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Jul 30, 2012 9:18 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

LIPA Talks Hurricane Preparedness

Jul 31, 2012 12:54 PM

When Hurricane Irene unleashed its fury on the East End late last August as a tropical storm and more than half a million Long Island residents lost power, the Long Island Power Authority was buffeted with complaints about how long it took to restore power to the widespread outages—the most caused by a storm in a quarter century—which stretched in some cases to more than a week.

A few years earlier, the authority was criticized for the cost of over-preparing for a storm that ultimately bypassed the island and did not cause any outages.

With the Northeast’s hurricane season approaching again, LIPA representatives continued last week an outreach effort to better let customers understand the priorities of repairing and restoring electricity after a big storm, including how it prepares for big storms, how it responds, and exactly what customers should expect if they lose power.

“We heard you after Irene. You said, ‘I didn’t have this information. I didn’t know what was going on. Nobody could tell me when my power was going to be restored or how it will be restored,’” Steve Tricarico, LIPA’s district manager for eastern Long Island, told an audience of roughly 40 community members and East End government officials during a presentation last Thursday, July 26, at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton. “We’re trying to manage expectations a lot better.”

A few weeks earlier, he gave the same presentation at a Sagaponack Village Board meeting.

Prior to a storm, crews scour the forecasts, which are only as good as the latest technology, he said. Customers who have a certificate from their doctors noting that they are dependant on having electricity, for breathing apparatuses, for example, are deemed “critical care” customers, he said.

To ready themselves for a big storm, customers should prepare for extended outages lasting five to seven days and have a flashlight, canned food, medicines and bottled water on hand and consider evacuation. Those with generators must ensure proper installation and hook-up by a qualified electrician.

Those who lose power can report outages to (800) 490-0075, which automatically creates a “job” in the LIPA computer system for restoring service. They can also text outages by registering their cellphones by texting REG to myLIPA or online at www.lipower.org. Automated systems will answer most calls, but he recommended callers not hang up, as there is no difference in reporting via automation or representative.

The main goal after the storm, Mr. Tricarico explained, is to restore power safely to the greatest number of customers as quickly as possible. This means that workers may not necessarily be visible out in the community fixing lines, because they must fix the transmission lines, which supply power to neighborhood substations first. “It is an all-hands on-deck atmosphere,” he said.

Some challenges to restoring power including outages involving “rear property” poles, where bucket trucks cannot be used and linemen have to climb the poles instead.

Trees, which often have to be cut away before restoration can begin, were named a particular hindrance.

“While we love our trees, they are unfortunately the enemy of an overhead utility,” Mr. Tricarico said.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who introduced Mr. Tricarico to the audience and thanked LIPA for its efforts, later noted with a laugh: “There have been elected officials through the years who became former elected officials by cutting down trees. It’s a very tenuous situation.”

After Irene, about 523,000 of LIPA’s 1.2 million customers were left in the dark. This time around, LIPA is trying to announce multi-day restoration efforts to customers and the press early in the process and set realistic expectations.

“Last year, when Irene did hit, and we all sat in our darkened homes without warm water or water at all, it was very frustrating to not know what was going on,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “And we were all mad at LIPA at that time. But I have to say that by the end of that week I felt sorry for them. I really did.”

Ms. Throne-Holst unveiled this year’s hurricane preparedness guide, which has been pared down to pocket size. The guide includes a list of key resources for storm information, as well as advice for making a household disaster plan and what to pack in the case of evacuation.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson also spoke briefly, noting that the East Hampton Airport serves as a staging area for LIPA vehicles during storms. Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty also shared a few words, noting, “I think we’re going to have some tough storms.”

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There should have been more updates from the Town via radio after Irene. Like: what roads were closed, power restoration updates, highway dept was picking up storm debris, southampton village restuarants were open for business the day after the storm

By auntof9 (153), Southampton on Jul 31, 12 11:23 AM
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