Tags Posts tagged with "Storms"

Storms

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.”

Kevin Reed. Photo from SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

At the beginning of this month, the North Atlantic started its annual hurricane season that will extend through the end of November.

Each year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers a forecast in May for the coming season. This year, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center anticipates a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season. The Center anticipates 13 to 19 storms, although that number doesn’t indicate how many storms will make landfall.

These predictions have become the crystal ball through which forecasters and city planners prepare for a season that involves tracking disturbances that typically begin off the West coast of Africa and pick up energy and size as they travel west across the Atlantic towards Central America. While some storms travel back out to sea, others threaten landfall by moving up the Gulf Coast or along Atlantic Seaboard of the United States.

Kevin Reed, an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, and Alyssa Stansfield, a graduate student in his lab, recently predicted the likely amount of rainfall from tropical cyclones.

Alyssa Stansfield at the 33rd Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology in 2018. Photo by Arianna Varuolo-Clarke

 

Using climate change projection simulations, Reed and Stansfield came up with a good-news, bad-news scenario for the years 2070 through 2100. The good news in research they published in Geophysical Research Letters is they anticipate fewer hurricanes.

The bad news? The storms will likely have higher amounts of rain, with increased rain per hour.

“If you focus on storms that make landfall over the Eastern United States, they are more impactful from a rainfall standpoint,” Reed said. “The amount of rainfall per hour and the rainfall impact per year is expected to increase significantly in the future.”

In total, the amount of rainfall will be less because of the lower number of storms, although the intensity and overall precipitation will be sufficient to cause damaging rains and flooding.

Warmer oceans and the air above them will drive the increased rainfall, as these storms pass over higher sea surface temperatures where they can gain energy. Warmer, moist air gives the hurricanes more moisture to work with and therefore more potential rainfall.

“As the air gets warmer, it can hold more water in it,” Stansfield said. “There’s more potential rain in the air for the hurricanes before they make landfall.”

Stansfield said the predictions are consistent with what climatologists would expect, reflecting how the models line up with the theory behind them. She explored how climate change affects the size of storms in this paper, but she wants to do more research looking at hurricane size in the future.

“If hurricanes are larger, they will drop rainfall over a larger area,” which could increase the range of area over which policy makers might need to prepare for potential damage from flooding and high winds, Stansfield said.

While her models suggest that storms will be larger, she cautioned that the field hasn’t reached a consensus about the size of future storms. As for areas where there is greater consensus, such as the increased rainfall their models predict for storms at the end of the century, Stansfield suggested that the confidence in the community about their forecasts, which use different climate models, is becoming “more apparent as more modeling groups reach the same conclusion.”

Alyssa Stansfield at Sequoia National Park in 2018. Photo by Jess Stansfield

In explaining the expectations for higher rainfall in future storms, Reed said that even storms that had the same intensity as current hurricanes would have an increase in precipitation because of the availability of more moisture at the surface.

While storms in recent years, such as Hurricanes Harvey, Florence and Dorian dumped considerable rain in their path because they moved more slowly, effectively dumping rain over a longer period of time in any one area, it’s “unclear” whether future storms would move more slowly or stall over land.

Several factors might contribute to a decrease in the number of storms. For starters, an increase in wind sheer could disrupt the formation of some storms. Vertical wind sheer is caused when wind speed and direction changes with increasing altitude. Pre-hurricane conditions may also change due to internal variability and the randomness of the atmosphere, according to Reed.

Reed said the team chose to use climate models to make predictions for the end of the century because it is common in climate science for comparison to the recent historical record. They also used a 30 year period to limit some of the uncertainty due to internal variability of weather systems.

Stansfield, who is in her third year of graduate school and anticipates spending another two years at Stony Brook University before defending her graduate thesis, said she became interested in studying hurricanes in part because of the effects of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Alyssa Stansfield at Yosemite in 2019. Photo by Kathy Stansfield

When she was younger, she and her father Greg used to go to the beach when a hurricane passed hundreds of miles off the coast, where she would see the impact of the storm in larger waves. At some point, she would like to fly in a hurricane hunter plane, traveling directly into a storm to track its speed and direction.

Stansfield said one of the more common misconceptions about hurricanes is that the category somehow determines their destructive power. Indeed, Superstorm Sandy was a Category 1 hurricane when it hit New York and yet it caused $65 billion in damage, making it the 4th costliest hurricane in the United States, according to the NOAA.

After Stansfield earns her PhD, she said she wants to continue studying hurricanes. One question that she’d like to address at some point is why there are between 80 to 90 hurricanes around the world each year. This has been the case for about 50 years, since satellite records began.

“That’s consistent every year,” she said. “We don’t know why that’s the number. There’s no theory behind it.” She suggested that was a “central question” that is unanswered in her field. 

Understanding what controls the number of hurricanes will inform predictions about how that number will change in response to climate change.

This past weekend, several parts of Long Island was hit by an unexpected flash wind and rain storm that took down numerous large trees, branches and electric wires across parts of Long Island. In the Town of Huntington, much of the northern and eastern parts of town were affected.

Over 80,000 homes and businesses across Long Island lost power due to the storms. 26,000, nearly one third of the total power outages, were spread across Huntington, Smithtown and Islip.

Huntington’s Highway, General Services and Maritime Services Departments worked through the night to clear roads and waterways of hazards created by the storm, working on over 750 service tickets.

Crews from Nassau County, upstate New York and out of state, including 48 Con Edison personnel and approximately 400 tree trim and line workers assisted.

General services crew leaders are completing damage assessment at all

Huntington town facilities and parks, municipal & commuter parking lots.

Tree and limb removal will take place at Veterans Park, Henry Ingraham Preserve, Heckscher Park, Caravan Park, Elwood Park, William Byrne Park, Cedar Road Park, Commack Park, Dix Hills Park & Golf course, and the Washington Drive Parking Lot.

The most extensive damage is at Crab Meadow Golf Course where approximately 35 trees are down, and hundreds of broken branches are on the ground or hanging in trees. The golf course is currently closed, and officials hope to have it opened for play by this Wednesday,  June 3, even though tree removal operations will continue for several weeks.

The Dix Hills Pool was closed July 1 due to a power outage.

Officials said they expected half of all outages would have been restored by July 1 and 95% restored by midnight, July 2.

To report a downed wire and receive status updates on power call PSEG Long Island’s 24-hour Electric Service number at 1-800-490-0075.

To report downed trees blocking roads or branches suspended over roads, contact the Highway Department at (631) 499-0444 or huntingtonny.gov/highway.

Residents without power can keep cool at these Town of Huntington facilities:

  • Senior Center at 423 Park Avenue in Huntington from Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Dix Hills Ice Rink at 575 Vanderbilt Parkway, open until 8 p.m. and opening at 6 AM.
  • Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park at Elwood Park on Cuba Hill Road in Elwood is open 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. seven days a week, with extended hours, opening at 10 a.m. for special needs children Tuesdays and Thursdays, including the 4th of July.

Projects will launch in Huntington Town next week

File photo by Arlene Gross

Crews from PSEG Long Island are expected to launch an eight-month-long project in Huntington Town on Monday in an effort to strengthen the electric grid across Long Island.

Work on the project will follow a three-mile route along an electric line circuit in Huntington, Huntington Station and Cold Spring Harbor, according to a PSEG Long Island statement. The project will be funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a federal program that coordinates responses to national disasters.

The more than $729 million for the project were secured for the Long Island Power Authority through an agreement last year between Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and FEMA through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistant Program.

The project will replace existing wire with more weather-resistant wire, install new and durable poles in several locations, and install or replace switching equipment to help reduce the number of customers affected by power outages.

“We are committed to making our transmission and distribution system more resilient, able to better withstand extreme weather events,” David Daly, PSEG Long Island’s president and chief operating officer said in a press release. “Superstorm Sandy has had a lasting impact on our customers, and the recovery and healing is still ongoing.”

The project is expected to implement reinforcements that will help the system in future storms. After Hurricane Sandy, people across Long Island were without power for upward of 10 days. Both Hurricane Sandy and the winter storm that followed in 2013 severely impacted the transmission and distribution system operations, a representative of PSEG Long Island said.

Work on the system will start on or about April 6, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. While there is the potential for some road closures along the route, PSEG has not said when and where they will be.

Trees that grow near power lines will be trimmed, as they pose a safety risk and increase the chance of power outages. New poles will also be approximately the same height as existing poles but will have a stronger base and be situated a few feet from the current pole.

“After Sandy, we know firsthand how important it is to invest in the infrastructure to fortify it to withstand extreme conditions,” Jon Kaiman, special advisor to Cuomo for storm recovery and chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority said in a press release.

To see a complete list of the project route visit https://www.psegliny.com.