12/04/12 2:20pm
12/04/2012 2:20 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead firefighters check for fire at an Ostrander Avenue house where residents reported smoke in the basement Tuesday afternoon.

A downed electrical wire near downtown Riverhead caused one person’s fusebox to overload Tuesday afternoon, filling his basement with smoke, neighbors and fire officials said.

A homeowner was hanging Christmas lights at his house on the corner of Ostrander Avenue and East 2nd Street when the lights began to glow brightly, said 2nd assistant fire chief Kevin Brooks.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | LIPA workers make repairs to a downed wire on Ostrander Avenue Tuesday afternoon.

“Everything went bright, then everything went off,” he said. The homeowner reported that the fuse box was overloaded and began smoking, though fire officials could not yet confirm the cause of the smoke.

Mr. Brooks said Riverhead firefighters arrived on scene and used thermal cameras to try to locate if there was a fire in the residence, but found no evidence of a blaze.

Around the same time as smoke filled the basement, an electrical wire feeding the house snapped loose and fell into the street.

One neighbor was on her computer when she noticed a power surge in her home when the wire went down, she said.

It is not immediately clear what caused the wire to blow; a Riverhead Fire Marshall was on the scene to investigate the smoke.

LIPA crews arrived on scene and removed the downed wire. A section of Ostrander Avenue was briefly closed by town police.

By 1:45 p.m., police and fire crews had left the scene and reopened the road.

psquire@timesreview.com

11/18/12 1:22pm
11/18/2012 1:22 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead firefighters at Minuteman Press in Riverhead Sunday afternoon.

More than 1,100 LIPA customers in Riverhead were briefly without power Sunday afternoon, causing concern in a hamlet just getting over Superstorm Sandy.

The outages were related to a malfunctioning underground LIPA transformer in front of downtown’s Minuteman Press store, officials said.

Police, firefighters and Long Island Power Authority repairmen rushed to the Main Street printing center about 1 p.m. for a reported cloud of smoke believed to be related to the outages, fire officials said.

Riverhead Fire Chief Tony White said stressed there was no fire at Minuteman Press, though firefighters did enter the building – by popping a lock — to investigate. Minuteman was closed Sunday.

An employee at nearby Digger O’Dell’s said the power never went out at the restaurant, but that the business lost cable about the same time staffers and patrons first started smelling smoke.

Nearly all the outages, including traffic lights that were reportedly out north of Roanoke Avenue, had been restored about an hour later, according to LIPA estimates.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON

11/16/12 8:02am
11/16/2012 8:02 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Legislator Wayne Horsley, left, blasted the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid on Thursday for hiring out-of-state electricians.

Suffolk County lawmakers blasted the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid Thursday, accusing the utilities of looking for out-of-state help instead of hiring out-of-work local electricians during Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath.

At a press conference in Hauppauge, Legislator Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), along with other members of the Legislature and representatives from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 25, said they attempted to arrange for nearly 400 licensed electricians that live locally to work with LIPA, but said the power authority never returned their phone calls.

“They were ready to work,” Mr. Horsley said. “Somehow or another, there has been a decision not to use these electricians.”

Mr. Horsley said the county had discussions in 2011 with LIPA and National Grid about hiring local electricians for future storms after failing to do so during Tropical Storm Irene’s aftermath. Prior to that storm, Mr. Horsley said IBEW workers had been called upon to help out in other storms.

Mr. Horsley said it was unclear why LIPA didn’t hire local electricians this time and said he believed it was “morally wrong” not to hire “homegrown” workers.

“They know where the streets are,” Mr. Horsley said. “They know where the poles are. They know where the intersections are when a light is down…They could have been putting our system back together again and they could have been helping our citizens who are cold.”

Legislator Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) agreed and said ratepayers could have also been spared from picking up additional hotel and meal costs.

“We have guys here on Long Island that could go back to their own homes where they could eat their own meals,” she said.

Legislator John Kennedy (R-Nesconset) called on New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group to commit to hire local workers during emergency situations. In December, the LIPA Board of Trustees approved a contract with PSEG to manage the operations of the electric grid on Long Island.

PSEG will replace London-based energy company National Grid in January 2014.

“We can’t afford to sort this out then,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We need to know their commitment and their willingness to engage these electricians so we’ll no longer have any of this nonsense.”

Officials from PSEG and LIPA weren’t immediately available for comment.

Read more in the Nov. 22 issue of The Suffolk Times in both our print and electronic editions.

jennifer@timesreview.com

11/14/12 8:10am
11/14/2012 8:10 AM

SAMANTHA BRIX FILE PHOTO | Long Island Power Authority Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey, right, at a press conference in Hicksville last year.

With 8,500 active outages still remaining on Long Island 16 days after Superstorm Sandy struck the North Fork, Long Island Power Authority Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey has tendered his resignation. Just 64 of those outages are on the North Fork.

LIPA Board Chairman Howard Steinberg offered the following statement Tuesday:

“Today, Mike Hervey, tendered his resignation as Chief Operating Officer of the Long Island Power Authority, to be effective at the end of the year. On behalf of the Board of Trustees I have accepted his resignation, with regret.

Mike has provided 12 years of valuable service to LIPA, including taking on the responsibility to perform the functions of CEO of the organization over the past two years. Mike has played a leadership role in connection with the planned structural changes at LIPA going forward which will result in better service and accountability to LIPA’s customers in the years ahead.”

We want to know what our readers think of the decision by Mr. Hervey to resign. Will it make a difference? What kind of additional changes do you think are needed at LIPA?

11/12/12 10:20am
11/12/2012 10:20 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Houses on Dunlookin Lane in Jamesport were without power a week after the storm.

LIPA restored power to more than 100 customers on the North Fork Sunday, but 117 outages still remain on the North Fork two weeks after Superstorm Sandy struck, according to LIPA’s most recent outage numbers.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced Sunday that power had been restored to more than 99 percent of Suffolk County residents.

“Despite the massive failure of leadership at LIPA Headquarters, we have restored power in Suffolk County thanks to the dedicated men and women on the ground who have been working 16 to 18 hour days to get the job done,” Mr. Bellone said in a statement.  ”By working with the front line workers, we have expedited turning the lights on by making sure the resources needed to restore the power remain here in Suffolk County.  While I am deeply disappointed in LIPA’s leadership, I have been overwhelmed as I have witnessed firsthand the dedication and commitment of the workers in the streets and in the substations as I have met and talked with them over the last several days and I want to thank them for their efforts on behalf of all County residents.”

Of the remaining outages on the North Fork, 82 are in Southold Town and 35 are in Riverhead.

Southold hamlet, with 26 active outages, is the local neighborhood with the most remaining outages. There are still 24 outages in Mattituck.

Most of Riverhead Town’s remaining outages are in Calverton.

While LIPA has taken down its original interactive outage map after customers complained it was inaccurate, the total number of outages can still be viewed by clicking here.

gparpan@timesreview.com

11/11/12 10:00am
11/11/2012 10:00 AM

KATIE COE COURTESY PHOTO | A downed power line in Mattituck Oct. 29, the day Superstorm Sandy struck the North Fork.

LIPA officials announced Saturday that they will have completed restoration to 98 percent of customers who lost power during Superstorm Sandy by Tuesday afternoon.

That’s 15 days after the storm hit and that does not include outages in areas like Long Beach and the Rockaways, where restoration is not yet possible..

Here on the North Fork, 220 LIPA customers were still without power as of 9 a.m. Sunday — 159 in Riverhead and 61 in Southold. The two towns have the fewest remaining outages on Long Island.

While LIPA has taken down its original interactive outage map after customers complained it was inaccurate, the total number of outages can still be viewed by clicking here.

You can read LIPA’s Saturday update below:

Power Restored to 93% of Long Island Electric System

38,000 outages due to LIPA system damage remain in Nassau County
28,000 outages due to LIPA system damage remain in Suffolk County
99% of those who are able to receive power to be restored by end of Tuesday
Over 1 million customer outages restored

A workforce of 15,000 lineman, field and support personnel restored power to 84,000 customers in the past 24 hours, bringing 93% of the Long Island electric system on-line. In flood impacted areas, LIPA has repaired and where possible, energized the power. However, while there is power in the neighborhoods, severe damage to the homes themselves prevents the homeowner from connecting to the electric grid. Local officials and LIPA estimate 55,000 could be powered, however if the damage to the homes is too severe and repairs to home or an inspection must be completed before the house can be reconnected to the grid. On Long Island the bulk of these are in Island Park, Oceanside and the East Rockaway area, with smaller pockets in other south shore communities.

In Nassau, 250 surveyors are out in the field, with teams of technicians and electric servicemen following closely behind to re-energize those premises that are found to be safe. Those areas include Bellmore, Massapequa, Massapequa Park, Merrick, Seaford, Wantagh, Baldwin, Baldwin Harbor, East Rockaway, Island Park, Lynbrook, and Oceanside.

Up to 500 additional linemen are arriving on Long Island today and will supplement the already 9,600 linemen and tree trim crews that are working to bring power back to all remaining customers who are able to receive power safely.

Restoration in the Rockaways
LIPA is continuing to restore the electric “backbone” in the Rockaway Peninsula.

Power Restored to:

  • Sewage Treatment facility Beach Channel Dr. and Beach 108th St.
  • Scholar’s Academy School Beach 104th St
  • 3 MTA rectifier stations
  • St John’s Episcopal Hospital
  • Arverne by The Sea Residential Development (High ground)
  • Bezalel nursing home on Far Rockaway Blvd whose generator had failed (averting the patients from being evacuated)
  • 4 NYCHA Hammells Housing buildings without generation to normal supply
  • NYCHA building at 71-15 Beach Channel Drive – off generator to normal supply
  • 101st NYPD precinct building
  • Wavecrest Building complex

Progress continues on the following facilities:

  • NYCHA buildings Bch 51st St complex – working closely with NYCHA to help them safely progress repairs to their facilities.
  • Dayton Towers West – repairing LIPA underground facilities to support restoration of service.
  • Ocean Promenade Nursing Home-repairing LIPA service and mainline feed in preparation to energize today.
  • McClean Nursing – repairing LIPA service and mainline feed in preparation to energize today.
  • Far Rockaway Underground Network – finalizing restoration of LIPA underground network to support energizing Far Rockaway substation feeders today.

Restoration in Long Beach
LIPA and National Grid continue to make significant process in restoring power back to Long Beach with expectation that 90% of the people able to receive power will be restored today.

Restoration Highlights include:

  • Energizing Long Beach City Hall
  • Energizing Long Beach sewage treatment plant
  • Continue work along Shore road to energize the area
11/10/12 1:25pm
11/10/2012 1:25 PM

“We are done dealing with LIPA Headquarters,” County Executive Steve Bellone declared Saturday, joining a chorus of state and local officials from Governor Cuomo on down who have decried LIPA’s slow pace in fully restoring power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter that followed it this month.

Mr. Bellone said he had “cut ties with LIPA headquarters and has begun directing local assets to expedite restoring power.”

He made the declaration in announcing that he would hold a press conference on the issue at 2 p.m. Saturday at the parking lot of the LIPA-National Grid office in Brentwood.

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone became the latest public official to speak out against LIPA’s response to Hurricane Sandy today.

11/08/12 10:36am
11/08/2012 10:36 AM
LIPA, Sandy, Reeves Park, Riverhead, Long Island

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Roberta’s house in Reeves Park is the only property in the neighborhood still without electricity after Sandy, she says.

By now, a lot of people have their electricity back in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

I got mine back Tuesday, and when you first get your power back it seems, to you at least, that Sandy is no longer a problem.

But there are many without power. And in some cases, it doesn’t seem to make sense why some houses have power and some don’t, or why fate chose the people it chose to leave in the dark.

Such is the case with Roberta. She lives in Reeves Park and still had no power as of Wednesday afternoon, though she says everyone else in her neighborhood does.

Even without electricity, Roberta, who didn’t want her full name used, has her hands full.

Her 87-year-old mother, a stroke victim, is paralyzed on one side and can’t get around by herself. Her 13-year son has Down’s syndrome. And Roberta doesn’t drive.

When LIPA repairmen came around over the weekend to restore electricity to the rest of her neighborhood, they told Roberta they couldn’t restore hers because the tree that had fallen on her house, pulling power lines down with it, had also crushed the electric meter box.

LIPA told Roberta she would have to get a private electrician to fix the box before they could come back and reconnect the power lines to her house. She had the box fixed, but getting LIPA back to restore the wires wasn’t proving too easy.

“I asked when they were coming back and they didn’t have an answer,” she recalled. “I said, ‘But you told me I had to have all this work done and you would come back.’ And now it’s getting cold.”

On Monday, a neighbor took them to stay at her house.

Roberta said her mother and son are both “out of their routine” and are constantly asking when they’re going home.

A few years ago, I guess, it could have been me grappling with a similar situation.

I had a brother with Down’s syndrome, and my mother was old and had “small strokes” that made it tough for her to get around or communicate. We took it a few steps further, too. We also had an even older father who was perfectly healthy but loved to get mad about things like this and the psychotic dog, which allegedly bit a guy who then sued us for $2 million.

And sometimes, the Down’s syndrome brother would open the gate and let the psychotic dog out of the house, which gave my father something else to get mad about, and I’d have to try to catch the dog before it attacked somebody.

But that was then. Now, it’s just me.

My other brother, who lives nearby, was mentioning the other day that it’s a good thing we didn’t have this kind of storm and power outage back then. There was Hurricane Gloria, but that happened in mid-September when it was warmer — and in 1985, when all those people were younger.

Something like this, in the cold, would be much harder.

As Roberta is discovering.

She has since found that she couldn’t even get LIPA on the phone anymore.

On Monday, the neighbor, who also didn’t want her name use, decided to contact the media. She contacted us. I went down there.

At first, I thought maybe she was calling the wrong numbers at LIPA. So I called the number I had just called the day before, since my power was out too, and, like Roberta, it seemed like everyone else in my neighborhood had gotten power back already.

No dice. Once you’ve made a report, an answering machine tells you they have the report, and it hangs up on you.

So I tried calling the LIPA public relations people. Certainly, they wouldn’t be the ones to come down and fix the power, but sometimes a little press attention will get some action.

The LIPA spokesperson, Karen Ryan, looked into the situation and eventually called back. She said a LIPA crew could be at Roberta’s house at an “estimated time” of 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Of course, on Wednesday, a Nor’easter, and more outages, were forecast. Roberta asked if they could make it Tuesday. The LIPA spokesperson said there are thousands of people in the same situation, and that there were other homes in Reeves Park without power and that Wednesday 9 a.m. estimate was the best they could do.

So Roberta took it.

I drove by Roberta’s house on Wednesday morning at about 10:30 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. The wires were still sitting on the ground, and the new storm was getting stronger. She was still without power today.

LIPA needs to assign a unit to answer calls such as Roberta’s.

tgannon@timesreview.com