Last year, Mayor Bloomberg freaked everyone out when he mentioned that Con Ed might preemptively shut off the power to Lower Manhattan before Hurricane Irene touched down. Well, we don't want you to get too worked up just yet, but it seems history may be repeating itself: we've heard reports that people in the Financial District have started receiving automated calls from Con Ed informing them that power MAY be turned off before the Frankenstorm hits the city.

Here's what Brian Topping had to say:

It was a recorded message stating something to the effect that "Sandy is a very powerful storm and to protect our sensitive equipment in lower Manhattan, Con Ed will be turning off power in areas that are affected by the storm. This is to ensure that we can restore service more quickly after it is done." I looked out the window shortly thereafter and there was a Con Ed truck in exactly the same place there was during Irene, where we lost steam for the hot water for something like two days straight.

A Con Ed spokesman noted that it was too premature to say whether or not that might actually happen. They also explained the rationale for cutting off power in anticipation of a possible storm: "It protects equipment from salt water and makes restoration of power easier. Obviously underground equipment gets rain year round but salt water is especially damaging."

Topping, who is a member of Dorkbot NYC (their motto: "people doing strange things with electricity"), didn't seem entirely convinced by that though:

As far as the salt water thing, it's an interesting perspective, but not a trump card. The system is *designed* to be shorted, automatically isolating the areas that have the shorted mains. Once the mains and/or transformer rooms are waterlogged with salt water, they can't just turn it back on, they have to dry everything out. It's practically the same amount of work, the only difference is they don't have to reset the breaker. And we know from electrical storms that knock out power temporarily that it doesn't take long to reset a breaker.

On the other hand, if the system never becomes waterlogged at all, they've massively inconvenienced the entire area.

That's more my point. They are inconveniencing thousands of families that live down here for the sake of a few extra people to reset a few more breakers (but still have to do all the work of pumping out the system anyway). And that's only if the system *does* get inundated, which is rather unlikely.

On their website, Con Ed writes that they are "closely monitoring Hurricane Sandy and is preparing for possible damage in the company's service area. Forecasts show that tidal surges associated with this storm on Monday, and especially Tuesday, could be worse than Hurricane Irene's last year." They have more tips there, but if you need to report downed power lines, outages, and check service restoration status you can check here, or call 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633).