Editor's Note: This article was written and submitted by Joe Dowd.
A top official with the Long Island Power Authority said Friday it will take at least until next weekend to restore power to most of the communities it serves.
That estimate does not include portions of Long Island that were ravaged by flooding or other catastrophic damage left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Nicholas Lizanich, vice president of operations for LIPA, said the utility is facing an unprecedented disaster – twice the impact of last year's Hurricane Irene. He added that LIPA has restored service to about half its customers.
The interview came on the same day Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeated a pointed warning to the power companies. Cuomo said utilities could be fined or lose their license to operate if they are not responsive to their customers.
LIPA has slightly more than 1 million customers.
"We've reached the halfway point and are doing well in that regard," Lizanich said. Another 520,000 households – more than 1 million people – remain without power to their homes and businesses. Power will be restored incrementally as the work progresses.
But Lizanich could not be more specific about which areas will be powered-up next because crews are working to restore distribution points along the electrical grid first.
Also, it will take much longer to restore power to about 100,000 customers living in flood damaged areas along the South Shore, including the Rockaways and communities facing the Great South Bay.
LIPA normally operates with about 500 utility workers, but out-of-state crews have come in to lend a hand, pumping the total number working to restore power to about 3,000. Another 2,000 are expected to join the workforce in the coming days.
Some crews and their trucks are being flown in from California, Arizona, Texas and Florida via C-130 cargo planes arriving at East Coast Air Force bases. The hurricane damaged vast stretches of Atlantic seaboard, and utility crews are in demand for 1,000 miles, he said.
Gov. Cuomo, at a wide ranging press conference this morning in New York, demanded timely results from LIPA and the other utilities.
"I will hold them accountable for their performance," Cuomo said. "I'm going to remind them of that every day – in fact, twice a day – that I will hold them accountable."
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