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Tens of thousands still without power a week after Isaias, with LI still worst hit

Posted at 8:58 PM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-11 23:45:12-04

NASSAU COUNTY, Long Island — As PSEG Long Island, the utility that serves 1.1 million customers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, handed out ice and water to its tens of thousands of customers who still have no electricity, its contractor greeted each waiting customer by saying, "Happy Tuesday."

For people in the more than 20,000 homes without power for the eighth straight day, Tuesday was by no means happy.

Shymali Saha is a PSEG Long Island customer who lives in Roslyn. She was in the line of cars picking up the free ice and water, and marveled at how her home has been dark and un-air conditioned since last Tuesday, when Tropical Storm Isaias took down thousands of trees, which in turn took down power lines.

This Tuesday, the heat index was around 100 degrees. It was not pleasant in Saha's home.

She said she'd received text alerts from the utility saying when a work crew would come to restore her power.

"They change[d] it three times," Saha said.

It is the biggest complaint by customers, like Dr. Greg Lieberman.

"They said we were going to be on Monday...then 3:00 p.m. Wednesday," said Lieberman. "Who knows," he continued, "I don't really believe that."

PIX11 News first encountered Lieberman last week, when the road on which he lives had been covered with fallen trees and live power lines. Now, the trees are cleared and the lines cut, but it's not clear when power will be properly restored.

For the Stevens family on Long Island, the seventh night after tropical storm Isaias will be spent much like the first — in the dark.

"They're going to try to dispatch a crew tonight to get us up and running. If not, they have to come back in the morning and see what they can do then," Lori Stevens said.

A transformer blew near their home here in the Strathmore section of North Shore, Nassau County near Manhasset; by Tuesday night, several of their neighbors were enjoying restored power.

Perry Stevens also knows many of his neighbors didn’t have to deal with a fallen tree on their home.

"From up there, I heard a crash," he said. "The power went out at the same time, and I found this tree on my house, and a large limb was protruding into my living room. And thank God no one was standing there, because they probably would have been killed."

Late on Tuesday afternoon, PSEG Long Island President Daniel Eichorn said in a Zoom news conference that all of its customers should have their power back on Wednesday.

If they do not, it would be the latest in a growing list of missteps PSEG Long Island has made.

In addition to a seemingly endless string of repair and restoration updates that the utility has sent out that it was not able to meet, it's given out ice and water at specific locations. Many other utilities, in power outage situations, give out dry ice instead. It doesn't melt, and it cools longer and more efficiently.

Also, some other utilities do such giveaways in communities without power. PSEG Long Island's giveaways were at PSEG facilities. In other words, it's having affected customers come to it, rather than the other way around.

It also has far more customers without power than its neighboring large utility, Con Edison, even though Con Ed serves three times as many customers than PSEG Long Island.

The situation left the Long Island utility company's president appearing to state the obvious at his press briefing.

"Our customers have made it clear," Eichorn said, "We know we have to get better."