US: Blackouts Remain For 4.8 Million As Power Repairs Begin

Blackouts Remain for 4.8 Million as Power Repairs Begin (Bloomberg, Nov 1, 2012):

Power has been restored to almost half of the millions of homes and businesses blacked out by Hurricane Sandy, with 4.8 million customers still without electricity as utilities repaired flooded equipment and downed transmission lines.

Consolidated Edison Inc. (ED) restored two underground networks in New York City last night, reducing its total number of blackouts to 659,447 from as many as 930,000 affected by the storm. Utilities in Connecticut said yesterday they expect to complete damage assessments and give power restoration times today.

While lights flicked on yesterday in downtown Newark, New Jersey, progress was slow further south where Sandy made landfall Oct. 29, and northeast in New York City, overwhelmed by a record 14-foot (4.3-meter) tide that surged into the underground power system. The hurricane caused the biggest storm-related blackout in Con Edison’s history.

As many as 8.5 million homes and businesses lost power from Sandy in an area spanning New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and 12 other eastern states, the U.S. Energy Department said. About 4.8 million customers remain without power, according to an estimate tallied by Bloomberg from utility statements and websites as of about 7 a.m. New York time.

The storm continued to take a toll yesterday, dropping snow on parts of West Virginia (FWV) that knocked out power to 22 percent of the state. About 173,200 West Virginia customers are without power today, based on the latest reports of utilities owned by FirstEnergy Corp. and American Electric Power Co.

New Jersey

More than half of New Jersey customers lost power from the storm, according to the Energy Department. The state had 2.6 million homes and businesses blacked out, the largest number of power failures.

Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PEG), owner of New Jersey’s largest utility, reported 780,000 customers without power today, down from a peak of 1.7 million. Areas restored included 85 percent of Newark, the state’s largest city, and Newark International Airport, utility president Ralph Larossa said yesterday in conference calls with reporters.

Full restoration may yet take a week to 10 days, Larossa said. FirstEnergy’s Jersey Central Power & Light, owner of the second-largest utility in the state, still had 903,000 customers without power as of 7:30 a.m. local time.

Connecticut Dark

The utility owner, based in Akron, Ohio, said damage exceeded that from Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and an unseasonably early snowstorm in October 2011.

A quarter of Connecticut remained in the dark after utilities had restored power to 124,000 of the 626,560 homes and businesses that lost it during the storm, the Energy Department reported yesterday.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to communicate out our first global restoration projection” today, William Quinlan, senior vice president of emergency preparedness for Northeast Utilities (NU)’ Connecticut Light & Power, said at a press conference yesterday.

In lower Manhattan, where an “army” of workers dried sea- soaked equipment with household fans, Con Edison switched on 2,000 customers near the World Trade Center, John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations, said in a conference call yesterday.

Another 28,200 homes and businesses in Brooklyn, including Coney Island, were also restored. The utility expects all underground lines will be turned on by tomorrow or Nov. 3, he said.

Storm Backlash

Power companies are under pressure to show they’ve learned from recent storms and can move quickly to restore electricity after Sandy battered the region with unprecedented flooding and devastation. The backlash that followed the slow response to Hurricane Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm may be heightened if widespread blackouts persist through the U.S. presidential election Nov. 6.

“By day four, day five, patience will start to run thin,” Gregg Edeson, a Los Angeles-based utility industry consultant and executive at PA Consulting, said in an Oct. 30 interview. “I really do think you’ll see a better coordinated effort, but at the end of the day, it’s going to take some time to get customers restored.”

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