Important questions need to be raised regarding the Long Island Power Authority's allocation of resources on the peninsula and its dissemination of knowledge to government officials about its response to recent storms, according to area officials who raised similar concerns following Hurricane Irene.
In a written statement Friday, Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said much of the information reported by LIPA at twice-daily briefings to municipal officials in recent weeks was not consistent with personal observations.
Celender said the south shore and the more heavily damaged areas on Long Island deserved a larger allocation of LIPA’s response resources, but the Great Neck area deserved better.
"In the days following the storm, Great Neck Plaza officials, staff and our own residents saw few, if any, LIPA lineman crews in our village and in surrounding areas of Great Neck," said Celender. "Certainly there should have been at least a minimal allocation of lineman crews in all affected areas."
The mayor said she will pursue answers as to how resources were allocated and how information was disseminated to government officials and to the public after the unprecedented storm so that the same mistakes are not made twice.
"We have all been through what is probably the most destructive weather experience of our lifetime," said Celender. "While we are pleased with critical aspects of our response, there are questions to be raised and lessons to be learned from this experience."
Approximately 23,000 Long Islanders were without power Friday, according to LIPA, which has defended its position in recent days.
"We are working closely with government officials and we hold calls twice a day with elected officials to update them on our progress," National Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd said to Patch. 'We are receiving more crews every day and we continue to work on this system restoring power as quickly and safely as possible.
On Friday, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman said a complete reevaluation of the LIPA system needs to take place. He voiced similar frustration in 2011 following Irene.
“We will continue to confront, challenge and demand that our utility do what is necessary to get this job done quickly and correctly,” said Kaiman in 2011, according to a Great Neck News report.
With power restoration efforts still underway, Kaiman on Friday said it's too early to comment on whether or not power cables should be moved underground, as some suggested following Hurricane Irene in 2011. He said he was told it would be a $30 billion dollar procedure.
"There needs to be a greater discussion and I believe the governor will lead the way very quickly," said Kaiman on a conference call.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that LIPA was unprepared for the storm and had "failed" its customers.
LIPA's promises and actions in recent years are expected to garner much more attention in the coming months.
Following Irene, LIPA officials called their response "swift and strong" but promised to improve channels of communication.
“We will be taking a long hard look at all of our restoration and communication plans to ascertain what we can do better to meet the needs of our customers,” said LIPA Chief Operation Officer Michael Hervey following Irene. Inthe weeks after the storm, municipal officials engaged in dialogue with LIPA as to how the company might improve communications in devastating, island-wide weather events, according to LIPA.
LIPA Vice President of T&D Operations Nicholas Lizanich and LIPA District Manager Lauren Brookmeyer spoke with Great Neck officials at a Great Neck Village Officials Association meeting May 30, 2011.
"A lengthy, heated meeting ended in a pledge from LIPA representatives to immediately address the issues and report back to the mayors in six months," according to a Great Neck Record report.
Enhanced communications, improved outreach to government officials, additional management to deal with power outages, new control centers, the enlistment of outside response help and better prioritization was discussed in 2011, according to the report.
This week, Celender praised the efforts of Great Neck Plaza's Village’s Department of Public Works, volunteer firefighters, EMT crews and members of the Nassau County Police Department.
"Though deeply stressed in the demands placed upon them, responded with promptness, skill and bravery as they always do," said Celender.