NEW YORK — More than 695,000 homes and businesses in the New York tri-state area were still without electricity at midday Saturday as utilities continued trying to get the lights on four days after Tropical Storm Isaias.
Tuesday’s storm dealt the region a surprisingly sharp blow, killing at least one person, downing trees, halting commuter trains and initially knocking out power to more than 2.5 million customers. A customer can be a single home or a skyscraper, sometimes even an entire apartment complex.
“I get that this is a very frustrating situation. We’re working as quickly as we can” to clear downed trees, New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell said at a news conference Saturday.
“They’re very time-consuming removals because of the safety concerns” involved in taking fallen trees off houses and power lines, she added.
The outages themselves were posing dangers: Four people were hospitalized late Friday with carbon monoxide poisoning from a home in Mastic, on Long Island, where a generator was running in the basement, Suffolk County police said.
As of midday Saturday, more than 300,000 customers were in the dark in Connecticut, more than 280,000 in New York City and its suburbs, and more than 108,000 in New Jersey, according to various utilities.
“We are making slow progress,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said in a video message.
The Democrat said restoration priorities include removing trees that are blocking roads and making sure generator power doesn’t fail at water treatment facilities and nursing homes.
Power companies called Isaias one of the biggest outage producers in recent years.
“We have made great progress in restoring customers, and understand that is of little comfort to those still without air conditioning, lights and charged cell phones,” said Kim Hanemann, the chief operating officer of PSE&G. The company said it had gotten electricity back to about 96% of its New Jersey customers who lost it during Isaias, with about 24,000 to go, plus some others who lost power because of subsequent storms or other reasons. PSE&G said it had 3,400 people working on the effort.
Con Edison, a utility in New York City and its northern suburbs, said crews are rebuilding entire sections of the overhead wire system in some places.
The company said more than 1,700 of its workers were in the field, with 1,200 reinforcements from other companies and contractors and another 320 due to arrive Sunday.
Some of the region’s elected officials have blasted the utilities’ preparedness and response, with New York and Connecticut launching investigations.
Still, Lamont urged residents Saturday not to vent their ire are work crews: “If you want to blame somebody, blame the generals, not the troops,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection said Friday it was “reviewing” Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim’s use of an emergency alert system to excoriate a power company, according to the Connecticut Post.
In text and phone messages sent through the system Thursday night, the Democratic mayor accused local utility United Illuminating of “irresponsibility and arrogance,” said it has “ignored us,” mentioned that he’d told city lawyers to explore possible legal action, and urged residents to call the company and press it to restore power. The messages also provided information on how to seek help from the city.
The state emergency notification system, called CT ALERT, is intended to tell residents about “imminent threats to health and safety” and “life threatening emergencies,” according to its website.
Bridgeport emergency management chief Scott Appleby told the Post he was “more than comfortable” with using the alert system for what he described as telling residents where to call for help.
UI spokesperson Edward Crowder said it wasn’t the utility’s place to opine on whether the messages were appropriate.
“Our crews and contractors in the field are working hard, day and night, to safely restore service,” he added
About the photo: Debris from trees and power lines lie in a road brought down by high winds and rain, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Edgewater, N.J. Tropical Storm Isaias spawned tornadoes and dumped rain during an inland march up the U.S. East Coast, including New Jersey, on Tuesday after making landfall as a hurricane along the North Carolina coast. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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