Hurricane Sandy – Electric Utilities Kick Restoration Efforts Into High Gear

hurricane-sandy-electric-restorationHurricane Sandy continues to show its teeth two full days after the storms greatest impact was felt along the Atlantic coastline.

Of the estimated 8.5 million homes and businesses that were without power after Monday, 4.8 million customers still remain in the dark. Local utilities like Con-Edison, PSE&G, JCP&L, and PECO have worked tirelessly since the disaster occurred, with many crews beginning to feel the exhaustion of 17 hour work days since the storm hit. Despite the round-the-clock effort, there is a high likelihood some individuals are still days away from seeing power restored to their homes.

Many areas along the Jersey shore, lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Long Island Sound are still unreachable for utilities to survey the damage, let alone begin any repairs.

PSE&G released a statement on Thursday, stating, “The magnitude of the flooding in contiguous areas is unprecedented.” Company president Ralph LaRossa added, “PSE&G will be working around the clock to assess the damage and restore service. Given the destructive nature of this storm, however, some customers may be without service for seven or more days.”

The most daunting aspect of the cleanup for utilities stems from underground wires and power equipment that span much of New York City and cities like Newark, NJ – who fortunately did have their 85% of their power restored on Tuesday. Having to clean, dry, and test miles of wiring that were submerged in the salt waters of the Atlantic Ocean has considerably slowed the progress of the recovery.

In addition, seven of the twenty-three subway lines in NYC are either partially or completely submerged in sea water. Merely pumping the water out of the lines could take days of effort, let alone the tedious inspection and repair of the thousands of wires, signal systems, and connections within the system. Although fourteen subway lines will resume today, in addition to limited service on the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North, damaged areas could easily take weeks to become fully functional once again.

Based on estimates, over 60,000 linemen, substation experts, and maintenance technicians have entered the fray, hundreds of which from other parts of the country.

• Two Arizona utilities, Salt River Project (SRP) and Arizona Public Service Co, (APS) have already shipped over 100 linemen and substation experts, along with several bucket trucks to Long Island, where the grand majority of citizens remain without power. In addition, despite some logistical concerns, SRP and APS have volunteered to also send additional equipment by request.
• Southern California Edison was asked to send an additional 40 workers and 60 support vehicles, in addition to the 170 workers they initially intended to send for the effort. They have also considered working with local military bases to quicken the process of getting across the country.
• Pacific Gas & Electric plans on sending at least 4 massive generators by request of Con Edison, capable of powering up to an entire city block or more. In addition, they flew 150 specialists on Tuesday into the storm zone.
• Duke Energy, based out of North Carolina, added 1,000 more workers on Wednesday, bringing their total to 2,700 spread out over 8 states. Lloyd Gates, Duke’s executive vice president for customer operations, added, “This is the largest out-of-state deployment in our company’s history.”

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