Long Island, New York’s power grid took a severe beating in 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. One casualty of the storm was LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority, whose storm response came under heavy criticism in Sandy’s aftermath. Frustrated with LIPA’s performance, officials gave the region’s power contract to another firm: New Jersey-based PSEG. CBS covered that story at the time in a December 31, 2013, story (see “PSEG Takes Over Power On Long Island Effective Wednesday”). PSEG president David Daly promised to do better than LIPA. ““We are going to freeze rates here for 3 years; continue to maintain outstanding levels of electrical reliability,” Daly said. “Keeping the lights on is very, very important to us, as is to improve the storm restoration process.”
Nothing like Sandy has hit the East Coast in the past few years. But a recent thunderstorm outbreak showed that it doesn’t take a superstorm to knock out some lights on Long Island. The Long Island Press has the story (see: “Thousands Blacked Out After Powerful Storm Hits Long Island,” by Kaitline Gallagher and Timothy Bolger on August 4, 2015). “A powerful storm caused power outages to more than 74,000 homes and businesses in northern Suffolk County early Tuesday morning.” the paper reported. “Although the majority of those who lost power have had it restored, about 20,000 remained blacked out at sundown Tuesday with about half of those still expected to be without power Wednesday, according to PSEG Long Island.”
By late Thursday, PSEG had restored power to almost every affected customer, Newsday reported (see: “PSEG Long Island wrapping up power restorations,” by Mark Harrington). “PSEG Long Island was wrapping up its largest outage restoration to date Thursday night, with 1,400 workers dispatched to handle customers who remained without power from Tuesday's storm,” the paper reported. “Only 15 of the original 82,000 customers affected by the storm did not have their power back Thursday night, PSEG said.”
But that response didn’t satisfy everyone. Local commentator Rich Murdocco leveled some strong language in the Long Island Press (see: “Long Island’s Pathetic Utility Preparation Always Leaves Us Powerless for the Next Bad Storm,” by Rich Murdocco). But in Murdocco’s view, the problem isn’t the repair effort, but the power system’s vulnerability to wind.
“For Long Islanders, it is an all-too-familiar scenario,” writes Murdocco. “A storm hits, trees topple and the lights go off, but it is too easy to place blame solely on PSEG Long Island, mainly because the Island’s storm vulnerability long predates their oversight of the grid. By continuing to expand and rebuild out antiquated method of power delivery, we shall continue to ensure that whenever the strong winds blow, darkness will result.”
“A small, yet effective step easy to implement would be for local governments to mandate that new residential subdivisions place their power lines underground,” argues Murdocco. “While most of Nassau and western Suffolk counties is predominately built up, this requirement would at least ensure some resiliency from eastern Brookhaven to points eastward.”