Downed trees tangled up in power lines Saturday morning on Old Stone Road near Penny Drive in the Timber Park section of Calverton. Photo: Denise Civiletti

PSEG-Long Island says it has restored service to 75% of the customers who lost power in Tropical Storm Isaias Tuesday, and “nearly all” customers will be restored by the end of the day Sunday.

The company fell short of the 85% restoration estimate it expected to meet by the end of the day, an estimate it repeated as late as 9:30 p.m. Thursday. It did not acknowledge or address the issue in an update issued at 9:45 p.m. yesterday.

The utility said last night “fewer than 95,000 of the approximately 420,000 storm-affected customers remain without power.” While it expects “nearly all” customers to be restored by the end of the day Sunday, it is possible that “a handful of the most extensive jobs may be restored early Monday,” PSEG-LI said in a press release.

PSEG-LI’s online outage map is still showing nearly twice the number of outages being reported by the company in its periodic daily updates. PSEG has labeled the map with a disclaimer stating, “MAP DATA MAY CONTAIN INACCURACIES.”

“Power restoration is progressing faster than can be displayed on the outage map,” PSEG-LI has said in press releases issued this week. The company has not explained the cause of this lag time.

The map is a tool provided for customers to track progress and view the company’s estimates for restoration of power for outages across its system.

BESCO utility crews from Tennessee arrive on Osprey Avenue in Riverhead Saturday morning. Photo: Denise Civiletti

PSEG-LI has acknowledged it has had significant disruptions in communications with customers in the aftermath of Isaias. Customers were unable to get through to the PSEG-LI call center to report outages, the text messaging system was not functioning and the company’s website was down.

PSEG-LI maintains that the communications problems did not affect its ability to assess storm damage or dispatch and coordinate repairs.

The company initially blamed its problems on Verizon, which it said provides PSEG-LI with phone and internet services. The day after the storm, PSEG-LI said it has “overcome many of the issues with Verizon that affected our call center operations” Tuesday. But customers continue to complain they cannot get through to the call center and the outage map is still not functioning accurately.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered the Department of Public Service to investigate the “failed storm response” of PSEG-LI, Verizon and other downstate utility companies who he said failed to adequately plan for or respond to the storm.

State lawmakers representing the East End yesterday called on PSEG leadership to better respond to the needs of their customers and improve communication with the public.

State Sen. Ken LaValle and Assembly members Anthony Palumbo and Fred Thiele issued a joint press release yesterday criticizing the utility’s response to the storm and its failure to communicate with customers. The legislators said they are “deeply appreciative” of the crews “working tirelessly” in the field.

“We are calling on PSEG leadership to use every resource possible to get the power turned back on. Once that is accomplished, we will demand a full investigation of why the system failed at all levels and how it will be fixed going forward,” the legislators said in the press release.

“It is unacceptable that after infusing substantial amounts of rate payer dollars into storm hardening and communication systems after Super Storm Sandy, many customers are still in the dark days after the storm, and could not get through to PSEG to report their outage,” LaValle said.

“Communication in times of crisis is critical and PSEG’s system completely failed,” he said.

“Additionally, staging efforts were insufficient, and towns were left waiting on PSEG crews to clean up downed trees and wires. If this is a measure of their ability to respond, they are woefully unprepared for a major storm or hurricane,” LaValle said.

Thiele called PSEG’s performance “completely unacceptable” and “particularly problematic during a pandemic when people are forced to remain inside and work from home.”

Palumbo said the situation is “another sign of how outdated our communications lines are” and faulted PSEG for failing to overhaul “their antiquated systems.”

Brookhaven Town officials said the utility’s communication problems were far worse than what residents experienced in the aftermath of Sandy.

“The collapse of PSEG’s telephone and text systems have led to a near information blackout. In short, the entire communications system put in place by PSEG was a monumental failure,” Supervisor Ed Romaine and Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said in a press release Thursday afternoon.

More than 1,600 trees came down across Brookhaven, with more than 400 of those involving power lines, the officials said.

“With no crews assigned to this task on the day of the storm, seven yesterday and 10 today, it will take many more days to clear those roads that require PSEG assistance,” Romaine and Losquadro said in a joint statement. “This has resulted in street closures, residents unable to leave their homes and a dangerous obstacle for emergency responders.”

Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson had similar complaints about the wait for PSEG crews needed to remove or de-energize power lines before highway workers can remove trees and limbs that were blocking roads.

Brookhaven officials called on the utility to bury power lines across its system.

“It is well past time for our electric utility to abandon the 19th century technology of power lines on wooden poles and make annual investments in beginning the process of moving all lines underground,” Romaine and Losquadro said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.