By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller
The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) warned East End residents on Wednesday that while it predicted power would be fully restored to nearly a million customers left in the dark after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the New York metropolitan area on Monday, it could, in fact, be weeks before power is fully restored to the island.
As of Wednesday morning, Main Street, Sag Harbor remained dark, the Municipal Building alone lit with the power of a generator.
Large swaths of Southampton and East Hampton towns were also left without power.
“To put this in perspective, once the storm left, it left us with almost a million LIPA customers without power,” said LIPA spokesman Mark Gross. “Last year, with Hurricane Irene, we had about 500,000 customers without power and unlike Irene, Sandy impacted us for two-and-a-half days and really pounded our system.”
Gross said right now LIPA was in the assessment phase, locating damaged transmission lines, substations and neighborhoods. Restoration of transmission lines, the “backbone” of the energy grid, said Gross, is the first step LIPA takes in a massive outage of this nature, and after that crews get to work restoring substations before going into neighborhoods.
Emergency care and service facilities, like hospitals and firehouses are prioritized, said Gross, and as crews are out in the field any restoration that can occur is completed. Priorities are given to the largest areas affected, added Gross.
“We did say seven to 10 days originally, but this storm was worse than anyone could have predicted,” said Gross. “Customers should be prepared to wait a little longer than that.”
LIPA is bringing in crews from across the country, said Gross, and already has crews from Michigan, Iowa and even as far as California.
As of Wednesday morning at 10:15 a.m., a total of 866,070 LIPA customers remained without power. In Suffolk County, 406,141 were without power.
In Southampton Town, 34,368 residents were without electricity and in East Hampton 18,160 remained in the dark. Those numbers included, 1,611 Sag Harbor LIPA customers without power, 3,582 in Bridgehampton, 431 in North Haven, 1,130 in North Sea, 512 in Noyac and 1,183 on Shelter Island.
“A workforce of more than 5,000 strong is working around the clock and will continue to do so until everybody has power,” said LIPA in a statement issued Wednesday morning.
“Safety should still be your highest priority,” continued the statement. “Assume any downed wire is a live electric wire. Stay away from it and report it to LIPA immediately, anytime at 1-800-490-0075.”