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State Sen. Jim Gaughran said he received more calls than any other time in his career from people who could not get to PSEG. Photo from Gaughran's office

Following the power outage caused by Tropical Storm Isaias in early August, State Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport) conducted a survey of residents.

With 3,243 people responding, the survey indicated that people lost an average of $434.66. That compares with the maximum of $250 that PSEG Long Island said it would reimburse residents if they produced an itemized list and proof of loss.

Click here to see the full survey results

“I don’t keep my receipts,” Gaughran said in an interview after he publicly released the survey. “I throw mine out. I would imagine a lot of Long Islanders are keeping receipts” from their grocery purchases after their experience with the storm, the outage and the food losses, particularly amid the economic decline caused by the pandemic.

More than half the survey respondents, or over 58%, said they were not able to contact PSEG easily about their outage. At the time of the storm, PSEG recognized that its new communication system was ineffective.

Additionally, over two thirds, or 67 percent, of the residents in the survey said PSEG did not restore power before the estimated time.

In the two years he’s been in the senate, Gaughran said he’s never had this many responses to questions from residents about anything.

The Democratic senator highlighted how over 56% of residents were unaware of PSEG’s Critical Care Program, although those residents don’t believe anyone in their households would qualify. An additional 21% of the survey respondents didn’t know about the program and believed someone in their house might qualify.

The fact that more than half of the people who responded didn’t know about the program is “significant,” Gaughran said.

“Unacceptable” Storm Response

In response to a letter Gaughran sent to LIPA, CEO Thomas Falcone said he would “make sure that your survey results are appropriately reflected in the work streams for LIPA’s upcoming 90-day and 180-day investigative reports into PSEG Long Island’s storm response.”

Falcone called PSEG LI’s response to the storm “unacceptable” and said the LIPA Board has “insisted that the failures not be repeated.”

LIPA’s 30-day report said the computer system caused incorrect restoration estimates.

In its report about the storm response, LIPA concluded that “problematic management control issues,” combined with outside vendors who had “poorly defined service quality assurances” delivered an unsatisfactory customer experience.

A tree fell on a mail truck on Old Post Road in Setauket during Tropical Storm Isaias. Photo by John Broven

LIPA’s 2020 Internal Audit plan had previously scheduled a re-audit of the process to maintain customer lists to begin the fourth quarter of 2020. After reports of outdated customer lists during Isaias, LIPA accelerated that process, which started in September. The power authority will address that further in its 90 and 180 day Task Force reports.

The senator, who presented the results of his survey, also reiterated concerns he has about LIPA’s oversight of PSEG LI.

Gaughran said the Public Service Commission, which has considerably more direct oversight with other utilities around the state, doesn’t have the same authority with PSEG LI.

The PSC provides “recommendations” to LIPA and can “force them to pay money to their customers for lost food, lost business. [It] can do this with every utility except PSEG LI because the relationship is different.”

In responding to this concern, LIPA, in a statement, said the LIPA Reform Act provides the Department of Public Service with oversight responsibilities of LIPA and PSEG.

“LIPA’s storm oversight activities are in addition to DPS’s statutory role and DPS’s statutory role is the same for PSEG Long Island as it is for the state’s other utilities,” LIPA said in a statement.

The DPS provides independent recommendations to the LIPA Board of Trustees. The board has accepted every recommendation from the DPS, according to the statement.

LIPA said the only difference between the oversight of PSEG LI and other utilities in New York is that the DPS recommendations are to LIPA’s nine-member board, instead of the Public Service Commission.

The 30-day report includes 37 specific recommendations for PSEG Long Island to put in place by Oct. 15, LIPA said.

As for losses from the storm, LIPA said it secured direct reimbursement for customers through the customer spoilage reimbursement program. That could be as high as $500 per residential customer for food and medicine. PSEG LI is forgoing up to $10 million in compensation to fund this program.

LIPA “may look to pursue additional actions after [its] review and the Department of Public Service’s Investigation” is complete, LIPA said in a statement.

In his letter to Gaughran, Falcone said the 90-day and 180-day reports would have additional “actionable recommendations,” which the LIPA board would ask for independent verification and validation to make sure these recommendations have been implemented.

 

A large tree in front of Emma S. Clark Memorial Library was no match for Hurricane Isaias. Photo by Pam Botway

Politicians with long memories and short fuses demanded answers from PSEG and LIPA for the communications problems and the slow restoration of power after Tropical Storm Isaias, even as they lamented how this wasn’t supposed to happen again after the long recovery from Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D) said LIPA and PSEG were inconsiderate with their spoiled food policy. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a full-day hearing of the combined New York State Assembly and Senate, local politicians including Assemblymen Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) and Senators James Gaughran (D) and Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Center) questioned everyone from the chairman of the Public Service Commission, John Rhodes, to the President of PSEG Long Island, Daniel Eichhorn, and the CEO of LIPA, Thomas Falcone.

“We were told after Superstorm Sandy that things would change, but they did not,” Kaminsky said. “Why do we pay some of the highest electric and internet bills in the country when we couldn’t reach a provider, when the information we got was inaccurate? Why is it so hard to receive a reimbursement? Who is funding those reimbursements?”

Indeed, Rhodes, of the Public Service Commission, said he wanted answers from numerous utilities throughout the state and that the commission was not going to leave “any tool on the table.”

That proved small consolation for politicians and their constituents, some of whom were without power for over a week and many of whom had to throw out the entire contents of their powerless refrigerators and freezers. That is an especially problematic proposition in the aftermath of the pandemic, when budgets are tight and the recession caused by the lockdown has cut jobs in numerous industries.

Englebright questioned why PSEG is reimbursing customers for food spoilage only if their power was out for at least 72 hours. The reimbursed amount totaled $150 if the customers didn’t have receipts and could be as high as $250 if they had receipts, photographs, a canceled check or a credit card bill.

Englebright suggested the timeframe should allow for food spoiled after about 48 hours and wondered why the utilities had not settled on a longer time frame. The Setauket assemblyman wondered whether PSEG believed food “spoils more slowly on Long Island than any other place.”

Eichhorn said the 72 hour threshold defined numerous factors in a storm and “aligns with some of our processes.” The three day time frame “triggers certain things.”

Falcone added that the 72 hours defined a major storm.

“That’s not a health definition,” Englebright countered, but, rather was a “storm definition. That doesn’t necessarily reflect what somebody’s suffering from if their refrigerator is out for perhaps even half of that length of time.”

PSEG’s Eichhorn acknowledged that the company’s response to the storm was “not in line with our expectations.” He said the company is conducting its own reports to figure out what went wrong and to make changes and improvements.

“I’m not here to make excuses,” Eichhorn said. “We own the experience our customers had and we are committed to fixing it.”

Kaminsky asked whether PSEG had tested its system prior to the storm. Eichhorn responded that the company did a simulation in June and that PSEG passed that test.

That passing grade, despite the performance a few months later, will be a focus of PSEG’s own review, as well as a review conducted by LIPA.

“The most relevant stress test was the storm and [the PSEG system] was obviously inadequate,” Falcone said. The systems were “not robust enough” to allow customers to report power failures to PSEG.

On behalf of their constituents, politicians also lamented the shifting timeline for restoring power. In several cases, representatives at the virtual meeting recounted how residents spoke with people in utility trucks or representatives from PSEG who told them their power was on when their constituents were still struggling through the ongoing outage.

In an interview, Gaughran expressed his frustration with the utility arrangement on Long Island, where LIPA oversees PSEG, while the Public Service Commission has no direct authority or recourse.

“The Public Service Commission cannot fine them or sanction them,” Gaughran said. “They’re totally out of the loop.”

Sen. James Gaughran and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory officials at an Aug. 18 press conference. He has called for additional oversight of both LIPA and PSEG Photo from Sen. Gaughran’s office

Reflecting the concerns of his fellow senators and assemblymen and assemblywomen, Gaughran wondered what the utilities would do to protect Long Islanders in the event that another storm, with potentially stronger winds and heavier rain, impacted the region.

Gaughran said he would like to ensure that PSEG and LIPA don’t tap into a storm reserve fund, which is a collection of money set aside with rate payers money.

“The language in that fund is clear: they can’t access that for any part of the cost” from mismanagement or inadequate storm response, Gaughran said. “If you have an out-of-town crew sitting at the side of the road for hours waiting for instructions … those extra costs are costs of incompetence.”

Gaughran introduced a bill that would give the Public Service Commission the authority to investigate and sanction and fine the company and force them to take corrective action.

To prevent this kind of communication failure from happening again, Eichhorn said the company was conducting reviews of its computer system, which includes its outage management system and the telephone and digital experiences.

“We have made interim changes during and since the storm,” Eichhorn said. “We are continuing to do an after-action review to identify additional short and long term changes to ensure we’re ready for the next storm.”

Falcone added that LIPA would “go back and see why the system failed. We are hiring independent people to redo the stress test.”

Assemblyman Smith asked whether PSEG knew that National Grid employees weren’t a part of the storm response crews, even though people with experience were on Long Island.

“National Grid [employees] were not used during the storm,” Eichhorn said. “That will be included in the review.”

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.”

A tree fell on a mail truck on Old Post Road in Setauket during Tropical Storm Isaias. Photo by John Broven

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Timing is everything. Just ask the people who bought large blocks of tickets to sporting events and then tried to resell them in the year with empty stadiums or, perhaps, PSEG last Tuesday.

The New Jersey-based utility was supposed to be the savior of Long Island power, bringing corporate muscle, know how and technology to a region that had suffered in 1985 from outages that lasted weeks from Hurricane Gloria and dislocations and gas shortages during Superstorm Sandy.

But then, Tropical Storm Isaias had other ideas. The storm came through Long Island last Tuesday and, within hours, the communications system went down at PSEG, making it difficult for residents to know whether their efforts to report outages, downed trees, and dangling power lines were effective.

The storm caused about 420,000 people to lose power. That is particularly problematic at a time when some residents are still working from home. It also disrupts the angst-ridden end-of-summer period as parents and students prepare for a school year filled with questions about an uncertain future.

Hardened by all the difficulties of an impossible year, some residents chalked it up to the mess that is 2020, hoping that the change in the calendar will allow everyone to return to a normal in which we can hug friends, shake hands, visit extended family and lean in at a crowded restaurant to hear what someone said. If the vaccine Russia rushed to the market for the virus proves effective without serious side effects, maybe that hope will become a reality.

Just before Isaias hit, however, PSEG must have frustrated the entity in control of the disruptions during this haywire year. You see, the company sent out a postcard.

Now, postcards are nice, particularly when you get one from someone vacationing in an exotic location. You might appreciate the magnificent scenery, even if the card makes you wonder why your friend didn’t take you along instead of spending 42 cents to make you jealous of her wonderful life.

But, no, this wasn’t that kind of postcard. This was the kind of message that helps build a brand, that makes you feel as if you’ve landed somewhere between the familiar rhythm of a safe Brady Bunch household and the high-tech, happy future of the Jetsons.

The card, which arrived hours before Isaias in mail trucks that would have had trouble delivering them the next day, had a picture of a man in sunglasses on a power truck, wearing a yellow hard hat with blue skies and intact branches behind him.

The message offered GOOD NEWS! Of course they used all caps and an exclamation point. Then, the card continued, UPGRADES COMPLETED! How nice and promising, right? The postcard went on to suggest, “PSEG Long Island recently finished work to ensure that you and your neighbors will continue to receive safe and reliable electric service for years to come.” The words safe, reliable and years to come were in orange, as if they were highlighting the parts you needed to read closely, emphasizing their comforting professionalism and reassuring skill set.

The last paragraph read, “After careful inspection, we replaced and upgraded equipment that strengthens the infrastructure to better withstand storms and extreme temperatures.” The highlighted words were replaced, upgraded, and strengthens the infrastructure.

The tag line, after thanking customers for their patience, was, “Just one more way PSEG Long Island is working for you.”

Hmm, now, that postcard might have slipped, unnoticed, into the trash bin. But, that’s not what happened here. The postcard and storm arrived the same day and, despite the reassurance that the company had the infrastructure to better withstand storms, it seems that the storm, and maybe 2020, had other plans.

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

PSEG Long Island plans to restore power to the remaining 400 Long Island customers by midnight who haven’t had electricity since last Tuesday, when Tropical Storm Isaias hit.

“We remain committed to getting all customers related to last Tuesday’s storm restored by midnight tonight,” PSEG President and Chief Operating Office Daniel Eichhorn said on a media call Wednesday.

PSEG has 6,500 line workers and tree trimmers who are working to restore power from a host of states and continues to accept any other workers who are available.

This morning, PSEG moved workers from New Jersey, where it is headquartered.

Eichhorn assured residents that their bills would reflect the energy they used, which means that they won’t have to pay for electricity during the time their power was out.

The total number of outages in Long Island, including those who have been without power since the storm hit, stands at 10,500, which is a number that might increase this evening amid the predicted thunderstorms. Of those who are out, approximately 7,500 have lost power related to the storm, although Eichhorn said they are unlikely to have been without power for over a week.

Amid concerns about the pace of restoring power, the number of homes and businesses who were out and a communications problem on the day of the storm that made it difficult for residents to connect with their power company, Eichhorn said PSEG plans to use this experience to improve on the company’s storm-related processes.

Once the company restores power, PSEG will do a self assessment, which will include a “deep dive” into “lessons learned,” at which point the company will make immediate and long term changes to makes sure they are ready for the next storm.

Indeed, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined a growing chorus of politicians who expressed their concerns about the company’s readiness for the remainder of the hurricane season, which extends through the end of November.

“As we move towards the fall, we could be struck with a much more significant storm than this tropical storm,” Bellone said on a separate media call. “If that is the case, these issues need to be fixed. They need to be resolved before then.”

Eichhorn said PSEG hasn’t given much thought at this point to making the company’s assessment about its performance during the storm public.

Meanwhile, New York State Senator James Gaughran (D-Northport) called for the resignation of Eichhorn and Long Island Power Authority President Thomas Falcone.

Asked about the call for his resignation, Eichhorn said he was “aware of that” and the response of the company to the storm will be “part of our lessons learned and review. I’m pretty proud of the restoration efforts from our team. People have worked extremely hard and are very dedicated.”

Eichhorn added that PSEG would look into the IT issues that caused the frustration from customers and would “get better” and “make sure, for the next storm” they are “fully prepared.”

Eichhorn said he recognized the frustration people have been feeling, especially during a pandemic. Amid a discussion of residents in Cold Spring Harbor who blocked in a utility crew, preventing them from leaving until they restored electricity, Eichhorn said he understood that it’s a tough time to lose power, especially when so many people are working from home.

Still, he urged residents not to limit the ability of crews to react to the order of jobs. When crews are blocked in, they might help one or two homes or families at the expense of 100 or 200, he said.

PSEG wasn’t prepared today to discuss the possibility of reimbursing families for lost food during the outages, even as several politicians, including Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) requested that the company provide $500 to each household that lost power for more than two days.

“Our plan is to really focus on making sure we get customers’ [power] back today,” Eichhorn said. “Tomorrow, we’ll start looking at those other decisions.”

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

While crews from several states continued to restore power this week after the outage caused by Tropical Storm Isaias, frustrated residents and politicians expressed their dismay at PSEG for the pace at which they were restoring power and for the communications problems from a storm that passed more than a week earlier.

Indeed, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) characterized PSEG’s response to the storm as “underwhelming” and “disappointing.” He expressed further frustration at the moving target PSEG had for restoring power.

Romaine called on PSEG to give families and businesses that lost power for more than 48 hours $500 to cover the cost of lost food. He also said he plans to send Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) a letter calling for the appointment of an independent arbitrator who could hear the claims of businesses in a “swift” and proper manner.

President and Chief Operating Officer of PSEG Long Island Dan Eichhorn said the company is still discussing any possible reimbursement to customers and hasn’t made a final assessment.

Meanwhile, State Attorney General Letitia James (D) launched an investigation of PSEG in connection with their response to a storm that knocked out power to 420,000 customers.

As of mid-day Tuesday, a week after the storm hit, 3,800 homes were without power directly from the storm. At the same time, PSEG Long Island reported 25,142 total customers without power, which includes new outages after the storm.

Eichhorn acknowledged the call for accountability from local and state leaders.

“We know there’s been a couple of agencies that want to come in and do an investigation and audits,” Eichhorn said in a press conference Sunday night. “The way I would characterize this storm [is that we] did a very good job of preparing for it. Our communications were not up to our expectations. We know that created a lot of angst.”

PSEG, which has operated under the direction of LIPA since 2014, planned to conduct its own internal analysis.

“We do recognize that our communications channels did not meet our customers’ expectations. We’re going to look at that immediately, make fixes” and will improve those processes, Eichhorn said.

PSEG has maintained during the aftermath of Isaias that the communications problems did not impede the company’s ability to restore power and that it brought in numerous additional crews and continued to request additional staff even on Tuesday.

Over the weekend and into the beginning of the week, PSEG Long Island brought in close to 2,000 more lineworkers, tree trimmers and other personnel, bringing the total to over 6,000,

That compares with the Long Island crews and contractors the company operates on a daily basis of about 600 people, bringing the response teams to about 10 times the usual operating staff levels.

Eichhorn said the crews were practicing safe social distancing protocols and were also polled prior to the start of work about how they were feeling. The PSEG executive recognized the frustration residents have felt during the outage.

“We know customers have waited a long time,” Eichhorn said.

Several politicians have threatened consequences for PSEG’s storm response, including Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) who floated the idea of revoking the franchise. Eichhorn suggested the company’s legal team would consider Cuomo’s comments.

Romaine said PSEG sent in four crews to Brookhaven, the largest town by area in the state, the first day and 10 the second. Given the number of downed trees, Romaine said he believes that should have been closer to 30.

Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) said the area was fortunate this wasn’t a bigger storm because a larger hurricane, with more rain and more intense winds, could have caused more of the population to lose power for a longer period of time.

Residents were upset that they couldn’t talk to somebody at PSEG to get answers.

Starting in 2015, PSEG received $729 million secured by Cuomo over a three-year period to strengthen the resiliency of the electric grid.

Eichhorn said that investment protected many of the customers who would otherwise have lost their power during this storm.

Local leaders, however, didn’t feel so fortunate.

“This is something that was not supposed to happen again,” Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Seatuket) said.

Englebright further said his office has heard of numerous problematic situations in restoring power, including in the S section of Stony Brook, where one side of a street had power and the other didn’t. When residents saw a repair truck and expressed their appreciation and excitement about power returning, the crew told them they were “here for the other side of the street” and drove off, Englebright said.

Englebright recognized the context for solutions to the ongoing problem of restoring power after major storms, including hurricanes that could come during this active season later this year.

He urged a short term plan, in which the area could return to the way things stood the week before last, and a long term plan, which could include more than cutting overhanging branches before storms wreak havoc.

Englebright and Romaine urged the area to consider burying some vulnerable lines. Romaine suggested burying one to two percent of the lines for the next several decades, increasing the resilience of the grid.

This storm serves as a wake-up call for the area, said Englebright, who lost power for four days and whose mother in Stony Brook lost power for five days.

To prepare for the storms that may come later this year, Long Island should have fuel depots with generators that are fitted for gas stations to prevent a shortage of gas, which occurred in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Englebright said. He also urged greater preparation for people who are home bound and who need special medicine.

A tree falls on a mail carrier truck on Old Post Road in Setauket. Photo by Kyle Barr

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.

The storm uprooted a tree in St. James. Photo by Rita J. Egan

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.

A tree lies across Old Post Road East in Mount Sinai after the storm. Photo by Kyle Barr

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.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) urged residents to report fallen trees, damage from town roadside trees, flooding or other storm damage to call 631-451- TOWN or go to BrookhavenNy.gov/StormDamage.

Current models show Tropical Storm Isaias will hit Long Island with the strongest winds of the storm. Photo from National Hurricane Center

As Tropical Storm Isaias climbs from the southeast coast towards Long Island, county officials are deploying resources in the event of any damage from the wind and rain and encouraging residents to track the storm and, if necessary, avoid travel tomorrow.

The worst of the storm, which could have winds of 39 miles per hour to 55 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 65 miles per hour, may hit the island in the afternoon through the evening. Most of the county could get between two inches and three inches of rain, with one to two inches on the east end.

“When you consider the amount of rain we’re talking about, if we get hit with those numbers, that is a serious event,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a press conference today.

Bellone urged residents to secure loose objects or bring them inside on Monday to prevent any damage.

Residents who lose power can text OUT to PSE&G at 773454. Residents can also report an outage online, assuming they have the ability to connect online, through PSEGLINY.com, or they can call (800) 490-0075.

The storm surge could bring as much as 10 to 15 feet of breaking surf on Tuesday afternoon. The vulnerable shoreline could also have two to three feet of flooding with the high tide on Tuesday between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Suffolk County is prepared to handle evacuations, although Bellone said such actions aren’t expected.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) suggested in an email that customers remain in their homes while PSE&G crews are working nearby. If residents need to speak with representatives of the utility, PSE&G urged residents to practice social distancing and remain at least six feet away.

Hahn also suggested that residents keep their cell phones and tablets charged so they have a full battery. Lowering screen brightness and shutting down applications preserves battery life.

Bellone urged people to stay away from flooded streets. Cars that get trapped or that stall in flooded waters drain resources from the county, requiring rescue for the occupants of the vehicle.

The Emergency Operations Center, which has been active for months in the midst of the pandemic, is up and running and will have increased hours. The staffing at the center includes members of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, the Suffolk County Police Department, the Sheriff’s office, the Department of Public Works, the Red Cross, Long Island Railroad, the State Police and PSE&G.

The SCPD has deployed humvees to each of their precincts to prepare them for the storm. The Department of Public Works has also pre-deployed a number of resources, such as 62 chain saws, 13 full saw, 22 10-wheeled dump tracks, 35 debris clearance crews, among other machines and crews.

“All of that diverse equipment is pre-deployed and prepared to go in case we need to clear roads, address flooding or help evacuate individuals,” Bellone said.

Bellone urged residents to sign up for the Suffolk County code red emergency notification system, which provides customized messages to residents. People can sign up through the we site suffolkcountyny.gov/department/fres. The code red sign up is on the right side in blue.

Bellone urged residents to monitor the media for updates and to track the progress of the storm. Even if this storm doesn’t bring considerable damage, it may provide a dry run for what could be an active hurricane season, which will occur in the midst of the county’s ongoing efforts to recover from the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

This fall, in particular, could present numerous contemporaneous challenges, with the COVID threat, possible flu outbreaks, and the start of an uncertain school year.

Long Beach, Smithtown: Visitors to Smithtown’s Long Beach, a narrow land spit, will find an artificial berm to keep stormwater out during the winter. Many of the private roads slightly east of the town beach experience flooding when it’s high tide. Larry Swanson, interim dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, said the cause of the problem is the disruption of sediment due to a combination of rising sea levels and homeowners building sea walls to protect their property. “Long Beach is a spit that needs sediment supplied from the erosion of the bluffs of Nissequogue,” he said. “There are places where the supply is somewhat diminished to maintain sufficient elevation, perhaps where currents are stronger than elsewhere water can overflow.” Photo by Rita J. Egan

With Tropical Storm Fay heading towards Long Island, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said Long Island was expecting rainfall through 3 a.m.

Bellone urged residents to “stay alert” and “secure any loose objects to prevent damage.” He also suggested that people avoid travel and not to attempt to drive over a flooded road.

Residents who want to report outages can text OUT to 773454 (or PSEGLI). Those who can get online can report the outage to PSEGLINY.com or call (800) 490-0075.

The viral numbers continued to remain within the range of their recent low-infection pattern.

Among 6,245 residents who received tests, 62 of them tested positive, for a rate of 1 percent. That brings the total for the county who have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic to 41,711.

The county had 20,301 residents who tested positive for the antibody but who hadn’t had a prior test for the virus.

Hospitalizations rose by two to 54, while the number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds declined by 1 to 10.

Hospital bed occupancy was at 70 percent overall and at 60 percent for ICU beds.

One person died in the last day, increasing the total of losses for families, neighbors and communities to 1,992.

A dozen people were discharged from the hospital in the last day.

Next week, residents can pre-register for antibody tests at three locations. They need to call (833) 433-7369.

Bellone urged the legislature to allow voters to consider two ballot measures that would allow the county to use up to $50 million of funds to plug the budgetary shortfall created by the economic collapse triggered by the lockdown.

“To address this fiscal crisis, we should do everything we possibly can to avoid two things: laying off essential workers and adding significant new tax burdens on our homeowners during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” Bellone said on a conference call with reporters.

While some environmental groups have opposed the moves, Bellone said neither measure would “take a dime away from existing environmental programs” and suggested that they were “common sense measures” designed to avoid increasing taxes or laying off essential employees.

The county has to create a budget, which Bellone hopes includes financial help at the federal level, to close a gap that could be as high as $839 million by September.

A a house on James Street in Shoreham saw trees fall on power lines and a vehicle. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr and David Luces

Gusts upwards of 60 mph struck Long Island Halloween night, bringing down trees and power lines across the North Shore and beyond.

A a house on James Street in Shoreham saw trees fall on power lines and a vehicle. Photo by Kyle Barr

The National Weather service reported areas like Stony Brook saw wind speeds as high as 74 miles per hour from at around 3 a.m. Nov. 1. Stony Brook records its weather data from the top of its Health Science Center at a height of 119 meters off the ground..

PSEG Long Island reported the day after the storm affected over 58,000 homes and businesses. Employees reported clearing 384 trees from wires.

As of 11 a.m. the following morning, the utility company reported 77 percent of customers’ power had been restored, with approximately 12,000 of 1.1 million customers from Long Island to the Rockaways were without service. Somewhat strong winds continued throughout the morning after the storm. 

The wind and rain spared trick-or-treaters the evening of Oct. 31, but many stayed home to avoid the worst of the storm. 

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and representatives of PSEG held a press conference Nov. 1 in front of the St. James General Store. 

John O’Connell, Vice President of PSEG Long Island, provided the latest update on its power restoration work. 

He said this morning PSEG had restored power to 47,000 customers out of a remaining 57,000. The majority of the remaining 10,000 affected customers will have their power by the end of the day, according to O’Connell. Work will continue into tomorrow for smaller jobs as well.