Written by: Dwight R. Worley
PUTNAM VALLEY — State Sen. Greg Ball said legislators will hold hearings early next month to investigate why it took utility companies as long as six days to restore power to homes and businesses in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.
During a press conference Saturday afternoon at the Putnam Valley Senior Center, Ball, R-Patterson, said the hearings would probe what he said were utility companies’ lack of preparation and inadequate response following a storm that left thousands in the dark.
“The storm could have been a lot worse,” said Ball, surrounded by affected families, supervisors and council members from several northern Westchester and Putnam towns. “There’s a sense that we were not prepared if this storm would have been any worse.”
Most of the criticism from area officials is being directed at New York State Gas & Electric, which they said was too slow in bringing in out-of-state crews to help with repairs. But Ball also said low supplies of dry ice, communication lapses and a lack of generators was also a concern.
“I’m really annoyed that 81 homes without power wasn’t a priority,” said Jennifer Ulrich, who attended the press conference and whose Mahopac condominium complex lost power for nearly a week. “Six days without power or hot water is annoying.”
“We’ve had other storms but I’ve never seen such slow response times,” said James Martorano, a Yorktown councilman.
Jim Salmon, a NYSEG spokesman, said Saturday afternoon just over 400 homes in Westchester and Putnam remained without power. He said the company anticipated all customers would have power restored by late Saturday, four days ahead of schedule.
Salmon did not directly address the criticism, but in an e-mail said NYSEG began moving additional crews into the area on Saturday and that the first priority in Putnam, Westchester and Dutchess was repairing 1,200 downed wires. The multi-state impact of Irene initially made it difficult to secure workers from other states, he said.
“But we lined up all of the crews we could early on, and we continued to add to our power restoration team every day,” wrote Salmon, who added NYSEG has distributed 624,000 pounds of dry ice and 65,000 gallons of water. wrote.
In all, 606 utility customers in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties remained without electricity about 6:30 p.m. Saturday. (READ MORE)