Long Islanders: Now two weeks of power woes

A plea to the Long Island Power Authority for electricity to be restored is posted on a barrier Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Mastic Beach, N.Y.
AP Photo

NEW YORK As the power outages on Long Island drag on, New Yorkers railed Sunday against the utility that has lagged behind others in restoring power, criticizing its slow pace as well as a dearth of information.

The lack of power restoration for a relative few in the densely populated region at the heart of the storm reinforced Sandy's fractured effect on the area: tragic and vicious to some, merely a nuisance to others.

Perhaps none of the utilities has drawn criticism as widespread, or as harsh, as the Long Island Power Authority. About 76,000 of the homes and businesses it serves were still without power early Monday.

As outages enter their third week, LIPA said it has dropped its policy that forces customers to get a house inspection before their power is restored, CBS Station WCBS reports.

"That should help those homes get power more quickly and one less step for the homeowners," said Michael Hervey, the utility's Chief Operating Officer.

But some residents say that's not enough.

"We sleep with insulated underwear, sweatpants, sweatshirts and three quilt covers," said Marilyn Cashdan from Baldwin Harbor. "No one cares about us."

LIPA has acknowledged that customers aren't getting the information they need about restoring power partly because of an outdated information technology system that it is updating. Executives said Sunday they were working on setting up information centers near the most heavily-damaged areas.

"We certainly understand the frustration that's out there," Hervey said in a conference call late Sunday. But he added that the storm had been worse than expected, and the power was coming back rapidly "compared to the damage that's been incurred."

"'They're working on it, they're working on it' - that would be their common response," Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said Sunday, describing LIPA's interaction with his office. He said LIPA has failed to answer even simple questions from its customers and that the magnitude of the storm wasn't an excuse.

By comparison, Con Edison reports 1,469 customers without power in New York City and Westchester County.

In New Jersey, PSE&G reports 99.9 percent of the 1.7 million customers impacted by Sandy have had their power restored. In a press release the utility said 19 customers remain without power, and 259 customers affected by last week's nor-easter remain without service.

Jersey Central Power & Light has restored power to all but 3,345 customers by Monday morning. The utility said customers on barrier islands along the Jersey shore will be without power indefinitely because homes there are too damaged to have electricity restored and are currently uninhabitable.

The lack of power has proven dangerous in many ways. Police say a New Cassel, N.Y., woman poisoned her family with toxic fumes by running a generator inside her house.

Newsday reports that 45-year-old Judith Edouard-Neus was arraigned Saturday on charges including reckless endangerment, after bringing a generator into her home on Friday and turning it on before leaving for work.

Police said say that when she returned home, her four children aged 1, 3, 5 and 7 were dizzy and vomiting. There were also two women in their 70s in the home, one of whom was unconscious. The victims were taken to hospitals for treatment.

"The Last Big Chunk" to Solve on Staten Island

On Sunday Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited with disaster-relief workers in Staten Island's Midland Beach neighborhood, which is still devastated two weeks after Sandy hit.

Napolitano said "a lot of progress" had been made since the storm hit and especially since her last visit 10 days earlier. "It seems like a different place," she said. "You can really tell the difference."