For the Long Island Power Authority, if the rains, wind, and flooding of Hurricane Sandy didn’t get you, the public relations shitstorm it left in its wake will. And it has, as outraged customers — and even elected officials — are fuming about how long it’s taken the utility company to restore power to thousands of homes.
So far, more than 250,000 people on Long Island have been without power for 11 days. And LIPA officials don’t expect that to change until sometime next week.
Needless to say, people are pissed — including Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said this week that “Privately I have used language my daughters couldn’t hear” when describing LIPA’s response to the storm.
Other officials now say that they plan to call on the military to take over managerial operations until the lights are turned back on.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Congressman Peter King said today that they plan to ask the federal government for help in restoring power on Long Island, including asking the military to step in to run the restoration effort..
Today, Gus Garcia-Roberts — a former scribe for Voice sister paper the Miami New Times — penned an article for Newsday outlining “why LIPA failed.” He describes outdated infrastructure and old warnings that the utility company wasn’t prepared to handle a storm like Sandy.
From Garcia-Roberts’ story:
LIPA neglected basic maintenance to prevent outages, such as replacing rotting poles and trimming trees around power lines, according to a state report released by the Public Service Commission’s Public Service Department in June. The $3.7 billion-a-year government-owned corporation spent $37.5 million less than committed over five years on hardening the grid to
protect against major storm damage, according to the report.
Thursday, a Newsday reporter at the Hicksville headquarters of National Grid — the company contracted by LIPA to oversee operations — saw engineers who were using highlighters and paper maps to track thousands of outages, as ratepayers banged in frustration on the building’s locked front doors.
Garcia-Roberts reports that LIPA officials have been warning of their inability to respond to a storm as devastating as Sandy since 2006.
In a letter Cuomo sent utility CEOs — that we published in its entirety last week — the governor said “With respect to the Long Island Power Authority, I will make every change necessary to ensure it lives
up to its public responsibility. It goes without saying that such failures would warrant the removal of the management responsible for such colossal misjudgments.”
Regardless of when the lights get turned back on on Long Island, it seems like heads are gonna roll over at LIPA.