* Nearly 1 mln in N.J., 650,000 in N.Y. still without power
* Attention shifts to labor-intensive outages
* "Nor'easter" threatens recovery efforts
By Cezary Podkul
NEW YORK, Nov 4 About 1.9 million homes and
businesses remained in the dark on Sunday as pressure mounted on
power companies to restore electricity to areas hit hardest by
Hurricane Sandy nearly a week ago.
In New York, utilities came under increasing calls to
restore heat and light to some 650,000 customers. More than half
of those were served by the Long Island Power Authority, which
was singled out for criticism by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In New Jersey, about a quarter of the state remained without
After a peak of 8.5 million customers without power across
21 states affected by the massive storm, the rate of restoring
power each day has slowed as line crews face increasingly
difficult and isolated outages.
By Sunday afternoon, 640,000 customers had been switched
back on in the last 24 hours, down from about 1 million who had
power restored a day earlier.
After last year's Tropical Storm Irene, most power was back
within five days.
LIPA, which said Sunday afternoon it still had 370,000 of
its 1.1 million customers without power, has come in for some of
the toughest criticism over its efforts, particularly with a new
cold front now menacing the region.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's website put LIPA's outages
closer to 313,000 as of Sunday evening. That was the most of any
utility serving the state. Con Edison, which serves about 3.3
million customers in New York State, was second at just under
200,000 customer outages.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday morning, Cuomo
again criticized LIPA's restoration efforts and vowed to hold
power companies "100 percent" accountable for their performance
during restoration efforts.
Earlier this week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had
joined in the criticism, saying LIPA "has not acted aggressively
enough" to restore power to customers. The utility's New York
City customers reside in Queens.
Local residents likewise expressed frustration with LIPA's
Tab Hauser, deputy mayor of the still-dark Village of Flower
Hill on the north shore of Long Island, said that not only has
the clean-up been too slow, LIPA "is doing nothing to prepare
for the future." He would like to see the utility consider
underground lines and metal rather than wood poles. "Every year
it's a band aid," he said. "This can happen next year and
nothing will change."
LIPA spokesperson Mark Gross was not available for an
interview Sunday evening. However, he said in an email that the
utility expected to have 90 percent of its customers restored by
Wednesday evening. The remaining 10 percent, which includes
areas devastated by flooding, would take longer.
THE LABOR-INTENSIVE STUFF
Nearly a week after Sandy's landfall, industry experts
warned that the overall pace of restoration might slow as
utilities move to repair lines and poles that affect smaller
numbers of customers.
"That's the real labor-intensive stuff that it's just
street-to-street, house-to-house, neighborhood-by-neighborhood,"
said Brian L. Wolff, senior vice president of external affairs
at Edison Electric Institute, an industry group.
He added that some 150,000 to 200,000 customers "have such a
level of physical destruction that they won't be able to restore
electricity for quite some time."
In New Jersey, where many coastal towns experienced severe
devastation, about 25 percent of utility customers were still
without power on Sunday, according to the Department of Energy.
Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) and Jersey
Central Power & Light (JCP&L) - two major providers -
each had about half a million customers without power.
PSE&G, which provides power to about 2.2 million customers
across a wide swath of central New Jersey, said 493,000 were
still without power as of Sunday morning. But critical
infrastructure serviced by the utility already had its power
restored, PSE&G President and Chief Operating Officer Ralph A.
LaRossa told reporters on a conference call Sunday.
About 78 percent of gasoline stations had power restored, as
well as 80 percent of schools, LaRossa said.
Seven power substations, including six in Hudson County,
were still being repaired, and the utility was busy coordinating
power restoration efforts with local authorities for polling
places in time for Election Day.
"We'll be in pretty good shape by Tuesday," LaRossa said.
JCP&L, which provides power to 1.1 million customers in 13
New Jersey counties, had 473,000 customers without power as of
Sunday afternoon. That's the vast majority of the 551,000
customers JCP&L's parent company, energy provider FirstEnergy
, reported across all its affected service areas.
In service areas outside of New Jersey, which include
Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, FirstEnergy
expected to have service restored to the majority of polling
places ahead of election day, Jennifer Young, a spokesperson for
FirstEnergy, said in an email.
In Pennsylvania, power provider PPL Corp. was
zeroing in on its remaining outages. Power had been restored to
all polling places and schools in the utility's 29-county
service zone, spokesperson Michael Wood said. The company had
about 15,0000 customers still without power as of late Sunday,
"Nearly all of those customers will be repaired today," Wood
BRACING FOR THE WORST
But weather continued to complicate restoration efforts on
Sunday as cold weather set in throughout the region, plunging
temperatures and raising concerns about those still without
light and heat.
Meteorologists also predicted that another "Nor'easter" - a
coastal storm capable of producing strong winds and heavy rain -
could hit the region by-midweek.
"It certainly can have an impact on slowing our crews that
are making restorations," John Miksad, Con Edison's senior vice
president of electric operations, told reporters on a conference
call Sunday. The storm could also cause additional outages, he
Con Edison had about 198,000 customers without power as of
late Sunday afternoon, Miksad said. Of those, 86,000 were
located in Westchester County, 54,000 in Queens, 23,000 in
Brooklyn, 19,000 in Staten Island and 11,000 in the Bronx. About
5,000 Con Edison customers in Manhattan also lacked power.
Con Edison aims to restore power to most of its customers by