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PSEG Long Island

Snow blanketed the ground as a winter storm hit the North Shore Dec. 16 into 17. Photo by Kyle Barr

*Update: This version of the story includes the number of homes who are still without power as of 4 p.m.

The Nor’easter that hit the east coast cut out power to thousands of homes on Long Island. By 4 p.m. on Thursday, the number of homes without power declined to 348. Earlier in the day, 3,444 homes were without electricity. PSEG Long Island said it had restored power to more than 98% of the homes affected by the storm.

PSEG LI expected to restore power to all homes by the end of the day.

“We expect to restore power to all remaining customers today,” PSEG LI said in a statement.

PSEG added personnel, including tree and line crews, to repair damage and restore outages. The utility had more than 1,300 line workers, tree trimmers, surveyors and other personnel on site to restore power.

“This storm brought down trees and wires throughout our service area,” John O’Connell, Vice President, Transmission & Distribution, PSEG Long Island, said in a statement. “We know that being without power for any length of time is a hardship and we thank our customers for their patience as we work through the damage and difficult conditions to restore their power [as] safely and quickly as possible.”

In an update on the storm, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) described the number of power outages as “good news,” as outages were a “big concern here because of the nature of the storm.” Bellone spoke with reporters at the Department of Public Works in Commack.

“We did not see a significant number of power outages in this storm,” Bellone added.

Bellone suggested that outages may have been lower because some of the limbs and trees that could have come down had already fallen or been removed.

Suffolk County Police Department Chief Stuart Cameron, meanwhile, thanked the Department of Public Works and the police department for working through the night.

As of 8 a.m., Chief Cameron said the county had 171 accidents since 4 p.m. the night before. Police were working on two active crashes, which is lower than they would normally have.

Chief Cameron also wanted to thank many residents of Suffolk County for heeding the advisory and staying off the roads.

Some of the ramps for the Long Island Expressway still had plenty of snow and slush on them. Chief Cameron advised drivers to consider taking the next ramp, if their exit appeared challenging from the conditions.

Chief Cameron also urged residents to give themselves plenty of time to clear their car of snow and ice before they need to leave their homes.

“My car was heavily iced,” Chief Cameron said. “It took me a long time to clean” it off.

Looking at the forecast for Friday, Bellone said the colder temperatures could create conditions for black ice. He urged people to be “careful throughout [Thursday] and into tomorrow as well.”

A look at Port Jefferson Harbor from the Village Center during Winter Storm Grayson as blizzard-force winds and more than a foot of snow pound the coast in January, 2018. File photo

As the nor’easter bears down on the mid-Atlantic states, the forecast for Long Island continues to include considerable snow, although the forecast varies by area.

The estimated snowfall ranges from 6 inches to 13 inches.

“We know the storm will be hitting us harder on the west end of Suffolk County, rather than the east end, where we’ll see lower amounts,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during a weather update at the Commack Department of Public Works.

The storm will also hit harder in the north, rather than the south shore.

“This is going to be a heavy, wet snow, which is, of course, something that creates its own set of challenges,” Bellone said.

Bellone urged residents to return to their homes as early as possible tonight. The storm is expected to increase in intensity this evening through the overnight hours. During that time, snow could accumulate at the rate of one to two inches per hour.

“You should be off the roads by the latest, at 9 p.m. tonight.

While the east end will get lower snow totals, the area will have higher winds, with gusts of up to 57 miles per hour.

The county is opening its emergency operations center today and expects to have it open through tomorrow at 4 p.m..

The Department of Public Works has 200 vehicles ready, with about 19 tons of salt at their disposal to help clear the snow and ice from the roads.

Bellone urged residents to try to work from home on Thursday, if they can.

“Tomorrow is a day, if you can, to stay home,” Bellone urged.

Suffolk County Police Department Chief Stuart Cameron said this type of heavy snow can clog the chute of a snow blower.

“You should never, ever stick your hand” in the chute, Cameron cautioned, even if the device is turned off, because a blade can rotate and severely injure someone’s hand.

Cameron also advised against bringing a barbecue or generator inside the house because they release carbon monoxide, which can be dangerous to homeowners.

At this point, Bellone said there were no changes to the bus schedule. He urged residents to check for any modifications, particularly tomorrow after the snowstorm passes.

To report and receive status updates on an outage Text OUT to PSEGLI (773454) or to report an outage online visit www.psegliny.com

To register, have your account number available and text REG to PSEGLI (773454)

Downed wires should always be considered “live.” Do not approach or drive over a downed line and do not touch anything contacting the wire. To report a downed wire, call PSEG Long Island’s 24-hour Electric Service number: 1-800-490-0075

PSEG trucks remove a downed tree in Mount Sinai Aug. 7. For several days, cars had to swerve around the tree that split the intersection of North Country Road and Crystal Brook Hollow Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

LIPA filed a $70 million lawsuit against PSEG-Long Island in State Supreme Court in Mineola against the New Jersey-based power company for breach of contract in response to Tropical Storm Isaias, which hit Aug. 4 and knocked out power for some Long Islanders for over eight days.

The Department of Public Service recommended a lawsuit to the LIPA Board of Trustees.

“Utility companies are beholden to ratepayers, and when that service is inadequate — or as in this case, a complete failure — those utilities need to be held accountable,” Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a statement. PSEG “failed to hold up their end. It’s inexcusable, and we’re going to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

The complaint, filed by attorneys at the law firm Rivkin Radler, alleges breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, based on PSEG’s “failure to prepare for and manage restoration effort during and following Tropical Storm Isaias. LIPA also brings this action for specific performance to compel PSEG LI to comply with its obligations” under the operations service agreement.

The suit also alleges “corporate mismanagement, misfeasance, incompetence, and indifference, rising well beyond the level of simple negligence.”

Immediate Fix Demanded
State Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport), an outspoken critic of LIPA and PSEG LI’s response to the storm, welcomed the legal action.

“It’s about time LIPA start acting to protect the best interests of Long Island ratepayers,” Gaughran said in a statement. Gaughran urged LIPA to make sure the $70 million is paid by PSEG shareholders and not ratepayers.

“An independent receiver should be appointed to refund this $70 million to hardworking Long Islanders and not dumped into the blackhole of LIPA’s budget,” Gaughran added.

In a statement, LIPA CEO Tom Falcone said PSEG LI must “immediately fix these failed information technology systems and abide by its contract” as LIPA continues to review its legal, contractual and termination options.

“PSEG Long Island has collected nearly half a billion dollars from Long Island customers over the past seven years while failing to meet its basic obligations,” Falcone added.

John Rhodes, Special Counsel for statewide ratepayer protection for the New York State Department of Public Service, asked if LIPA should “find a new service provider?”

In a statement, PSEG Long Island said it was “hard at work addressing recommendations in LIPA’s 30- and 90-day reports. We believe that the current public-private partnership is the best option for Long Island customers and we have remained committed to being the service provider of choice for LIPA.”

PSEG LI is “aware that this lawsuit has been filed and we are reviewing it.”

Lawsuit Claims

In the lawsuit, LIPA describes PSEG LI as demonstrating willful, bad faith and grossly negligent failures.

One of a litany of complaints during and after the storm was the inability for customers to connect with PSEG and to receive a reliable estimate of the time to restore power.

Ratepayers were “left without critical information as adequate telephone lines were overwhelmed with calls and an Outage Management System, selected by PSEG LI as able to withstand a major storm and paid for by LIPA, failed.”

About a million customer calls and 300,000 text messages did not reach PSEG LI, according to the suit.

Calls to outage and billing lines “became overloaded and failed,” the suit alleges, with 75% of customer calls to PSEG LI’s Outage Line not going through on the first day of the storm.

PSEG LI “did not properly monitor whether the calls on the Outage Line were connecting. Calls were dropped without PSEG LI’s knowledge,” according to the suit.

LIPA asserted that PSEG should have known about the inadequacy of the voice telephony system.

PSEG did not perform sufficient tests to determine whether the system would function during a major storm event before or in the 100 days after Isaias, the suit further claimed.

The problems with the telecommunications system predated the storm, as the suit indicated that the “OMS did not crash due to Isaias. It was already failing.”

PSEG LI “must develop a comprehensive integrated set of business continuity plans for every critical IT and communication system on Long Island, plus all repair and recovery activities,” according to the suit.

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Kings Park restaurant owners and Smithtown election officials celebrate businesses receiving new propane heater lamps. Photo from Town of Smithtown

By Julianne Mosher

With the changes in how customers shop and dine across the region, PSEG Long Island wanted to step in and help.

Relish in Kings Park, above, was one of the eight restaurants gifted outdoor propane heaters thanks to the grant given to local chambers from PSEG Long Island. ‘I’m so excited that we were given them,’ manager Kristy Ludeman said. ‘It helps keep everyone at night warm and the guests are really enjoying it.’ Photo by Julianne Mosher

John Keating, manager of economic development with PSEGLI, said that the company began its Main Street Revitalization Program about two years ago with the goal to bring business back downtown. But because of the COVID-19 crisis, PSEGLI saw an opportunity to help out during the changing times.

“We saw a lot of areas were looking at outdoor dining and outdoor shopping,” Keating said. “It has become a lifeline for them to stay in business.”

The Chamber of Commerce Main Street Revitalization Award grants up to $5,000 to chambers and business improvement districts to help purchase durable goods that support outdoor commerce.

“It’s our small way to help businesses thrive,” Keating said.

To date, PSEGLI has paid or preapproved grants for 20 Chambers or BIDs in towns and villages across Long Island — from Sag Harbor to Great Neck — totaling nearly $100,000.

Keating said that when a chamber or BID is approved, the funds are based on a reimbursement process.

“We want to make sure the money goes to durable material that supports outdoor shopping,” he said. “Once approved, they can make the purchase, send us the receipts and then we reimburse them.”

And many of the local chambers have either applied or are considering it. The Town of Smithtown announced last week that the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce was awarded the grant and was then gifted new outdoor propane heaters — the first chamber to do so.

Diane Motherway, executive director of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said that she was surprised to hear that they were the first to use the money for heat. Other recipients used the funds to purchase outdoor tables, chairs, umbrellas or planters, but Kings Park saw what was already implemented and decided to add to what shops have established outside.

“Some restaurants were set up already,” she said. “So, we were trying to think of ways to help since that was taken care of.”

That’s when they thought of the heaters, especially since Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) made an announcement Sept. 17 extending the temporary outdoor dining permit to Dec. 31.

“We’re trying to do our part in any way that we can,” Motherway said.

It was announced that the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce is also a recipient of the award and will be using the funds to gift outdoor heaters, as well.

“We’re trying to help businesses through their chambers,” Keating said. “It’s been a very positive experience because most chambers don’t have a lot of funds to work with — this was something that they could help make a difference.”

Keating added that 90 percent of the Long Island economy comes from small business, so the pandemic caused stress for small shops.

“Our end game is keeping more businesses surviving during the pandemic,” he said.

Hurricane Laura is expected to cut across the breadth of the U.S. and come at Long Island as a series of storms. PSEG LI said its ready for any cleanup afterwards. Image from NOAA

Amid numerous investigations about its failed communication systems and inaccurate estimated time to restore power after Tropical Storm Isaias, PSEG LI is returning to an earlier version of outage software.

Tropical Storm Isaias uprooted a tree in St. James. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The utility, which is overseen by the Long Island Power Authority, is rolling back from version 6.7, which was installed earlier this year, to version 5.5, according to an email from LIPA in response to TBR News Media’s questions.

This is one of several steps PSEG, under LIPA’s supervision, is taking to address any future storms that might hit Long Island.

“LIPA is currently conducting an end-to-end review to understand the root causes of the communications and restoration systems issues, including the outage management system and the various feeder systems,” LIPA representatives explained in its email.

The power authority also indicated that it was closely overseeing PSEG’s immediate, corrective actions through daily calls and reports and an independent review of system modifications and testing.

LIPA and Electeds Conduct Reviews

LIPA is planning to issue 30, 90, and 180-day reports to the LIPA Board of Trustees and the public.

The reviews include an evaluation of pre-storm readiness of the telecommunication systems, a root causes analysis of unprocessed calls and text message, and review of the design and implementation of outage management and restoration systems and processes and actionable recommendations on storm preparedness, system and management controls and approaches to increasing system reliability and performance.

“It’s good that they’re doing an outside report … It’s not going to help us now.”

– Jim Gaughran

While State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) welcomed the review, his primary concern, he said, was whether the utility was prepared for the next storm, particularly in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Laura, which devastated parts of Louisiana.

“It’s good that they’re doing an outside report,” Gaughran said in an interview. “It’s not going to help us now. This is a crisis situation and you would think that they would have an emergency task force… that would come up with changes and implement them” within days of the response to a storm that knocked out power for more than a week to parts of Long Island.

PSEG said in an emailed statement that the company is “working diligently to be prepared for the next major weather event and ensure that our response to Tropical Storm Isaias was an anomaly.”

The utility company indicated it had made configuration and capacity changes to the phone system, rolled back the outage management system to a more “stable” version and put “processes in place to continuously monitor our IT systems for capacity and bottleneck issues.”

A tree lies across Old Post Road East in Mount Sinai after Tropical Storm Isais. Photo by Kyle Barr

While New York State Attorney General Letitia James is conducting her own investigation into the company’s response to the storm, LIPA indicated that the Department of Financial Services, in cooperation with the Department of Public Service, was also participating in a review.

The involvement in the DFS is “good,” said Gaughran, who has been a consistent critic of both LIPA and PSEG even before Tropical Storm Isaias. “The more the merrier.”

One of the questions Gaughran and other representatives asked about LIPA’s oversight of PSEG LI related to the timing and effectiveness of the most recent stress test. In response to a letter Gaughran and Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. (D-Sag Harbor) sent to LIPA, CEO Thomas Falcone indicated that the outage management system was most recently stress tested in June of this year.

“Part of LIPA’s review includes the stress-testing procedures used in the past and improvements for the future,” Falcone said in his response.

Cost of the Cleanup

Senator Gaughran and Assemblyman Thiele said they are also focused on the source of any reimbursement the company receives in connection with costs related to the storm.

Long Island rate payers “shouldn’t be paying for the cost of out-of-town crews sitting around waiting to do work and not doing work because the management failed to communicate,” Gaughran said. The costs of bringing in those crews from out of state and feeding and housing them should be shared by shareholders of PSEG, Gaughran contended.

“I believe shareholders have to be responsible for at least any portion of the additional costs related to their incompetence and failure in dealing with the communication system,” he said. Had the communication system worked as it should, the time to restore power might have been cut down dramatically, Gaughran argued.

“LIPA retains a third-party auditor for storm recovery costs where federal funds are involved, as will likely be the case for Isaias,” Falcone said in the letter.

LIPA estimates that the cost of restoration, which involved over 6,000 personnel, was over $350 million, with $260 million eligible for FEMA reimbursement. The main driver of the costs, Falcone said in his letter, was the extensive damage to the electric grid, which occurred at over 20,000 locations.

Reiterating sentiments he shared during a virtual joint hearing of the New York State Senate and Assembly, Falcone said the system PSEG LI designed and implemented did “not meet the standards of our contract. LIPA retains all of its contractual rights and remedies and will pursue the appropriate course of action after the conclusion of the various investigations.”

“LIPA retains a third-party auditor for storm recovery costs where federal funds are involved, as will likely be the case for Isaias.”

Thomas Falcone

Gaughran said he would consider Falcone’s response to his letter and would likely respond with additional questions that address additional concerns.

“There are a lot of issues I hope” LIPA addresses, the state senator said, including why the company didn’t contract with workers from National Grid, who were already on Long Island.

“You had Long Islanders ready to work,” Gaughran said. “They could have been put into operation immediately.”

Gaughran doesn’t necessarily think LIPA needs to revoke its contract with PSEG LI. Rather, he wants to “get a system so the lights can go back on at a reasonable time.”

Ultimately, the state Senator believes the way LIPA oversees PSEG LI may not provide sufficient reassurance for residential and business customers.

Ultimately, Gaughran would like the legislature to revisit the structure of the agreement between LIPA and PSEG LI.

“This structure isn’t working,” Gaughran said.

In his letter to the politicians, Falcone agreed that “Long Islanders deserve better” than the response they got from PSEG LI after Isaias. “LIPA is working to ensure they get better.”

A car crushed by a tree in Miller place after strong winds by Tropical Storm Isaias. Photo by Kyle Barr

PSEG Long Island announced Monday, Aug. 17 they will be allowing people to make claims in order to be reimbursed for spoiled food or medicines during outages caused by Tropical Storm Isaias.

PSEG is allowing people whose power was out for 72 hours or more between Aug. 4 and Aug. 12 to file claims with the utility company’s claims department. Residents can be reimbursed up to $250 while commercial entities can be reimbursed up to $5,000 if the outage was caused by Isaias.

For residential customers, food spoilage claims of $150 or less must include an itemized list. Food spoilage claims over $150 must include an itemized list and proof of loss, including a cash register tapes, store or credit card receipts, canceled checks or photographs of spoiled items.

Separately, customers will be reimbursed for losses, up to a maximum of $300, for prescription medications that spoiled due to lack of refrigeration. Customers must provide an itemized list of the medications and proof of loss with, for example, a pharmacy prescription label or pharmacy receipt identifying the medicine.

Commercial customers applying for reimbursement must supply an itemized list of spoiled food and proof of loss with invoices, inventory lists or bank statements.

Customers can apply for reimbursement at www.psegliny.com/claims. PSEG said claims cannot be processed over the phone.

Customers will have until Sept. 16 to file claims. Reimbursement is expected to take up to 60 business days from when a form is completed and submitted to PSEG Long Island.

The storm knocked out power to over 420,000 customers on Long Island and the Rockaways, according to a release from PSEG. The company claimed it had been the “the most destructive storm since Superstorm Sandy.” Almost 400,000 people lost power because of the storm, though more experienced outages in subsequent days due to further storms.

For weeks, both residents and elected officials have called on the utility company to offer reimbursement for lost food or medicines while power was out. Some customers didn’t reportedly have power restored until more than a week after the storm hit Aug. 4.

Officials from both parties have been hammering the utility company for the past two weeks over its storm response. New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) has not only called for reimbursement for PSEG customers, but for the heads of both PSEG and the Long Island Power Authority to step down.

“PSEG’s change in policy for food and medicine reimbursement is a direct result of our efforts to hold PSEG’s feet to the fire” Gaughran said after the reimbursement policy was announced. “The public is owed many more answers by PSEG leadership as to their failed storm response, but this change in policy is welcome news by the half a million families who were left in the dark for days on end.”

PSEG Long Island President Daniel Eichhorn has said the decision came because of understanding the financial straits people are in because of the coronavirus.

“We recognize that losing power in August, together with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a hardship for many of our customers,” Eichhorn said in a release. “Given the unique combination of circumstances, we believe the right thing to do is to expand our claims process to ease the burden on the customers most impacted by Tropical Storm Isaias.”

Police and PSEGLI have been trying to catch scammers pretending to be from the utility company for several years, but the con is still on the rise. Stock photo

Phone scammers have used a number of tactics to get unassuming people to hand over their money, but one con has police and a Long Island utility company especially concerned.

Some scammers have been claiming they are employees of a utility company like PSEG Long Island, and then tell a person their bill is in arrears. They threaten to turn off heat or electricity if they do not receive hundreds or even thousands of dollars, often in the form of a gift card instead of the normal check or direct deposit.

“The elderly might not say anything because they may be embarrassed.”

— Stuart Cameron

Such is what happened to Setauket resident Candy Maeder, who said she was called March 5 by a person claiming to be from the utility company. The man on the phone said Maeder was late on her bills and her service would be shut off in a matter of hours if she didn’t give them hundreds of dollars in cash. She said they would not even take a debit card over the phone.

“I fought with them back and forth,” the Setauket resident said. “At first, I really believed it was them.”

After hanging up the phone, and after talking with her boyfriend and also her electrician, she came to the conclusion it had been a scam. 

That day, she called PSEGLI and the police, but Maeder’s experience is all too common in the modern day — almost textbook with what others have experienced. Suffolk County police has records of the number of reports of phone scams received over the past several years. Records show the frequency of the PSEGLI scam has increased. In 2018, there were 56 reported cases of the scam throughout Suffolk. In 2019, police received 76 reports of scammers claiming they were PSEGLI, where people did not give them money. An additional 55 actually resulted in the scammers stealing money from victims for a total of 131. In January and February of this year, police have received reports of 30 scams so far.

Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron said scammers are always coming up with novel frauds, but the PSEGLI scam has been on the rise. Like many scams, it particularly targets the most vulnerable residents, such as the elderly, who particularly can’t afford to be out several thousand dollars as some scammers demand.

“The elderly might not say anything because they may be embarrassed,” he said. “Scammers play on that type of fear and embarrassment to exploit money from those residents who are probably in the worst position to lose money like this.” 

New Jersey-based PSEG has been tracking this scam even before taking over the electric infrastructure portion of LIPA’s business from National Grid in 2014. Robert Vessichelli, the senior security investigator for PSEGLI, said the actual number of people falling for the scam has decreased over the years. In 2019 the utility company received notice of 6,574 scams for the whole of Long Island, where 305 of those fell victim to the scammers. The con artists often ask for as little as a few hundred dollars and up to several thousand. 

“The best way to combat these scams is by educating the public,” Vessichelli said. “When I learn people haven’t heard of the scam, it kind of concerns us.”

Tracking these individuals is difficult, even when scammers are calling locally. While the police chief said they have made some arrests, the suspects often do a process to their phone numbers called “spoofing,” making their caller ID on answering machines appear as a completely separate number, even making it out to look like it was coming from PSEGLI or even police.

The Long Island utility company has been participating in a national campaign to promote awareness of phone scams. Utilities United Against Scams, a U.S. and Canadian consortium of utility companies, ran the campaign during National Consumer Protection Week March 1-7 to promote scam awareness. Vessichelli said the consortium uses its influence to block the numbers of callers they confirm are from scammers, but of course the perpetrators will simply move on to use a different phone number. Sometimes, these calls come from people outside the U.S. 

The scam comes in multiple forms. While often it’s a person on the phone proclaiming a bill is in arrears, con artists also conduct phishing schemes by telling people they are owed money from overpayment and ask for bank account information. They may also call saying they need a deposit for a new meter, though PSEGLI does not charge a deposit for such a thing.

“At first, I really believed it was them.”

— Candy Maeder

One of the more frightening tactics is when charlatans show up in person at people’s houses claiming they are utility employees. When such people come to the door, Vessichelli said its best to call PSEGLI to confirm those are legitimate employees. The security expert suggested if they show ID, ask to take a picture for you to send to the utility to confirm identities.

Warning signs are often readily apparent. If a resident receives a cold call without any prior email or snail mail notifications, that’s usually a bad sign. Another sure sign is if they ask for any nontraditional form of payment, such as asking you to buy gift cards which the person then asks for those to be scratched off, or a payment of cash by drop off or in person. 

These are points often seen across all sorts of scams, so police’s general advice is to not relay any kind of personal information, such as your name or the name of family members or where you live. Scammers often take private information off social media such as Facebook, so if one starts hearing familiar names, don’t take it as a sign they are who they say they are. 

PSEGLI workers are required to wear photo IDs, so in meeting one of these scammers in person, a surefire sign is if they cannot produce such an identification. 

Cameron said if one suspects a caller might be a scam, then one should hang up, get the number where called from and phone PSEGLI at 800-490-0025 or the police at 631-852-2677. For more information, visit www.psegliny.com/scam and www.utilitiesunited.org.

Girl Scout Hailey Van Cott works on the prey pen at Sweetbriar Nature Center. Photo from Hailey Van Cott

When choosing a project for her Gold Award, one Stony Brook Girl Scout drew on her love for animals.

Hailey Van Cott, a junior at Ward Melville High School and a Girl Scout since kindergarten, recently began repairing the prey pen within the flight aviary at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown as part of her Gold Award project. A visitor to the center for years, she knew the location was the right choice.

“I really love what Sweetbriar stands for and I knew I wanted to help them out for my Gold Award,” she said.

To help with her project, PSEG Long Island awarded the Girl Scout $200. She said she plans to use the money to put down Astroturf around the sides of the prey enclosure, which helps the birds grip as it’s a softer texture than a piece of wood and in turn prevents foot problems.

PSEG representatives said the project is in line with their goal to relocate osprey and other raptor nests from electrical facilities to safe nesting locations.

“I really love what Sweetbriar stands for and I knew I wanted to help them out for my Gold Award.”

– Hailey Van Cott

“We want to help ensure these wonderful birds continue to return to the area year after year while, at the same time, protecting the reliability of the energy grid,” said John O’Connell, PSEG Long Island’s vice president of transmission and distribution. “Hailey’s project aligns with our commitment to protecting the local raptor population.”

Her mother, Deb, said she wasn’t surprised when her daughter chose to help out at Sweetbriar.

“She’s always liked to help animals,” the mother said. “She’s definitely a big animal person. She’s also always liked to do community service.”

Her mother said with Girl Scout Troop 2867, her daughter has helped Smithtown Animal Shelter by making dog toys and conducting supply drives for them. Outside of Girl Scouts, Van Cott has made memory wire bracelets and sold them at her father’s office and donated the money to Save-A-Pet Animal Shelter in Port Jeff Station.

Isabel Fernandes, a wildlife care coordinator at Sweetbriar, said Van Cott has done an amazing job repairing the prey bin, and Sweetbriar is always appreciative for the help they get from Scouts.

“We are a small staff so it’s important that we have people who can help us and get projects and other things done here,” Fernandes said.

The coordinator explained that the pen is enclosed in the 80-foot flight conditioning enclosure aviary, which is used for wildlife rehabilitation to help injured birds fly again and exercise their muscles before they can be released. The center prey pen ensures the birds maintain their hunting skills.

Fernandes said there is currently a great horned owl in the aviary that was removed when Van Cott was working on the enclosure, as it’s important to keep human contact as limited as possible — something she has now learned through experience.

“The more interaction with humans they have, the more adjusted they will become,” the Girl Scout said. “They need to learn how to capture the prey themselves and how to survive on their own.”

As part of her Gold Award project, in addition to working with her family on the enclosure, she will talk to younger Girl Scouts about the project, Van Cott said, as well as educate them about the importance of animal rehabilitation and how birds of prey control the rodent population.

“Every animal has its part in the ecosystem,” she said. “I’ve always loved big birds. I’ve always loved seeing them out in the wild just looking up and seeing a hawk every now and then.”

Last week, Long Island was slammed and hit by an unexpected fall nor’easter which brought in heavy rains and gusting winds that exceeded 50 mph. 

The powerful winds from the storm caused downed power wires and felled large trees and branches. According to the National Weather Service, parts of Long Island dealt with moderate coastal flooding and about 2-3 inches of rain.   

More than 73,000 PSEG Long Island customers lost power during the storm. Within 48 hours, PSEG restored service to nearly 100 percent of customers affected by the storm on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 16-17, according to PSEG media relations. The rest were restored by that Friday. 

By the end of the nor’easter, crews had removed a total of 1,206 trees and large branches downed by the storm.

In Port Jefferson Harbor a sailing sloop named Grand Prix slipped her moorings and drifted aground in front of Harborfront Park, according to local photographer Gerard Romano who took a photo featured on the cover of this week’s paper. Another sailing vessel called the Summer Place washed ashore in Mount Sinai Harbor.

The Town of Brookhaven Highway Department responded to nearly 250 calls during the 24-hour storm. 

“We worked directly with PSEG as they dispatched their crews to areas where trees had fallen on wires so we could safely remove the debris after the power lines were de-energized,” town Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro (R) said in a statement. “Crews worked throughout the night to clear the roadways swiftly and efficiently.”

 

One of Centerport's two mated American Bald eagles. Photo by Bruce Adams

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Two of Centerport’s biggest celebrities are safer thanks to quick action taken to protect these majestic winged beauties, much to the delight of their paparazzi.

PSEG Long Island announced in honor of the nation’s birthday, the 4th of July, it had answered the calls of Centerport residents asking the company to help protect a nesting pair of American bald eagles and their two eaglets from dangers posed by two nearby electrical poles. During the last week of June, PSEG crews wrapped bright orange insulation around the electrical wires and the transformers on top of two poles on Centershore Road near the intersection of Route 25A, according to Dan Wickstrom, a manager for PSEG.

PSEG Long Island has installed orange insulation on two poles closest to the eagles’ Centerport nest. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“We were so concerned when we found the eaglets were landing on the wires,” Bruce Adams, of Northport, said. “As you all know, when linesmen are up on wires they are exposed to tremendous danger and we did not want that danger to impact the birds.”

Adams is one of the thousands of local residents and bird watchers who have flocked to Centerport hoping to catch a glimpse of The Commodore and Mrs. Vanderbilt, as the mated pair of eagles is affectionately nicknamed. The names were chosen by a growing number of birdwatchers on the Facebook group “Bald Eagles of Centerport, NY,” which has more than 8,000 followers, some who give updates on the eaglets’ progress and photographers share their best images and videos.

“This is so phenomenal,” Adams said. “The presence of these birds has made birders out of those us who were not birders a year ago.”

The avid photographer said he first noticed the eagles’ arrival in November 2017 as they began constructing a nest in close proximity to Chalet Inn & Suites in Centerport. Shortly thereafter, two eggs appeared in the nest and a pair of fledglings hatched in April.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer, Bruce Adams, Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Dan Wickstrom, of PSEG Long Island, show off eagle pins given to them by Adams to mark the occasion. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

As the young birds began to fly, Adams said he and other birdwatchers were alarmed to see the eaglets landing and perching on two power poles with transformers close to the nest. He said he reached out to Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) for help.

“Centerport is already a picturesque place and the presence of these birds only adds to its beauty,” Spencer said. “I was happy to play a role in the community effort to protect the eaglets that thousands of residents have come to treasure.”

Spencer said he contacted PSEG and received an affirmative response within hours that they were willing to take action to protect the birds.

“A part of our mission is to be engaged in the community and be good stewards of the environment,” Wickstrom said. “We were happy to get involved and take some corrective action to make things safer.”

Wickstrom said the animal protective caps should stay in place and last through the summer as the eaglets continue to grow and learn to fly. The utility company is looking to install similar protective features on six additional poles in the Centerport area in the coming weeks, according to Wickstrom.