during a Friday evening press conference at LIPA headquarters in Hicksville. He said criticism of the utility’s communication should be directed not at his company, but LIPA, whose represenatives didn’t speak at the briefing and haven’t been responding to requests for comment.

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“We will continue to take any help that we can get,” he said of Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford), Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), New York State and local elected officials, who called on President Barack Obama to send the military and James Lee Witt, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to lead LIPA out of the mess.

The lawmakers were echoing increasingly harsh critiques of LIPA leveled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said their future doing business in the state is on the line. “I understand the frustration, and I understand the call for more federal help,” Cuomo said in his latest of daily press briefings on the recovery effort.

The reassurances have done little to appease those trying to put their lives back together after the storm. Outrage spilled into the streets of Oceanside, Massapequa and outside LIPA’s headquarters, where protesters have been rallying against LIPA to demand their power be restored.

Eve Hendricks was one of the lucky ones. While most of her North Valley Stream neighbors still remain without power, hers was restored within days of Sandy. Then she lost it again Friday morning.

“I’m sitting here on the phone and everything goes dead,” she said. “I don’t understand it because I had power after the snow, and now I lose it?”

Valley Stream got around 8 inches of snow during Wednesday’s nor’easter and even days later the weight of snow is still bringing down trees and power lines in the area.

On Marlowe Road, trees and wires block the street. A wooden barricade with a sign that reads “Awaiting LIPA” keeps cars from turning down the road. On Arkansas drive a crew of utility workers continue working to restore homes in the area who have been without power going on two weeks.

When asked about the latest power outage of Friday morning, one worker yelled down over the deafening hum of equipment, “I don’t know. We have to shut some people off to get others back up so it’s safe to work.”

But those workers came and went and hours later Hendricks was still without power.

“Look, I’m lucky, I’m not going to complain,” she said. “But it would be nice to have some answers. I’ve talked to several workers, no one knows anything, and that’s what’s frustrating.”