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Some NYC outages could linger into mid-November

Associated Press

Some residents in the city's outer boroughs and northern suburbs may not have electricity until mid-November, though most of Manhattan is expected to be lit back up by the weekend, utility officials said Thursday.

Some 575,000 homes, businesses and buildings in the city and Westchester County remained without electricity as utility Consolidated Edison pumped water out of flooded underground vaults in Manhattan and grappled elsewhere with wind-downed overhead power lines.

While Con Ed has restored power to 335,000 customers since the storm, officials warned that it would be until Nov. 10 or 11 before most of the damage to overhead lines was repaired and a week longer before all of it was fixed. The utility initially said it would take at least a week to fix the damage from the monster storm, which struck Monday night.

The timeframe grew longer after Con Ed got a look at the damage, operations Vice President John Miksad said.

"We don't want to blow smoke on this," he said. "We want to make sure that folks can plan their lives accordingly. We're doing our damnedest ... but it is what it is, and it's a long, hard slog to get this restoration done."

Still, residents and local officials grew increasingly frustrated.

In stricken parts of Brooklyn, "it's unimaginable that these communities may have to wait more than two weeks to have power back," Borough President Marty Markowitz said.

His counterpart in Queens, Helen Marshall, said residents of devastated areas there "want to make certain that we are getting our fair share of resources."

While prospects were brighter in Manhattan, politicians and residents alike worried for disabled and elderly people stuck in tall buildings where the power outage means elevators, heat and often running water aren't working.

In Stephen Weisbrot's still-dark lower Manhattan neighborhood, "a lot of people are living in high-rises who haven't been able to come down because they're so high up," the 21-year-old said. "I feel like it's slowly turning into a humanitarian crisis."

The diverging timelines for getting power back in Manhattan and elsewhere reflect the different ways power is supplied in the city, Con Ed says.

The Manhattan outages involve flooded underground lines and a transformer fire at a substation during the storm. The outages are numerous — about 220,000 customers are without power — but they're more concentrated and faster to fix than are the 100,000 downed overhead power lines around the city and Westchester County, some in areas where trees are down and roads are blocked, Miksad said.

While Con Ed aims to turn the power back on throughout Manhattan by Saturday, that doesn't mean the lights will go on in every blacked-out building. About 130 buildings, many of them in the financial district, suffered so much flooding that their own electrical equipment is damaged or still underwater, Miksad said.

And some large buildings and apartment complexes will still be waiting for heat, hot water and other services that come from Con Ed's underground steam system. The system was shut down south of midtown during the storm and will probably take about another week to put back into service in some places, Miksad said.

Con Ed doesn't have a detailed estimate of the costs of fixing the outages but expects the bill to run hundreds of millions of dollars, he said.

November 2, 2012 - 10:16am


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