Sustained winds of over 40 miles per hour, with gusts of over 65 miles per hour from Tropical Storm Isaias, knocked out power to over 440,000 customers, according to PSEG.
As of 9:45 am on Thursday, fewer than 140,000 customers were still without power, as PSEG said it had restored power to about 300,000 customers.
The utility expects to restore power to 85% of its customers by the end of the day on Friday, while the remaining percentage should have power by the end of the day on Saturday. PSEG tree crews and contracts have cleared 500 locations.
Customers of PSE&G were so frustrated with their inability to get through to the power company duringt the storm that they flooded the 911 phone lines, causing an increase of 400% in the volume of calls.
“That is related to communication issues that were experienced by PSE&G, where customers had a difficult time getting through or were unable to get through to report outages,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during a press conference on Wednesday to provide an update after the storm.
Bellone suggested it was “too early to diagnose what the problem was” at PSE&G, but that is it “critical that we determine that for storms moving forward.”
Other New York officials, such as State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) have called for an investigation of the public utility. Just a day after the storm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced he was directing the state Department of Public Service to launch an investigation in PSEG Long Island, along with other utility companies in New York on what went wrong with service restoration.
While Bellone stopped short of urging an investigation into the communication problems for customers, he urged an “analysis and understanding of what happened. This was a major problem. Communications in a storm is critical. We need to understand why it happened.”
PSEG insisted that the challenges with its communication systems didn’t impact the company’s efforts to restore power. Crews have been able to assess the damage and send teams to affected neighborhoods.
“We have overcome many of the issues with Verizon that affected our call center operations yesterday,” Daniel Eichhorn, president and chief operating officer of PSEG said in a statement. “We understand how critical it is to share accurate and timely information with our customers and we continue working diligently to fully resolve these issues.”
PSEG indicated it understood the importance of sharing accurate and timely information and is seeing improvements in call center operations.
The company is “working diligently to improve all of our systems to fully resolve these issues,” and urges customers to use the automated voice response system, if possible, at (800) 490-0075.
PSEG is opening four customer outreach centers, starting at 10 am on Wednesday, which is providing free water and ice in a drive-through service. The locations are at 175 East Old Country Road in Hicksville, 250 Willis Avenue in Roslyn, 288 Pulaski Road in Greenlawn and 1650 Islip Avenue in Brentwood.
The company has sent out 2,000 crews, including workers from New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida, Alabama, Kansas and Missouri. The crews will work 16-hour shifts around the clock until they have restored power. The teams will restore critical facilities first, then outages that affect the most people and then outages that affect smaller numbers or individual customers.
PSEG reminded customers that downed wires should always be considered live. A safe distance is at least 30 feet away. Customers who see downed wires should call 911. The company also reminded residents not to drive over or stand near downed power lines. Large pools of standing water could be dangerous because wires could be hidden in them. PSEG urged people to stop, back up and take another path if they see downed wires.
The county received 250 calls for downed trees and limbs on county roadways. Most of those were cleared by the early morning. As of mid-morning on Wednesday, five roads, including four in Huntington and one in Islip, remained partially closed. These are routes 17, 67, 86, 35 and 9.
Bellone said PSEG is aware of the outages and is working to restore power throughout the county.
Despite the calm after the storm, the county facilities, including golf courses, remained closed around midday Wednesday.
“We’re hoping to have those back online [Wednesday] afternoon,” Bellone said.
Smith Point County Park is also closed for swimming, as the outage has cut power to bathroom facilities.
Brookhaven Town’s Holtsville Pool is closed. Brookhaven’s town beaches are open, but Davis Park, Great Gun and Ho Hum beaches all have red flag conditions, which prevents swimming and limits water access to knee-deep wading.
Access to West Meadow Beach is also limited because of fallen trees in the area.