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Storm Cleanup Continues As Thousands Still Without Power Across Tri-State

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The storm cleanup and dig out continued Friday across the Tri-State area as crews worked to remove debris and restore power.

Utility crews are working around the clock after the past two storms, but thousands of customers were still in the dark.

Late Friday night, JCP&L in New Jersey reported approximately 56,000 customers in the dark, while PSE&G had about 20,500 outages. Eversource said 27,000 customers were still affected in Connecticut.

In New York, Con Edison reported approximately 9,200 customers without power, including nearly 8,800 in Westchester County. NYSEG had about 700 outages, including 590 in Westchester.

Orange & Rockland said 12,000 customers were still affected, while PSEG Long Island had 840 outages. 

John McAvoy, CEO of Con Edison, said Friday that Westchester was "hit particularly hard."

"We're used to seeing trees and limbs down that take down our wires and interrupt power to customers. These storms, the tree damage we're seeing, was more extensive," he said. "Large limbs came down, many trees completely uprooted and the result of that is that we're not just repairing our system. In many cases, we are actually rebuilding it."

He said there were almost 100 road closures in Westchester from Wednesday's storm and said clearing them is a joint responsibility between the utility and municipalities.

"When we moved into recovery on Thursday, we had to dedicate some crews to making sure we got the roads clear," he said. "That slowed down our response a bit."

CBS2's Dave Carlin Demands Answers From Con Ed: 

McAvoy also said the utility saw "significant problems" in providing accurate and consistent information about outages and estimated restoration times to customers.

"We experienced very significant problems with our technology systems which take in the customer data and turn it into things like outage maps and municipal information," he said. "That added another level of frustration for customers."

He blamed the problem on a glitch in the system as a result of recent work that had been done and called it "a major leasson learned in areas for commitment for us to make improvements going forward."

McAvoy said the company is "committed to fix that so it doesn't happen again," adding that they continue to work 24/7 on restoration.

"Will not stop until every customer is restored," he said.

But dozens of elected officials have joined the call for the heads of Con Ed and NYSEG to lose their jobs for botching the storm response.

"I want to see change in the corporate boardroom, because there was failure on the streets of this county and someone's going to be accountable for it," Westchester County Executive George Latimer said Friday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was also in the hot seat Friday, CBS2's Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported.

CBS2's Political Reporter Marcia Kramer Demands Answers From Gov. Cuomo:  

Rye Brook attorney Manvin Mayell decided to take a page out of the movie "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri," with lawn signs that said, "Eight days... No power... How come Con Ed... And Cuomo?"

"I think it's a failure and I think he should tell us what's going on and take a more active role," Mayell told Kramer.

He thinks Cuomo's push to send Con Ed crews to Puerto Rico might've hampered restoration efforts and wonders why the governor, who made three trips to Puerto Rico to survey the damage there, hasn't been seen in Westchester.

"People who could fix this were sent down to Puerto Rico," said Mayell. "I think that's a real problem."

The governor has been in Albany most of the week, racing and end-of-the-month budget deadline. But as Kramer reported, he could have stopped on his way into the city for an environmental rally at NYU with former Vice President Al Gore.

If he did, he might have tried helping Kathy Rubenstein, who's been kept prisoner in her powerless home for days, because of a downed wire in her driveway.

"That fell down last Friday as part of the outage. It took until Tuesday for Con Ed to come pin it up. So I couldn't even get out of my house," she said.

Kramer tried demanding answers from Cuomo at his NYU event, but his aides put up a big black curtain to hide the governor slipping out the back. Team Cuomo insists the governor has been hands on, ordering an investigation of the utilities and threatening sanctions.

His aides also said Con Ed is bringing its crews back from Puerto Rico and sending them to Westchester "immediately."

In the meantime, it's been an entire week of reliance on a generator for Devin Mulhare of Bedford.

"It feels like Sandy all over again," he said.

As the days without power drag on, frustration turns to desperation for many without answers from Con Ed.

"At first it was Sunday night, then it was Tuesday, then Wednesday and now I think it's something like Friday but we're being told by the town it'll be the weekend," said Mt. Kisco resident Dave Schwitten.

Monica Scott, of Greenburgh, told CBS2's Tony Aiello that day eight without power was actually better than days one and two, when she had to feed the fireplace to stay warm.

"Because we have the generator, we've been comfortable," she said. "But it's inconvenient, to say the least, it's very inconvenient."

Not to mention somewhat expensive -- $100 a day to rent and fuel the unit that powers the boiler in the basement, the refrigerator in the kitchen and one outlet in the dining room. A kindly neighbor delivered fuel to keep the unit running.

"We try to help each other as much as possible," Scott said.

She was doing her part by giving a spare bedroom to Marilyn Ferrara, whose home next door was ice cold.

"Right now, it's freezing over there," said Ferrara. "I keep thanking her, and she gets angry that I'm thanking her, but I do appreciate it."

With 70 roads partially or fully blocked by downed trees entangled in power lines, Clarkstown needed backup. One-third of the town was without power during the height of the storm, CBS2's Magdalena Doris reported.

"Clarkstown really took it on the chin here out of Rockland County," one resident said.

On Friday, New York National Guard members stepped in, with 12 assigned to Clarkstown alone and another 13 dedicated to northern Rockland County.

The area was walloped by more than a foot of snow, and plagued by power outages.

"It's good to have the extra help," said Clarkstown Highway Department Superintendent Frank Dizenzo. "The Guard is going to really push us to get everything cleaned up in a timely manner."

Utility companies aren't the only ones now playing catch up. Private electricians are slammed with business.

"The phone keeps on ringing, trees are down all over the place, people's services out," said electrician Mike Moran.

When a large tree limb fell outside Ray Terjeson's West Nyack home, snarling wires two days ago, he called Orange & Rockland right away, but said there has been no sign of crews yet.

"God forbid a child comes by or even an animal could be hurt by the live wires," he said. "Anxious for it to get taken care of as soon as possible so if that requires the National Guard coming out to assist, that would be great."

Wednesday's nor'easter is also being blamed for at least two deaths.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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