Tens of thousands of New Yorkers are still without power, more than 48 hours after Tropical Storm Isaias ravaged trees and power lines throughout the region. Those customers, Con Ed said on Thursday, may not get their lights back on until Sunday — or possibly even later.
"The storm really packed a wallop, and had an incredible impact on our infrastructure,” Con Ed President Tim Cawley said during a briefing with reporters. "This event is second only to Superstorm Sandy in terms of the customer impact."
As of Thursday afternoon, 65,000 New York City customers and 73,000 Westchester customers still did not have power. Cawley said he expected "the majority" would get their power back by Sunday night.
The powerful wind gusts, which reached 70 miles-per-hour in some locations, caught the utility off guard, Cawley added. Crews are now learning "these are not repair jobs, these are rebuild jobs."
The Con Ed president declined to say how the utility was prioritizing their rebuilding, explaining that they were "attacking all the boroughs in parallel." Queens currently has the most outages of any borough, while Manhattan saw almost no impact, due to the island's buried power lines.
The utility's sluggish response to the outage has earned them the wrath of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who directed the Department of Public Service to investigate Con Ed and other utilities.
(Previous investigations into Con Ed by the utilities regulator have yielded paltry results; shortly after the inquiry was launched into last summer's blackouts, the Cuomo-controlled Public Service Commission approved a $1.2 billion rate hike for Con Ed customers over the next three years.)
In exchange for a previous rate hike, Con Ed had promised to bury some of its above-ground power lines to avoid major outages from intense storms. The utility later changed their mind, deciding instead to install more storm resistant outdoor poles and wires, ABC-7 reported at the time, prompting accusations of a bait-and-switch.
Asked on Thursday whether Con Ed planned to revisit the idea of bringing power lines underground in the outer-boroughs, given the apparent failure of the above-ground mitigation efforts, Cawley dismissed the idea as "prohibitively expensive."
The investor-owned utility reported $1.4 billion in profits in 2018. New Yorkers currently pay roughly 40 percent more for electricity than the rest of the country, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
As you wait for the power to return — and contemplate whether we as a city are ready for the growing frequency of severe weather as a result of the climate crisis — consider visiting one of the follow locations to pick up dry ice, generously provided by Con Ed to all customers experiencing black outs:
- The Home Depot in Ozone Park at 11220 Rockaway Park Boulevard,
- The George Seuffert Bandshell parking lot, 19 Forest Park Drive, in Queens
- The Staten Island Mall, 2655 Richmond Avenue
- The Home Depot in the Bronx, at 1806 East Gun Hill Road
- In Westchester, at the Yorktown Food Emporium, 355 Downing Drive, in Yorktown Heights
- New Rochelle City Hall, at 515 North Avenue, in the rear parking lot