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Timothy Bolger

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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.

300K Without Power on Long Island After Isaias; NY Probes PSEG-LI Response, Communication Trouble

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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LIRR Service Partly Restored After Isaias

Commuters leave a Long Island Railroad train at Pennsylvania Station in New York July 15, 2014. (Reuters)

Long Island Rail Road service was partially restored a day after trains were halted when Tropical Storm Isaias downed trees and power lines across the region.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said trains are running on the  Babylon, Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Long Beach, Port Washington and West Hempstead branches. But service remains suspended on the Huntington/Port Jefferson, Montauk, Oyster Bay, and Ronkonkoma/Greenport branches due to fallen trees, downed utility poles, and power lines, the MTA added. 

“One of the guiding principles of LIRR Forward is to proactively address critical issues that we can control and to be as prepared as we can be for things outside of our control like Mother Nature,” said LIRR President Phil Eng. 

Eng said the LIRR has cleared hundreds of miles of trees and vegetation along the tracks, worked with PSEG-Long Island to harden more than 220 transmission and distribution poles along the tracks, and repaired track infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of storms well before Isaias arrived.

But strong winds and nearly 80 mph gusts downed more trees than LI could handle. In addition to the LIRR suspension, the storm caused many roads to be blocked by fallen trees and left nearly 400,000 PSEG-LI customers without power at the peak of the storm.

The LIRR urged riders to allow extra travel time and expect some delays and cancellations Wednesday as transit employees continue to work around the clock to remove trees, utility poles, and debris, as well as repair track and signal damage so the agency can restore additional service.

The storm similarly impacted the MTA’s other systems across the New York Metro area, including the New York City Subway, buses, and Metro-North Railroad.

Related Story: Tropical Storm Isaias Wreaks Havoc on Long Island

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Long Island Reports Strongest Isaias Gust In NY Metro Area

A tree fell on a house in Oakdale in Tropical Storm Isaias on Aug. 4, 2020. Long Island Press photo

Tropical Storm Isaias rocked Long Island with strong winds that caused widespread damage Tuesday, including a 78 mph gust recorded at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale that ranked as the strongest gust in the New York Metro area.

The National Weather Service said the gust was recorded shortly before 2 p.m. at the height of the storm. Since Isaias passed west of LI, Nassau and Suffolk counties recorded less rain than expected  slightly more than an inch, instead of four inches forecast  but got hit with the windy side of the storm. Heavier rains hit points west, such as New Jersey, which got more than 4 inches in some parts.

The Island’s wind damage caused more than 400,000 homes and businesses to lose power, widespread road closures, and the Long Island Rail Road to suspend service. More than 1,000 trees fell in Nassau alone. Trees fell on houses in Long Beach, East Meadow, North Babylon, Melville, East Islip, Lindenhurst, Oakdale, and elsewhere. A tree fell on a truck with a driver inside in East Islip, but the man was not injured, NWS said.

The top wind gust speeds beyond LI were 73 mph in Jackson Heights, Queens, and 68 mph in both Bridgeport, Conn. and at Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

Here are LI’s wind reports:

SUFFOLK

Republic Airport in East Farmingdale: 78 mph
Stony Brook: 75 mph
Great South Bay: 75 mph
Great Gull Island: 73 mph
West Gilgo Beach: 69 mph
Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma: 69 mph
Fire Island: 68 mph
Blue Point: 65 mph 
Orient: 64 mph
Shirley Airport: 61 mph
Southold: 59 mph
Mt. Sinai Harbor: 59 mph
Fishers Island: 58 mph
Eastport: 55 mph
Mecox Bay: 54 mph
West Islip: 53 mph
Gebreski Airport in Westhampton: 52 mph
Napeague: 48 mph
Islip Terrace: 47 mph
Greenlawn: 46 mph
East Hampton: 44 mph
Miller Place: 42 mph

NASSAU

Wantagh: 68 mph
Valley Stream: 56 mph
Muttontown: 52 mph
Syosset: 49 mph
Merrick: 47 mph
Carle Place: 43 mph

Related Story: Tropical Storm Isaias Wreaks Havoc on Long Island

Related Story: 300K Without Power on Long Island After Isaias, Pols Call For Probe of PSEG-LI Response, Communication Trouble

 

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Tropical Storm Isaias Wreaks Havoc on Long Island

A tree fell on a house in Lindenhurst during Tropical Storm Isaias on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (Long Island Press photo) 

Tropical Storm Isaias blew into Long Island with strong winds Tuesday that left more than 400,000 homes and businesses without power, blocked roads with downed trees, and prompted the Long Island Rail Road to suspend service.

PSEG-Long Island reported about a third of its 1.1 million customers in Nassau and Suffolk counties lost power during the storm and widespread communications issues that frustrated outage reporting. Officials reported downed trees blocking hundreds of roads ranging from small side streets to major routes such as the Southern State Parkway. The LIRR partially resumed service Wednesday.

National Weather Service reported the highest gust in the New York Metro area was 78 mph at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. A tornado warning was briefly issued for the East End, but no there were no immediate reports of a twister touching down on LI. Social media images showed tornadoes in Cape May, Marmora and Long Beach Island along New Jersey’s southern shore, and tornado damage in Dover, Delaware.

The fast-moving storm came as tides were higher than normal because of a full moon Monday night. But LI dodged a direct hit. The heaviest rains were west of LI.

Tropical Storm Isaias killed at least four people as it made its way up the U.S. Atlantic Coast, including two deaths at a North Carolina trailer park that was struck by a tornado spun off by hurricane-force winds. A man in Queens became the fourth fatality when a tree crushed a car he was inside, local authorities said. 

The storm knocked out power to more than 2.8 million homes and businesses from New York to North Carolina, according to electric companies.

Isaias, which was briefly a Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall in North Carolina late on Monday, reduced the mobile home park in the north of the state to rubble hours later, leaving two people dead.

-With Reuters and Dana Chiueh

Related Story: Long Island Reports Strongest Isaias Gust In NY Metro Area

Related Story: 300K Without Power on Long Island After Isaias, Pols Call For Probe of PSEG-LI Response, Communication Trouble

 

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Lawsuit Aiming To Split Islip Into Town Council Districts Heading To September Trial

Fred Brewington points to a map showing where Latino residents live in the Town of Islip on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. Long Island Press photo

A lawsuit that aims to split the Town of Islip board members up into council districts is scheduled to go to trial next month at Central Islip federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary Brown last week set a September trial date in the case in which residents of the town’s largely minority communities of Brentwood, Central Islip, and Bay Shore seek to reform the current at-large voting system.

“This is a matter of significance and the court will continue to expedite and prioritize this case,” Brown said in his court order, which Frederick Brewington, the Hempstead-based civil rights attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case, read aloud during a news conference Monday outside Islip Town Hall.

Plaintiffs alleged Islip, the town board, and Suffolk County Board of Elections are violating the Voting Rights Act in minority communities, which they say are getting ignored under the current system. The plaintiffs argue that if the five town council members were designated to represent specific communities instead of sharing responsibility for all 333,758 town residents, the local lawmakers would be more responsive to the constituents.

The use of council districts, known as the ward system, is used by three of the 13 towns on Long Island—Hempstead, North Hempstead, and Brookhaven. Brewington tried the case that brought council districts to Hempstead, where Councilwoman Dorthy Goosby represents minority communities as the lone African American woman on that town board. Voters in the other two towns chose to make the switch via referenda.

Advocacy groups Make The Road New York and New York Communities for Change joined forces with Brewington in the hopes of succeeding where prior efforts in Islip fell short. Petitioners had repeatedly tried to get a referendum to enact Islip districts for years. Once they succeeded in getting the question on ballots 14 years ago, town voters rejected the measure by a margin of 56 to 43 percent. The town suggested holding another referendum on the topic to resolve the current case, but the judge rejected that idea.

The plaintiffs point to the fact that the town board is all white and live in the southern part of the town while about a third of Islip’s population are minorities from the northern section. The current town board is solidly Republican and the minority communities are overwhelmingly Democratic.

“Those individuals have never been able to select and elected candidate of their choice,” Brewington said. “And because there is an at-large voting system in the Town of Islip, their voting strength is diluted. Even if they voted all together for a single candidate, they could not elect anybody to this town board because of the phenomenon known as racial bloc voting.”

The town has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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Rhode Island Added To NY Quarantine List

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks in front of stacks of medical protective supplies during a news conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center which will be partially converted into a temporary hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday added Rhode Island to the list of states from which travelers must quarantine for 14 days to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The governor also removed Washington, D.C. and Delaware from the list, which now includes 34 states and Puerto Rico.

“Our progress in New York is even better than we expected, thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “But we must protect that progress, which is why today we are adding another state to our travel advisory.”

The full list of places includes Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana ,Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Related Story: Cuomo Adds 3 More States, D.C., and Puerto Rico To Travel Advisory

Related Story: Tri-State Governors Order Quarantine of Visitors From Coronavirus Hot Spot States

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Related Story: Cuomo Adds 4 More States To Quarantine Order

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For more coronavirus coverage, visit longislandpress.com/coronavirus

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Isaias Prompts Tornado Watch For Long Island

Workers stack sandbags around a hydro-dam as they prepare for Tropical Storm Isaias in the lower Manhattan area of New York City, U.S., August 3, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Tropical Storm Isaias brings with it weather conditions that are “somewhat favorable for tornadoes” to form on Long Island, experts warned.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for Nassau and Suffolk counties and the entire tri-state area through 4 p.m. Tuesday. That’s in addition to the region being under a tropical storm warning, coastal flood warning, and high surf advisory. 

“Emergency plans should continue to include possible tornadoes,” Upton-based NWS meteorologists said in a statement. The agency noted that there was a 10 percent chance of tornadoes. 

The last tornado to hit Long Island was an EF0, the weakest on the Enhanced Fujita Scale that ranks tornado strength, in Manorville over Labor Day weekend last year.

The tornado watch came as Isaias had weakened in strength from a category 1 hurricane back into a tropical storm after making landfall in North Carolina as it makes its way up the East Coast. The center of the storm was moving across southeastern Virginia as of Tuesday morning. It’s expected to arrive in New York early Tuesday afternoon.

NWS warned that if the tornado watch is upgraded to a tornado warning, which would indicate a twister is more likely and not just a precaution about “somewhat favorable” conditions, the public should act fast.

“If a tornado warning is issued for your area, be ready to shelter quickly, preferably away from windows and in an interior room not prone to flooding,” NWS said, adding that residents should closely monitor local news outlets for weather updates. “If driving, scan the roadside for quick shelter options.”

Even if a tornado doesn’t form, tropical-storm-force winds of up to 50 mph with 70 mph gusts are forecast to down trees and utility lines, causing power outages, in addition to heavy rains and storm surges causing local flooding.

Related Story: Long Island Under Tropical Storm Warning Ahead of Isaias

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Long Island Shark Sighting Streak Hits Day 6

Jones Beach State Park is the biggest draw, but not only thing to see on Jones Beach Island. (WikiMedia)
South Shore Long Island lifeguards reported a shark sighting for the sixth day in a row Saturday.
 
Town of Hempstead officials said Lido Beach Town Park lifeguards sitting in the main chair reported seeing a large dark fin emerge from the water, seemingly going after prey at approximately 1:15 p.m.
 
After the fin was spotted, a large splash was noticed, and some patrons in the water also noticed and began to run out of the water, officials said. The lifeguards immediately responded by “red flagging” the waters and getting everyone out of the water.

Lifeguards are taking the precaution of prohibiting all swimming at Hempstead Town beaches until further notice. The new “shark patrol,” including town jet skis and Nassau police, will continue patrolling the waters throughout the day and through the weekend.

Confirmed and suspected shark sightings were reported each day this week between Tobay Beach and Long Beach starting Monday.

Related Story: Lido Lifeguards Report Shark Sighting of “Significant Size”

Related Story: Shark Sightings at Long Island Beaches Force Swimmers Out of Water For Second Day in A Row

Related Story: Shark Patrols Launch on 3rd Straight Day of Shark Sightings on Long Island

Related Story: Long Island Shark Week Continues With Fifth Consecutive Day of Shark Sightings

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Long Island Swelters Under Another Heat Wave

Beachgoers flock to Jones Beach State Park on July 19, 2020. Photo by Mira Lerner.

Another heat wave is forecast for Long Island as temperatures are expected to be above 90 degrees this weekend through Tuesday, experts say.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for Nassau County and western Suffolk County from noon Sunday to 8 p.m. Monday.

“I want to urge residents – especially seniors and parents of young children – to take extra precautions during this potentially dangerous stretch of heat,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who opened the county’s cooling centers Saturday through Wednesday for anyone who needs to cool down in the air-conditioning. 

New York City and parts of New Jersey are included in the advisory, which comes a week after LI saw its first heat wave of summer. The region is also under an air quality alert due to elevated pollution levels.

“Heat index values 95 [to] 100 expected,” Upton-based NWS meteorologists said in the heat advisory. “Hot temperatures and high humidity may cause heat illnesses to occur.”

The agency urged the public to drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors. Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances, NWS added.

Anyone who works or has to spend time outside should take extra precautions, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening if possible, and scheduling frequent rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned environments if it’s not possible. NWS advised wearing lightweight and loose-fitting clothing when possible. 

Anyone who shows symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke should be moved to a cool and shaded location and call 911.

The forecast is calling for mostly sunny to partly cloudy skies with temps in the 80s for the rest of the week.

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Heat Advisory Issued For Long Island

Crowds packed Jones Beach State Park on Saturday, July 18, 2020. Photo by Mira Lerner.

Long Islanders are being urged to do whatever they can to beat the heat as temperatures again soar into the upper 90s for the second day in a row.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday for all of Nassau and Suffolk counties except the South Fork.

“Hot temperatures and high humidity may cause heat illnesses to occur,” Upton-based NWS meteorologists said in the advisory. 

The advisory covers much of the tri-state area and comes after a prior heat advisory Monday.

The agency urged the public to drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors. Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances, NWS added.

Anyone who works or has to spend time outside should take extra precautions, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening if possible, and scheduling frequent
rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned environments if it’s not possible. NWS advised wearing lightweight and loose-fitting clothing when possible. 

Anyone who shows symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke should be moved to a cool and shaded location and call 911.

Temperatures will cool off in Friday evening when strong, severe thunderstorms have the potential to drench the region for the second day in a row, potentially bringing up to 58 mph wind gusts, hail, and minor flooding, NWS said. The exact timing and intensity is not yet clear.

PSEG Long Island said as of Thursday morning it has restored service to the more than 10,000 customers that lost power in a fast-moving thunderstorm that affected parts of LI on Wednesday evening.

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