2005-03-18 / Community

Blackout Strikes West End On Wednesday

By Howard Schwach

The loss of a supply cable in Rockaway Beach led to a blackout that impacted more than 12,000 west end customers on Wednesday morning, according to Michael Lowndes, a spokesperson for the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA).

According to the LIPA spokesperson, the blackout started at 7:19 a.m., when a New York City contractor, EIC, working on a public works project at Dickens Street and Cornaga Avenue in Far Rockaway struck one of the two transmission lines connecting Rockaway with the rest of the LIPA grid in Nassau County, knocking it out of acion.. Lowndes said that the second supply cable was out of service in “maintenance mode” when the other cable went down.

The original blackout area stretched roughly between Beach 90 Street and Breezy Point.

Police in the 100 Precinct were inundated with calls of occupied stuck elevators and home alarms going off.

An Aide at PS 114 in Belle Harbor reportedly turned back parents arriving at the school for the day with the word that the school had been closed for lack of heat, although calls to The Wave indicated that the school was reopened at 8:30 a.m., when electricity returned to that area.

Alicia Maxey, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, after speaking with the school’s principal, denied that school staff had told parents that the school was closed.

“The school program went on without interruption despite the power outage,” she said. “No school staff was authorized to tell parents that the school was closed.”

Maxey indicated that perhaps a school crossing guard had provided the inaccurate information to parents.

She added that the school, which had a 75.9 percent attendance on Wednesday, almost 20 points lower than normal, according to the school‘s on-line report card, called parents after the power came back on to report that the school was open.

Parents reporting to St. Francis de Sales School in beach 129 Street were reportedly given the choice of leaving their children or taking them home.

Beach Channel High School, which had no power, remained open, but many students reportedly decided not to attend, hanging out on Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Beach Boulevard instead. When the blackout ended, police officers from the 100 Precinct helped to guide students back to school.

Many of the stores on Beach 116 Street and Beach 129 Street continued their business in the dark, serving coffee that was heated on gas grills.

Lowndes said that the electricity began to come back from east to west beginning about eight minutes after the blackout began.

By 8:30 a.m. electricity to Breezy Point and the rest of the peninsula was restored.

Police sources say there were no injuries or deaths as a result of the one hour and fifteen minute blackout.

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