Frustration mounts over lingering power outages

By Tom Hays

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8 2012 10:19 p.m. MST

Around the region, though, customers were frustrated and in some cases furious, complaining that they were being left in the dark about when power would be restored.

Ralph Barone of Staten Island said he saw a Consolidated Edison crew in his neighborhood on Thursday for the first time since Sandy killed the power.

"The problem is that they won't tell you anything about when the electricity will come back," he said. "My wife is freezing. You need a flashlight to use the bathroom. It gets old."

Barone works assembling meters for another power company, "so I understand it's a big job," he said. "But nine days is too long."

New York's Democratic governor blasted the utilities as "nameless, faceless" monopolies that weren't up to the job, complaining: "They ran out of poles, believe it or not. ... How do you run out of poles?"

"The management has failed the consumers. It is just that simple," said Cuomo, whose power at his own home in the suburbs has been on and off.

Cuomo appears to be all by himself among the New York area's big three politicians. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended Con Ed and said it has done a good job in recent years. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie praised the utilities, saying he expects all of the state to have power back by early Sunday. New Jersey had about 400,000 outages on Thursday.

"The villain in this case is Hurricane Sandy," Christie said.

On Long Island, where more than 262,000 customers were without power and tempers were rising, Long Island Power Authority spokesman Mark Gross would not comment on the criticism, saying only that the utility is focused on restoring power.

Con Ed CEO Kevin Burke said he expects the outages to be fixed in a couple of days, and added, "I'm very sorry that so many people are suffering because their lights are out."

The Edison Electric Institute, the industry's main lobbying group, has called restoring power in Sandy's wake the "single biggest task the utility industry has ever faced." Brian Wolff, EEI senior vice president, said 67,000 utility workers from all around the country are on the job.

"An hour without power is too long. Power is an essential commodity. Our people get that. We are putting every resource to restoring power," he said. But he added, "This was not a minor event."

Even David Wright, president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, sounded a sympathetic note: "There are limits to what a utility can do. A superstorm is an extraordinary event, and in an extraordinary event you get extraordinary circumstances."

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Kiley Armstrong, Jonathan Fahey, Colleen Long, David B. Caruso and Jennifer Peltz in New York; Mike Gormley in Albany, N.Y., Jim Fitzgerald in White Plains, N.Y., and Wayne Parry in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. Hays reported from New York.

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