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LIPA, other utilities, struggle to recover after Hurricane Sandy

From the November 2, 2012 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published November 2, 2012

By Jeannine Anderson

Utilities in the Northeast are struggling to restore power after the East Coast took a very heavy blow from Hurricane Sandy earlier in the week. The scope of the disaster is difficult to grasp. The huge storm measured more than 1,000 miles in diameter before it came ashore in New Jersey the evening of Oct. 29, at high tide and during a full moon. The resulting flooding was catastrophic, and more than 8 million customers were left in the dark and the cold. 

Perhaps the hardest hit public power town—or town, period—was Seaside Heights, N.J., where the MTV reality show, "Jersey Shore," was filmed. "We have to get everyone off the island because there is total devastation," Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd said at an Oct. 31 news conference, the Associated Press reported. A video posted online shows destroyed houses, overturned cars, streets of sand—and the remains of a roller coaster well out in the surf.

"More homes and businesses lost power during Sandy than any other storm in history," the Department of Energy said Oct. 31. The U.S. death toll is at least 75, with the largest number of fatalities in New York state, the Associated Press reported yesterday. 

By the afternoon of Oct. 31, more than 6 million customers still were in the dark,The Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper published a map showing the number of outages that had been restored in a number of states. Of the 2.6 million outages in New Jersey, 21.5 percent had been restored. Of the 2.1 million outages in New York state, only 7.1 percent had been restored, theJournal said, citing Energy Department data.

The Long Island Power Authority said the storm affected nearly 1 million of its 1.1 million customers. As of Nov. 1, three days after Sandy hit, LIPA still had nearly 750,000 customers out of power.

"The enormity of this storm has strained the resources of all utilities in its path," said LIPA Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey. 

As of Oct. 31, more than 1,200 crews from National Grid, other utilities and qualified contractors from as far away as California and Texas were helping with restoration efforts, LIPA said, and an additional 1,969 utility workers were on the way to Long Island. That number was expected to increase as more crews became available. Crews supporting LIPA were coming from Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, Wisconsin, California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Florida, and Indiana.

By Nov. 1, LIPA reported on its website that it had restored power to 16 of 21 hospitals, as well as 22 substations out of 50 that were blacked out by the storm. The utility also had restored a number of transmission lines.

President Obama canceled previously scheduled campaign stops on Oct. 29 and Oct. 30 to return to Washington, D.C., to oversee efforts to recover from the storm. He met with top advisers via video conference in the White House Situation Room the morning of Oct. 30 and held a conference call later that day with utility experts, including APPA President and CEO Mark Crisson. The president then traveled to New Jersey to view the damage there.

Mike Hyland, APPA’s senior vice president for engineering services, has been at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s command center this week to help coordinate mutual aid efforts.

Moody’s Analytics has estimated that the losses from Hurricane Sandy will approach $50 billion, The New York Times reported Nov. 1. Of that, about $30 billion will be property damage. The losses, though heavy, are expected to be less than half of those suffered because of Hurricane Katrina, Moody’s said.

Tides rose to 14 feet during the storm, breaking a record of 11 feet set in 1821, Platts Electric Power Daily reported. That far surpassed storm models that projected 10- to 12-foot tides, Platts said.


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