Many on N.Y.’s Long Island still dark after Sandy

  • **FILE** In this aerial photograph, heavy equipment pushes sand to restore a barrier dune along the Atlantic Ocean in Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island, N.J., on Nov. 9, 2012, after the region was pounded by Superstorm Sandy the previous week. (Associated Press)**FILE** In this aerial photograph, heavy equipment pushes sand to restore a barrier dune along the Atlantic Ocean in Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island, N.J., on Nov. 9, 2012, after the region was pounded by Superstorm Sandy the previous week. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Firmo Banez poses next to a downed tree in front of his home in Elmont, N.Y., on Nov. 8, 2012. Firmo lost electrical power to the house following Superstorm Sandy ten days before, had it restored two days later by the Long Island Power Authority, only to have it go out again a week later during a Nor'easter snowstorm. (Associated Press)**FILE** Firmo Banez poses next to a downed tree in front of his home in Elmont, N.Y., on Nov. 8, 2012. Firmo lost electrical power to the house following Superstorm Sandy ten days before, had it restored two days later by the Long Island Power Authority, only to have it go out again a week later during a Nor'easter snowstorm. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** People line up with containers as they wait in line to get gas at a Hess station in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Nov. 8, 2012. Fuel shortages and distribution delays that led to gas hoarding prompted New York City and Long Island to initiate an even-odd gas rationing plan. (Associated Press)**FILE** People line up with containers as they wait in line to get gas at a Hess station in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Nov. 8, 2012. Fuel shortages and distribution delays that led to gas hoarding prompted New York City and Long Island to initiate an even-odd gas rationing plan. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** A man carries two filled gas cans at a New York gasoline station on Nov. 9, 2012. A new gasoline rationing plan that lets motorists fill up every other day went into effect in New York that morning after Superstorm Sandy hit the region. Police were at gas stations to enforce the new system in New York City and on Long Island. (Associated Press)**FILE** A man carries two filled gas cans at a New York gasoline station on Nov. 9, 2012. A new gasoline rationing plan that lets motorists fill up every other day went into effect in New York that morning after Superstorm Sandy hit the region. Police were at gas stations to enforce the new system in New York City and on Long Island. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Drivers refill their vehicles at a station in New York on Nov. 9, 2012. A new gasoline rationing plan that lets motorists fill up every other day went into effect in New York that morning after Superstorm Sandy hit the region. Police were at gas stations to enforce the new system in New York City and on Long Island. (Associated Press)**FILE** Drivers refill their vehicles at a station in New York on Nov. 9, 2012. A new gasoline rationing plan that lets motorists fill up every other day went into effect in New York that morning after Superstorm Sandy hit the region. Police were at gas stations to enforce the new system in New York City and on Long Island. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Patrons are directed away from the Long Island Railroad as service is suspended on Nov. 7, 2012, due to an approaching nor'easter sweeping the same regions hit by Superstorm Sandy more than a week ago. (Associated Press)**FILE** Patrons are directed away from the Long Island Railroad as service is suspended on Nov. 7, 2012, due to an approaching nor'easter sweeping the same regions hit by Superstorm Sandy more than a week ago. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Workers use heavy machinery spread sand in Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island, N.J. A nor'easter smacked the storm-ravaged Jersey shore a week and half after Superstorm Sandy wrecked many of its beaches, dunes and boardwalks, and left low-lying communities newly vulnerable to flooding, wind damage and power outages. (Associated Press)**FILE** Workers use heavy machinery spread sand in Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island, N.J. A nor'easter smacked the storm-ravaged Jersey shore a week and half after Superstorm Sandy wrecked many of its beaches, dunes and boardwalks, and left low-lying communities newly vulnerable to flooding, wind damage and power outages. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Brian Meenan of Millwood, N.Y., takes photos and video of items that were destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in his family's beachfront house on 31st Street on Long Beach Island in Long Beach Township, N.J., on Nov. 5, 2012. (Associated Press)**FILE** Brian Meenan of Millwood, N.Y., takes photos and video of items that were destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in his family's beachfront house on 31st Street on Long Beach Island in Long Beach Township, N.J., on Nov. 5, 2012. (Associated Press)
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HICKSVILLE, N.Y. — Two weeks after Superstorm Sandy, while most utilities have restored electricity to nearly all their customers, there was one glaring exception Monday: a Long Island power company with more outages — almost 60,000 Monday — than all the others combined.

As people on Long Island fumed over the cold and the darkness and complained that they couldn’t get answers from the company, the Long Island Power Authority said in its defense that the storm was worse than anyone could have imagined and that it didn’t just damage outdoor electrical lines; it caused flooding that touched home and business breaker boxes.

LIPA also acknowledged that an outdated computer system for keeping customers notified has added to people’s frustration.

But some say the government-run utility should have seen it coming. It was recently criticized in a withering state report for lax preparation ahead of last year’s Hurricane Irene and for the 25-year-old computer system used to pinpoint outages and update customers.

“It’s antiquated. I think they’re negligent,” said Phil Glickman, a retired Wall Street executive from South Bellmore who waited 11 days to get electricity back.

LIPA has restored power to nearly 1.1 million homes and offices all together. About 46,000 still waiting for the lights to come back on are along Long Island’s south shore and Rockaway Peninsula and had water damage to electrical panels and wiring, so their service can’t be restored without an inspection and possibly repairs. The utility said it expects to restore service to the last 11,000 customers outside flooded areas by late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

At its peak, the storm knocked out power to 8.5 million customers in 10 states, with New York and New Jersey bearing the brunt. Those outages have been nearly erased, though Consolidated Edison, the chief utility in New York City, has cited problems similar to LIPA‘s, saying about 16,300 customers in flooded areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island can’t get service until their internal electrical equipment is repaired, tested and certified.

LIPA customer Priscilla Niemiera, whose finished basement in Seaford flooded, said her house needs to be inspected and she can’t get any answers. Every time she calls the utility, she said, she gets hung up on.

“I think LIPA should be broken up into small companies and it shouldn’t be a monopoly anymore because this is every single time we have a disaster. And then they raise the rates. We’re paying very high rates. We’re paying high taxes, high electric. Everything,” she said.

LIPA, whose board is chosen by the governor and lawmakers, contracts with National Grid for service and maintenance. Last year, its board chose a new contractor, New Jersey’s Public Service Enterprise Group, which will take over in 2014. Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the storm response of all New York utilities in the region, saying their management had failed consumers.

Asked Monday about LIPA board vacancies he hasn’t filled and whether he takes responsibility for what’s happening there, Cuomo called the authority a holding company that became “an intergovernmental political organization.” He said National Grid was the actual Long Island power provider, one of the monopolistic state-regulated utilities. “They’re going to be held accountable,” he said, citing lack of communication and preparation and even proposing they consider rebates instead of rate hikes.

A state report criticized LIPA in June for poor customer communications after Irene last year and for insufficient tree trimming. The Department of Public Service noted major problems in telling customers estimated power-restoration times, faulting its computer system, which a consultant had found deficient back in 2006.

LIPA acknowledged that customers aren’t getting the information they need, partly because of the system, which it is updating. Authority officials said the new system will be operating next year.

“It is a huge computer system. After Irene we immediately accelerated that process, and even at that it is still an 18-month to two-year process,” LIPA’s chief operating officer, Michael Hervey, said Monday. “We would have liked to have had it up and running for now, but it’s just such a large magnitude computer system that it takes that long.”

Hervey said the company will be working with remaining customers over the next several weeks as they get their homes repaired. “They can’t be safely re-energized from an electrical standpoint,” he said. “We are ready to service those areas, but they are not ready to take it right now.”

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