From the Desk of Delia Deriggi-Whitton: PSEG-LI must answer for Isaias failures

The Island Now
(Photo provided by the League of Women Voters)

Before the major storm knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders, the electric company promised that it was prepared.

Then, the website for reporting power outages crashed and the phone lines jammed, text messages and apps fared little better, trees tangled in electrical wires blocked major thoroughfares days later and the company couldn’t track what traffic lights were still out.

Are we talking about Superstorm Sandy in 2012 – or Tropical Storm Isaias just a few days ago?

In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias, my office has received numerous calls and emails from frustrated residents who feel ignored by PSEG-LI.

During my 14 years as an elected official, I have witnessed first-hand what a Herculean task it is to respond to a regional natural disaster.

Storms like Isaias renew my tremendous gratitude for the front-line work crews and employees whose tireless efforts help get us back on our feet amidst extremely challenging and perilous circumstances.

In my opinion, however, PSEG-LI’s management has left much to be desired throughout this process, especially when you consider that Isaias was considerably smaller, weaker, and faster-moving than the historic behemoth that was Sandy.

Beyond the obvious frustration of being without power for days on end, business owners who were already reeling from the pandemic were dealt another costly blow. Many restaurateurs were faced with yet another loss of thousands of dollars – this time, from spoiled food – when they can least afford it.

Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities struggled to care for our most vulnerable residents – our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, spouses and friends – during a global pandemic amidst a sweltering summer. Residents who rely upon electrical medical devices for treatment were placed in unacceptable peril.

And, when several of Glen Cove’s water wells lost power, the city was forced to implement urgent water restrictions so that potable water was available for residents and first responders.

I believe this must serve as a wake-up call for all of us. I support the efforts of any agency with jurisdiction – New York State’s Public Service Commission; LIPA; and New York State Attorney General Letitia James, to name a few – to investigate so that the errors PSEG-LI made during Tropical Storm Isaias are not repeated.

The Nassau County Legislature’s Superstorm Sandy Committee will explore this topic during its next meeting, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Aug. 17. I encourage you to share your thoughts and feedback with me before then.

Our experience with Tropical Storm Isaias illustrates the challenges presented when a monopoly is the sole provider of a service that is central to our daily lives.

PSEG-LI, LIPA and outside investigators must quickly determine what went wrong and make immediate corrections to prepare for the remainder of what meteorologists say will be a very active hurricane season.


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