One of many trees that fell on power lines in Oakdale during Tropical Storm Isaias on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Long Island Press photo

New York State is launching an investigation into PSEG-Long Island’s response to Tropical Storm Isaias following widespread communications issues when more than 400,000 homes and businesses on LI tried to report power outages to the utility.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the New York State Department of Public Service to probe PSEG-LI and other utilities’ response. PSEG-LI reported a third of its 1.1 million customers lost power immediately after the storm downed trees and power lines, with more than 320,000 still without power Wednesday morning. But for many people, the inability to call, text, or contact the utility through its website proved most infuriating.

“Their performance was unacceptable,” the governor said. “The large volume of outages and the utilities’ failure to communicate with customers in real time proves they did not live up to their legal obligations. The fact that many customers still do not know when their power will be restored makes it even more unacceptable. The worst of this situation was avoidable, and it cannot happen again.”

The storm knocked out power to more than 2.8 million homes and businesses from New York to North Carolina, according to electric companies. More than 870,000 outages were reported in New York State alone. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of nearly 80 mph on LI contributed to the downed trees and power lines.

“We have made great progress overnight, restoring more than 220,000 customers affected by the strongest tropical storm to hit the area in years, and we will not rest until everyone’s power is back on,” said Daniel Eichhorn, president and COO of PSEG Long Island and chief customer officer of PSEG Long Island and PSE&G. “We have also overcome many of the issues with Verizon that affected our call center operations yesterday. We understand how critical it is to share accurate and timely information with our customers and we continue working diligently to fully resolve these issues. We urge customers to use the automated voice response system whenever possible: 1-800-490 0075.”

PSEG-LI said it has more than 2,000 line workers and other crew members — including some called in from other states — working around the clock in 16-hour shifts to restore power as quickly as possible, but noted that some customers may be without electricity for an extended period. The utility blamed Verizon for its communications issues. 

“PSEG Long Island is reliant on Verizon for its internet and telecommunications systems,” the utility said in a statement. “Without reliable support from Verizon, our systems cannot perform as they should. PSEG Long Island is actively working with Verizon to address this issue, and PSEG and [Long Island Power Authority] have asked the DPS for assistance.”

A Verizon representative was not immediately available for comment.

Isaias was PSEG-LI’s first major test since the company won its contract in 2014, when the company took over after LIPA’s role in operating the system was reduced following LIPA’s widely panned response to Sandy in 2012. More than 90 percent of LIPA customers lost power in that storm, some for weeks.

“It’s completely unacceptable that so many residents are still without power and can’t get in contact with PSEG Long Island 12 hours after a storm we all knew was coming,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “Our crews have worked all night to clear debris and downed trees, but many residents are still waiting for answers from PSEG. My office will continue to demand answers for residents still in the dark, who deserve nothing less.”

-With Reuters

Related Story: Tropical Storm Isaias Wreaks Havoc on Long Island

 

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.