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PSEG Long Island

As the calendar creeps into March, the North Shore of Long Island is not quite experiencing spring weather just yet. The entire East Coast of the United States was battered by Winter Storm Riley, which arrived during the morning hours March 2, with a combination of high winds, rapid rainfall and shear duration causing severe flooding and power outages locally in addition to several casualties elsewhere.

The nor’easter, or a storm along the East Coast of North America with winds over the coastal area blowing from the northeast, according to the National Weather Service, left more than 128,000 PSEG Long Island customers without power over the weekend. As of 8:30 p.m. March 4, the utility said more than 99 percent of its affected customers had power restored.

“Nor’easters are always a challenge and something that is a concern for us here, particularly when it comes to issues like power outages, flooding and coastal erosion,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during the afternoon March 2 while providing an update to residents about the storm. “This storm in particular is a challenge for a couple of reasons. You are combining here high winds and a significant amount of rainfall. When you have those two things happening at the same time you are creating an environment for power outages, downed power lines, downed trees blocking roadways. Those are all the things we are monitoring, watching out for.”

Bellone said he had been in touch with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office, and the state had offered to provide Suffolk with any additional equipment or personnel it required to effectively deal with Riley.

Much of Suffolk County experienced between 2 ½ and four inches of rainfall during the storm, according to the National Weather Service. Wind gusts in Suffolk reached as high as 78 mph in Middle Island, 51 mph in East Northport and 43 in Miller Place.

Port Jefferson Village, or Drowned Meadow as it was originally called in past centuries, endured substantial flooding. One Facebook poster joked Main Street in Port Jeff resembled Venice, Italy.

“We have flooding downtown folks and are now at high tide,” the village posted on its official Facebook page at about 11 a.m. March 2, adding several village streets had to be closed due to flooding. “We will keep you posted. Stay safe!”

There will be no rest for the weary hoping the passing of Riley would signal a shift toward spring weather, as the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for much of the region March 5 calling for a winter storm that could bring several inches of snow beginning late March 6 into March 7.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). File photo

New York state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) wants to make it more difficult for LIPA to increase rates for its customers.

LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) introduced the Long Island Power Authority Rate Reform Act in January, a bill drafted to require the not-for-profit public utility’s board of trustees to “protect the economic interests of its ratepayers and the service area,” in addition to the interests of the utility company when considering a rate increase proposal, according to a joint press release from the lawmakers. The bill would also prevent LIPA from increasing rates to offset revenue losses associated with energy conservation efforts, like the installation of energy-efficient appliances and lightbulbs. If passed, it would be mandated the board hold public hearings within each county overseen by LIPA prior to finalizing rate plans.

Currently, LIPA’s board is required to consider three criteria when a rate increase is proposed by the State Department of Public Service: sound fiscal operating practices, existing contractual obligations and safe and adequate service, according to the press release.

“While we have been working to keep Long Island affordable by implementing measures like the 2 percent property tax cap, LIPA approved the largest rate increase in its history,” LaValle said in a statement, citing a three-year rate increase approved by the board in 2015. “This measure will enable more community input by mandating a public hearing when considering rate changes. In addition, this legislation would provide the trustees with the tools necessary to reject rate increases that would cause additional financial burdens on Long Islanders.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant each voiced support for LaValle’s bill.

“The record amount of investment in reliability, customer service and clean energy all come at a time when electric rates have remained roughly flat for decade,” LIPA Trustee Tom McAteer said in a statement through spokesman Sid Nathan. “Customer satisfaction is significantly higher and customers see PSEG Long Island crews tree-trimming and storm-hardening the electric grid throughout the year. Those are the facts. Not opinion. The Reform Act is working for our customers.”

The LIPA Reform Act was enacted in 2013 to revamp the utility’s operations, including empowering the board to decide on proposed rate increases. PSEG Long Island — which operates LIPA’s distribution systems — Media Relations Specialist Elizabeth Flagler said in a statement the company is reviewing the legislation and will be monitoring its status.

The proposed legislation comes as municipalities continue settlement discussions pertaining to lawsuits filed by Port Jeff Village and Port Jefferson School District — both in LaValle’s home district — in addition to the Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport School District against LIPA to prevent the utility’s challenges to property value assessments at the Port Jeff and Northport plants. The result of the lawsuits could have a dramatic impact on Port Jeff Village and its school district, as both entities receive substantial property tax revenue as a host community of a LIPA power plant.

The Port Jeff plant is currently used about 11 percent of the time, during periods of peak energy generation demand, an argument LIPA has used against the village’s public pleas to repower its plant and give LIPA more bang for its tax-assessment buck. A 2017 LIPA study predicted by 2030 the Port Jeff plant might only be needed about 6 percent of the year, thanks in part to the emergence energy efficient household appliances. In August 2016 New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) mandated that 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, by 2030.

Bruce Blower, a spokesman for LaValle, did not respond to an email asking if the proposed legislation was drafted with the lawsuits in mind, or if a settlement was imminent. Both the senate and assembly versions of the bill are in committee and would require passage by both houses and a signature from Cuomo prior to becoming law.

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Extreme low temperatures caused enough demand to require use of the Port Jefferson Power Station. File photo by Erika Karp

In Port Jefferson, the stacks are impossible to miss. They stick up in the sky, visible from Setauket and Port Jefferson Station when not in use. However, when electricity demand spikes, the billowing, white steam coming from the red-and-white, candy-striped stacks of the Port Jefferson Power Station is a sight to behold.

With the emergence of energy-efficient appliances and a general societal shift toward being “green conscious,” the power station is only activated in times of peak electricity demand these days, like when temperatures and wind chills start flirting with zero. From late December into early January, the New York office of the National Weather Service reported that for 13 straight days, ending Jan. 9, the maximum temperature at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip failed to exceed 32 F. It was the second longest period of below-freezing temperatures reported at the airport since 1963.

As a result of an Island-wide rush to crank up thermostats everyday from Dec. 27 through Jan. 10, the steam-powered electrical generation station was ready to go, serving as an addendum to the Island’s regularly used energy production. In 2017, the Port Jeff plant was operated for 1,698 hours through November, with an additional 260 hours of run time needed in December, according to Sid Nathan, director of public information for the Long Island Power Authority, which oversees operation of the station.

When running, its two steam units produce the white clouds or water vapor, which is a byproduct of burning oil or gas. As the vapor exits the stacks, contact with colder air causes condensation of the water vapor, producing the cloudlike white color. The two steam units ran for 1,958 hours in 2017, the equivalent of running for 41 days, or 11 percent of the year, Nathan said. The power station has the ability to generate about 400 megawatts of power.

The historic stretch of cold temperatures definitely generated an unusually high energy demand at the station, according to Nathan.

“Generally, on a typical 35 degree day, PSEG Long Island would not expect to dispatch the Port Jefferson plant,” he said.

For those concerned about the white steam yielded by the energy generation process, Nathan said the station is not producing more or different steam than normal and that the byproduct is more visible at extremely low ambient temperatures.

“There is no cause for concern,” Nathan said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the white smoke is mostly steam that could potentially contain particulates other than steam, and he reiterated residents shouldn’t be overly concerned. Although Englebright did say it would be “prudent to try to separate yourself from the atmospherics of the plant.”

As a North Shore resident and chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, Englebright said he was thankful the plant was ready to roll when needed most.

“Yes, during most of the year they are not in use,” Englebright said, of the stacks. “But when we really need it, it’s there. And we really needed it just in this cold spell and it went into high operation. Thank God it was there.”

Miler Place Girl Scout Troop 227 members make a presentation to the board of education about energy efficiency. Photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place High School has the potential to save large sums of money and energy this year thanks to the environmental efforts of a group of middle school Girl Scouts.

Sixth- and seventh-grade members of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 227 urged the board of education during the Sept. 27 meeting to consider replacing the 120 fluorescent lights in the high school cafeteria with more energy-efficient LED lights. This installation could save the district approximately $1,044 in the cafeteria alone over the course of the 180-day school year, the Girl Scouts said.

“Switching to LED lights would allow the district to focus that money on education,” 11-year-old Lilah Lindemann said.

Analynn Bisiani, a sixth-grader, informed board members 180-degree LED lights release significantly less heat energy than tube-shaped, 360-degree fluorescent lights, making them safer.

“They do not contain dangerous chemicals and will project light only down instead of 360 degrees,” Analynn said. “A lot of energy is wasted when light is projected upwards.”

Girl Scout Lindsey Galligan speaks at the Miller Place board of education meeting about the importance of energy efficiency and the ways in which the Girl Scouts project could help the district. Photo by Kevin Redding

The troop’s presentation was based on an energy audit of the high school cafeteria the girls conducted in May with the help of a PSEG Long Island representative as part of their Girl Scout Journey project — a long-term initiative to find a solution to a local environmental problem.

One of the requirements for the project was to focus on conserving energy, so troop leaders and members decided to conduct an audit of a public building, specifically the high school cafeteria, where the group holds its meetings twice a month.

With the help of Scout mom Kim Soreil, a PSEG Long Island manager of customer operations, the girls studied different forms of energy, made circuit cards and calculated the energy savings of switching to LED lights by counting all 120 lights in the cafeteria. The girls figured out
approximately 17.5 cents per kilowatt hour could be saved, which, assuming a 14-hour school day with extracurricular activities, equates to $5.88 in savings per day and $1,044 a year.

“They picked up on everything very quickly and just took off with it,” Soreil said of the troop’s excitement about the project. The girls, including Soreil’s daughter Lauren, also learned about phantom energy and the benefits of unplugging electrical appliances even after they’ve been turned off.

“They were peering through windows to try and see if lights were left on in the offices in the back and trying to turn off the lights on the vending machines so the school could conserve
energy,” she said.

During the presentation, Girl Scout Sarah DiPersio offered the board another environmentally-based solution in the cafeteria.

“Although it is not an electrical energy savings, we also noticed there is a traditional water fountain in the cafeteria, instead of a bottle refill fountain,” Sarah said.

Troop co-leader Candace Lindemann, who guides the girls alongside Morgan Caufield, said while she was impressed by the research and work her Scouts took part in, she wasn’t too surprised.

“We can definitely learn to use energy more efficiently because that’s one of the only ways we’re going to be able to continue living well on Earth.”

— Lilah Lindemann

“We have a very environmentally concerned and diligent group of girls,” Lindemann said, noting their other environment-based initiatives include beach cleanups and water health studies. “I think growing up near the beach definitely encourages an interest in the health of the environment for them.”

Her daughter Lilah said she has been passionate about the environment for a long time and hopes to be an engineer one day.

“We can definitely learn to use energy more efficiently because that’s one of the only ways we’re going to be able to continue living well on Earth,” the 11-year-old said. “And helping the environment and the community is what the Girl Scouts are about.”

Girl Scout Lindsey Galligan said she hopes by saving money through this proposal, the school district could afford to provide more art programs.

At the end of the board of education meeting, Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano presented each Scout with a certificate and thanked them for their presentation.

“That was very comprehensive,” Cartisano said. “We’re very grateful you did this and we’ll certainly be taking your recommendations and findings into consideration.”

The school district is currently in the process of bringing more energy efficiency to its buildings by installing solar panels on top of its high school and Andrew Muller Primary School.

Members of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 227 that participated in the audit are Sara Bally, Analynn Bisiani, Molly Caufield, Sarah DiPersio, Mary Cait Duffy, Lindsey Galligan, Lilah Lindemann, Maris Lynch, Ceili McNicholas, Madelyn Miller, and Lauren Soreil.

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital Director of Engineering, Design and Construction Kevin Koubek monitors the hospital’s electricity generation. Photo by Alex Petroski

A Port Jefferson-area hospital is setting trends in reducing its environmental impact. A number of new initiatives at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital have turned the facility into an energy efficiency machine, but the hospital’s director of engineering, design and construction said they’re not done trying to improve.

“I would say Mather is one of the most progressive hospitals on the Island in terms of green energy renewable technology and reducing carbon footprint,” Brian Hassan, PSEG Long Island lead account manager for health care, said in a phone interview. He added if other hospitals followed Mather’s lead it would be beneficial to reducing substantial carbon footprint that can be left by facilities that consume large amounts of energy. The glowing assessment can be attributed in large part to the efforts of Kevin Koubek, the engineering director at Mather who is constantly working to improve the hospital’s efficiency.

“I think we’ve shown we’re trying to do everything physically and humanly possible to reduce our demand on the grid,” Koubek said in an interview. Between air conditioning and heating, heavy-duty medical equipment, elevators, kitchen equipment, lighting, gift shops, coffee shops and various waiting rooms, the amount of power required to run a hospital is obviously substantial. Koubek said the hospital is always looking for ways to reduce energy requirements.

“Trying to offset some of this electrical demand is huge, and that’s one of the reasons we have tried to identify where we can minimize our loads,” he said.

Mather is the first Long Island hospital to install a thermal ice storage system to help with cooling the hospital during warmer months. It was installed and became operational earlier in 2017. The system serves to shift a portion of the hospital’s peak electrical load from daytime to nighttime, when electricity is more plentiful, less expensive and generated more efficiently by creating ice using larger air conditioning equipment during off-peak hours, then storing ice in 24 tanks that are used with pumps to generate cool air during the day.

“The day-to-day benefits would be that we’re not turning on this large machine, we’re pulling off the electric grid,” Koubek said.

In the past, before the hospital focused on energy efficiency initiatives, Koubek said much like homes in the summertime, the hospital’s cooling systems had a hard time meeting demand.

“We have to recognize [we] do have patients that for whatever reason, they’re here,” he said. “Their comfort is paramount.”

The chiller was approximately $2 million, though the hospital is expecting a rebate check from PSEG Long Island to cover half the cost.

Mather was also the first Long Island hospital to install solar panels. A 50-kilowatt photovoltaic ground-mounted solar panel was installed in the rear of the parking lot in 2011, and Koubek said the hospital has considered adding more.

“[Hospital administration] would love to do that, it’s just very expensive,” he said.

Koubek added the hospital is also in the process of replacing about 300 standard lighting fixtures of the roughly 3,000 at Mather with LED ones. Standard fixtures require about 180 watts of power while LEDs require about 30 watts.

“That’s the one thing that is sort of flying under the radar, but is making a huge impact on us is the fact that we’re on a track to replace every lighting fixture in the hospital and go to 100 percent LED,” Koubek said.

The hospital is also using lower cost hydropower, or electricity created by utilizing moving water, to reduce its energy costs by $2.5 million through the ReCharge NY award from the New York Power Authority. ReCharge NY is a program designed to retain and create jobs through allocations of low-cost power, half of which is made up of hydropower.

Koubek seemed to embrace the idea that Mather is setting trends for other hospitals in increased efficiency.

“I’d have to say we’re probably one of the leading hospitals on the Island, if not in the state,” he said.

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Road work will begin in Port Jefferson and will continue for the next four months as PSEG will strengthen the area’s electrical grid. File photo by Kevin Redding

An arm of the federal government and a Long Island utility are working to ensure North Shore residents who lost power in their homes for weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 won’t go through that again.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with PSEG Long Island as part of its Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program to fortify electrical infrastructure in Port Jefferson Village and other areas in Brookhaven Town in the hopes of avoiding the widespread and lengthy outages associated with the 2012 storm. The project entails replacing existing wiring with more weather-resistant wire, installing new and more durable poles in several locations and installing or replacing equipment to help reduce the number of customers affected by an outage, according to PSEG.

“By putting in the storm-hardened equipment, the stronger wires, and the more weather-resistant poles, it will help to reduce the number of customers affected during a storm,” said Elizabeth Flagler, PSEG Long Island’s media relations specialist. “So when we get the high winds, the equipment will hold up better.”

The project’s $729 million in funds was secured in 2014 through an agreement between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program, which helps communities implement hazard mitigation measures following a major disaster declaration. PSEG licensed and approved contractors will be doing the work for approximately the next four months in areas along Old Post Road, Hulse Road, Sheep Pasture Road, Main Street, Stony Hill Road and Belle Terre Road in Port Jefferson.

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant is glad to see improvements being done to help residents in the event of another major storm.

“Working on these lines and hardening the grid I think is something that should be done constantly,” Garant said during a phone interview. She added she knew of people who live in the village that were without power for up to two weeks after Sandy. “In the modern day I think that’s pretty unacceptable.”

Garant also said the abundance of large and old trees on the North Shore pose another problem for electrical lines when wind gusts get powerful.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) stressed the importance of being ready for another disaster.

“The reliability of our electrical infrastructure is paramount,” she said in an email through Legislative Aide Jennifer Martin. “Communities, including residential customers and businesses must be able to depend on uninterrupted service. In the last few years we have seen many unprecedented extreme weather events and these events are expected to continue. As such, upgrades under the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program will be critically important to my district, much of which is on the North Shore, and to other districts throughout Long Island.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) took over his post a month after Hurricane Sandy hit. He said that in his first few weeks in office he was overwhelmed trying to recover from all of the damage it caused.

“All poles and wires were down, water was about knee high throughout all the streets — if not higher — and obviously, you want to be able to withstand the next storm,” he said.

Romaine did, however, suggest PSEG bury wires to further minimize damage.

“Costs for burying wires is about the same that you would pay to recover from a series of storms in a 30-year period,” he said. “It’s more costly in the short run, but in the long run there’s no difference, and you will be much better protected by buried wires.”

PSEG representatives say that they anticipate minor traffic interruptions, as well as some localized, short-duration power outages related to the project. The crews will generally work Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with limited evening and Sunday work.

Kevin Redding contributed reporting.

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The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Elana Glowatz

Officials are on track to restore a piece of Long Island history, bringing an abandoned and forgotten horse-racing site back to life.

The Cumsewogue Historical Society has a ticket to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park from July 4, 1892. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The Cumsewogue Historical Society has a ticket to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park from July 4, 1892. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Brookhaven Town finished purchasing a swath of wooded land off of Canal Road in Terryville at the end of 2013, after Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith discovered the faint outline of the horse track and dug up information about what was once called the Gentlemen’s Driving Park. The town now owns the entire 11-acre site.

Today it’s an overgrown path hidden among trees, but the Gentlemen’s Driving Park used to be a place where Victorian Era bettors watched men race around the half-mile loop — counterclockwise — behind horses in carts called sulkies. It was part of a circuit of harness racing tracks in the Northeast, according to Smith, but likely fell into neglect with the rise of the automobile.

But cars have also helped keep the track viable: Smith previously reported that at least through the mid-1950s, kids raced jalopies around the track, preventing it from becoming completely overgrown.

Smith said on Monday the effort to restore and preserve the track is moving slowly, but there has been progress since the town finished acquiring the property. There are plans in place to clear the track to about 20 feet wide, although leaving larger trees in place, and to move up the southern curve of the oval, he said.

Jack Smith takes a closer look at a wrecked car on the Gentlemen's Driving Park track around the time he first discovered the forgotten historical spot. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Jack Smith takes a closer look at a wrecked car on the Gentlemen’s Driving Park track around the time he first discovered the forgotten historical spot. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Currently, a small PSEG Long Island facility cuts into that southern tip. Rather than moving the facility or leaving the track incomplete, the town would retrace that small section of track, slightly shortening the loop but completing the oval so as to make a walkable path for visitors.

“The town is in the process of working on the track to restore the track as closely to the original footprint as possible,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in a statement this week. “There will be some adjustments needed and the town is actively working on that.”

If all goes according to plan, the councilwoman said, the restored track could open late in the summer or early in the fall.

“The important thing is that it will be an oval,” Smith said Monday. “We want to keep some of the historical integrity.”

His goal is to put informational signs around the track that will teach people about its history.

The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The driving park was adjacent to well-known horse trainer Robert L. Davis’ Comsewogue stables, now the Davis Professional Park. After hearing rumors of such a track in Terryville, Smith discovered it by looking at an aerial image of the neighborhood taken during the winter, when the foliage was less dense. He saw the faint shape in the woods near Canal Road and went walking in to find it. Since that visit, he has uncovered a broken pair of Victorian-era field glasses near the finish line on the track’s west side, which may have been dropped and trampled. He also has a ticket from a racing event on July 4. 1892.

Once restoration work is completed, Cartright said the town hopes to work with the historical society and the community “to hold a kickoff event to highlight the track and its history.”

For his part, the historical society president has said he would like to hold a fair in which people will re-enact the late 1800s horse races with vintage sulkies or participate in a carriage parade.

“We can’t be happier that it’s been preserved,” Smith said.

An ‘old scam with a new twist’ is soliciting money from some PSEG Long Island customers and threatening to cut off service if payments are not made immediately. Stock photo

Long Island utility PSEG said residents across Nassau and Suffolk counties have been receiving suspicious phone calls threatening to cut their service if they don’t immediately pay bills that don’t exist.

An alert from PSEG Long Island said both residential and business customers have been receiving calls from tricksters claiming to be employees of the utility company and warning that their electric service would soon be cut if payments are not made to them the same day. Similar scams have been reported across the country, with PSEG being one of the latest to see customers fall victim to them, the utility said in a statement.

It was described as an “old scam with a new twist,” in which scammers spoof PSEG Long Island’s interactive voice response system prompt menu so that when customers call back, they are presented with an interaction that is similar to one they would receive if they called PSEG Long Island’s real customer service line.

“The scammers tell customers that, in order to avoid being shut off, they must immediately pay their bill with a prepaid card that can be purchased at many pharmacies and retail stores,” the utility said in a statement.

Dan Eichhorn, vice president of customer services for PSEG Long Island, said there were striking similarities in each of the scams.

“Scammers ask the customer to give them the number on the back of the pre-paid card and take the money from the card — usually within a matter of minutes,” he said in a statement. “This scam has affected companies across the country. We urge our customers to always use caution when making payments.”

The utility reassured that it would never force a customer to give them the number of a prepaid card, especially with such urgency. In a statement, PSEG Long Island said that suspicious residents should hang up the phone if they receive such a call and call back directly to test the validity of that call.

“When PSEG Long Island makes an outbound phone call to customers, customer-specific information is shared with the customer,” PSEG Long Island said in a statement. “That information includes the account name, address, number and current balance. If customers do not receive this correct information, they likely are not speaking with a PSEG Long Island representative.”

The number on the back of PSEG Long Island customer bills is 1-800-490-0025.

PSEG Long Island said the utility was working with local and national law enforcement to investigate the matter further and is reaching out to its contacts at local community service agencies, asking them to spread the word to their clients.

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Downed trees were a common sight along Route 25A in the Setauket- East Setauket and Stony Brook areas. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The winds have subsided, but Setauket and Stony Brook still have a lot of debris to clean up since last week’s brutal storm sent the North Shore for a spin.

An early morning windstorm made its way through the area early last Tuesday morning, toppling trees and downing power lines. The electricity has since been restored, a spokesman for PSEG Long Island said, and the utility has been providing more than 600 workers to ensure all temporary repairs are made permanent. Most roads have been cleared of fallen trees, and the town has been moving nearly 1,000 cubic yards of material a day amid cleanup efforts.

But there is still a ways to go.

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said it could take another two to three weeks for Setauket and Stony Brook to be declared 100 percent passable. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Losquadro said his team buddied up with utility PSEG to help remove trees from roadways while grappling with fallen utility poles and electric wires. Now, he said it’s all about following through on the stragglers.

“This week, we’ve been bringing crews in an hour early each day to continue the debris removal process,” he said in a phone interview this week. “While we have shifted skeleton crews back out to their respective districts, a vast majority of my assets are still deployed in this area doing debris removal.”

Losquadro said the trucks were moving quickly to remove debris and bring it to his department’s Setauket yard to be handled. And he credited a big chunk of his team’s efficiency since the winds came barreling through on his emergency management preparedness.

“We had a plan set up with [the] waste management [department] that they would move their big grinder — the one at the Brookhaven landfill — to an area where we would stage material out of,” he said. “Now, we only have to handle the materials once.”

In prior storms, Losquadro said the town moved waste materials two to three times before they hit a landfill, which slowed down the recovery process and ended up costing more money. But the new plan has made cleaning up more efficient.

On a financial note, Losquadro said the storm will undoubtedly put a dent in his overall budget but his team would remain vigilant in tracking all costs and seeking reimbursement from the state, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, when the recovery efforts conclude.

“It will be a significant number,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it. It’s a fact that that area was hit harder by this storm than it was hit by [Hurricane] Sandy.”

The highway superintendent said the hardest-hit areas in Setauket and Stony Brook should be able to fully put the storm behind them in a matter of two weeks or so.

“The fact that this was a localized event did allow me to pour many more assets into a smaller area to get the recovery done faster,” he said. “It also allowed PSEG to do the same thing. I, myself, could not be happier with the organization of my operation.”

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A utility crew gets to work on Old Post Road in Port Jefferson after a storm wreaked havoc on the area. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Tuesday morning’s storm literally came out of the blue. The skies were clear and calm on Monday and residents were going about their summer, as they should.

Some may have even welcomed the news of pending thunderstorms and rain — we could use the shower. But then it hit.

By the time we woke up Tuesday morning, we were reminded just how fragile our environment is. Trees were in our streets. Traffic lights had gone black. Police were scrambling to make sense of the aftermath of what was a short but intense early-morning storm filled with heavy winds, rain, thunder and, in spots, hail.

We will spend the coming days digging ourselves out, as we always do in the wake of severe weather events. But let’s not just get back to business once the roads are cleared and the traffic lights flicker green, yellow and red once more.

This was a freak weather event. We did not have the courtesy of a week’s warning as we did during storms with names like Irene or Sandy. We did not see this one coming.

And now, we are all paying for it.

We are calling on our elected officials to use this severe storm as a catalyst to catapult environmentally focused legislation and reforms.

For example, we like to talk a lot about moving our power lines underground in order to save them from toppling trees. But the price tag is usually what puts that idea right back into our political pockets, stored away for another day. Well that day is fast approaching.

This summer has already had its fair share of gentle and not-so-gentle reminders that our environment is suffering. In June, we spent weeks discussing the causes and effects of low oxygen levels along our shores that left our waterfronts riddled with dead fish. The tragic event sparked a political debate over the Island’s environmental future but, again, we still await concrete action.

We are also calling on our legislators and our readers to use this storm as a reminder to stay on top of the greenery we all take pride in. Clean up your yards and have your trees routinely inspected and trimmed to ensure they can sustain the kinds of storms that catch us off guard. We can also stock up on nonperishable foods and batteries to ease the panic in a storm’s aftermath. There is always more we can do.

It’s time we come to terms with the notion that significant action is necessary, and is worth the financial investment. One way or another, we will end up paying in the long run. Let’s start paying now instead of the inevitable next time traffic lights go dark.

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