New York Braces for Next Storm as Thousands Still Without Power
By Melanie Grayce West and Joseph De Avila
As the next winter storm bears down on a region still suffering from one of the worst nor'easters in years, frustrated residents throughout New York's Lower Hudson Valley are turning their ire on the area's power companies.
By midday Tuesday, four days after many lost power, roughly 78,000 New York residents were still in the dark, mostly in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange counties. Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested that New Yorkers who don't have power by Wednesday morning decamp to a safe shelter to ride out the coming storm.
The National Weather Service predicted up to 15 inches of snow for the Lower Hudson Valley and the interior of southern Connecticut, with six to 12 inches possible in New York City. It projects the storm will hit the region Tuesday night and last through Wednesday night.
Consolidated Edison warned some residents that power might not be restored until Friday, a delay the governor called "absurd."
"Utilities get paid for service, and part of that payment is to restore power after a storm," said Mr. Cuomo during a telephone news conference Tuesday. "I believe we're entitled to better service."
Megan Leap, a 34-year-old marketing consultant, has been without power in her Scarsdale, N.Y., home since Friday, when a tree knocked out electricity on her street. The mother of two, including an infant, is accustomed to serious storms and power outages from her time living in Florida.
But in Florida, she said, power crews are out within hours of a storm. She said she didn't see work crews until Monday.
Consolidated Edison spokesman Robert McGee said the company is focused on the restoration of services for customers affected by last week's storm and on the preparations for Wednesday's storm.
"Our crews will continue doing their arduous, dangerous work until we have restored all customers," said Mr. McGee.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Consolidated Edison Chief Executive John McAvoy said last week's storm was the largest since superstorm Sandy. He said 90% of affected customers still facing outages will have power restored Tuesday night, though updates to the automated notification system are ongoing.
New York State Electric and Gas Corp., meanwhile, said in a news release it has more than 2,000 people working and estimates it will restore service to more than 90% of its customers by late Tuesday night.
"Our goal is to get our customers back to their daily routines," said Carl Taylor, chief executive of NYSEG.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer at a news conference Tuesday criticized NYSEG and Consolidated Edison for their response and said the utilities underestimated the severity of Friday's storm. He called on both utilities to have all employees on duty to get residents their power back and to be ready for Wednesday's snowstorm.
"The urgency is so great," Mr. Latimer said. "We are facing a very severe deadline when the snow starts to fall."
The slow response of Consolidated Edison and NYSEG is the latest in a series of weather-related emergencies in recent years that have called into question utility providers' ability to restore service quickly.
The companies came under fire in 2011 after tropical storm Irene and an October nor'easter each left thousands without power. A state report analyzing Consolidated Edison's response to superstorm Sandy in 2012 said the utility "must seriously re-evaluate its storm preparation and response and adopt swift and substantive improvements before the next storm hits the region."
Benjamin Boykin, chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, said NYSEG and Consolidated Edison needed to be held accountable for their performance.
"After superstorm Sandy, the utilities said we are going to do things so we won't have this happen again. It's happened again," Mr. Boykin said at a news conference. "This is unacceptable to the residents of Westchester County."
Stephen Ferrara, 43, has been without power in his White Plains home since Friday as well. The nurse practitioner and father of three hasn't been able to get accurate information about when power will return to his street. The tree that downed power lines has been removed, he said, but the lines remain tethered by a rope to another tree, with no trucks or crew in the area.
"It's just been no answers," he said.
Author Laura June, 40, decided to go with her husband and young daughter to a hotel last Friday after they lost power in their Armonk, N.Y., home. The severity of damage in her neighborhood prompted the family to move to another hotel in White Plains, N.Y., this time bringing the family dog and a pet fish. She said she has gotten multiple estimates on when her power will be returned.
"If I had to guess," she said, "we will be here until Friday or Saturday."
Write to Melanie Grayce West at firstname.lastname@example.org and Joseph De Avila at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
March 06, 2018 17:32 ET (22:32 GMT)Copyright (c) 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.