It was four days before Hurricane Sandy would arrive, and trustees of the Long Island Power Authority gathered as forecasters’ warnings grew dire. For more than two hours, the trustees talked about a range of issues, including a proposal to hire a branding consultant.
But discussion of the storm lasted just 39 seconds.
The trustees’ approach toward the looming disaster reflects deep-rooted problems at the authority that have hobbled its response, causing hardship for hundreds of thousands of its customers, according to an examination of its performance by The New York Times. The bungling of the storm has called into question the authority’s very future.
The examination by The Times shows that the Long Island Power Authority has repeatedly failed to plan for extreme weather, despite extensive warnings by government investigators and outside monitors. In fact, before Hurricane Sandy, the authority was significantly behind on perhaps the most basic step to prepare for storms — trimming trees that can bring down power lines.
Customers have been exasperated not only by a lack of power, but also by the authority’s inability to communicate basic information. Long Islanders have recounted tales of phones unanswered at authority offices, of wildly inaccurate service maps and of broken promises to dispatch repair crews.
Of course, the storm was highly unusual, and utilities across the Northeast have come under criticism for delays in restoring power. The authority said it was “on plan” to restore power.
Still, the recovery has been slowest on Long Island, where roughly 90 percent of the authority’s 1.1 million customers lost power. As of Tuesday, more than 10,000 customers were still in the dark.
“Resources came late,” said Frank P. Petrone, chief executive of the Town of Huntington and a former official with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “When they came, there was no management to utilize those resources effectively. And it took 10 days for them to get their act together.”
The New York Times, “Suffering on Long Island as Power Agency Shows Its Flaws.”
Governor Cuomo, who has done a lot of talking about the region’s post-Sandy recovery and about holding these utilities accountable for their massive failures in the wake of the storm, needs to fix this joke of an agency now.