2006-09-08 / Front Page

LIPA: Next Storm Could Be Worse Than Ernesto

Tropical Depression Ernesto's remnants hit Long Island and the Rockaway peninsula with tropical storm-force wind gusts as high as 57 miles per hour that brought down trees and tree branches area-wide.

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) said that hundreds of trees came down during the storm, damaging homes and property, and bringing down power lines and causing outages in record numbers.

While most of Rockaway's outages were on the extreme eastern end of the peninsula, there were scattered outages in Belle Harbor and Neponsit as well.

A spokesperson for LIPA told The Wave that during Ernesto's 15-hour visit, some 128,000 LIPA customers (Including nearly 1,500 on the peninsula) lost electric service that took about two days to restore completely. A Category 3 hurricane could cause 750,000 to one million outages that could take 15 to 30 days to completely restore. Is Long Island or Rockaway ready for such a catastrophic event, the utility asks?

"Ernesto packed quite a punch, but we recovered quickly," said LIPA Chairman Richard M. Kessel. "By comparison, a category three hurricane would devastate the local area's electric system; thousands of residential homes and commercial buildings would sustain severe damage; coastal areas would flood, and flooding would occur well inland according to storm-surge projections.

Kessel said that Rockaway could be completely flooded and that the south shore of Long Island could conceivably flood from the ocean to Sunrise Highway all along Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

He added that Ernesto uncovered a major vulnerability on both Long Island and on the Rockaway peninsula- dead and rotting trees that made the electrical wires nearby the trees more vulnerable.

He said that hundreds of full trees and parts of trees came down during the storm, inflicting major property damage and causing thousands of power outages. He called on area residents to immediately inspect their trees to identify dead and rotting trees or branches that should be removed as quickly as possible.

"As we saw with Ernesto, trees will come down and cause property damage and power outages," said Kessel. "LIPA trims trees along about 1,800 miles of power line circuit miles each year, which means that over the last eight years we've trimmed about 14,400 circuit miles in total. We've also removed hundreds of dead trees from our rights of way.

"It's important for property owners to do the same," said Kessel.

"Property owners need to inspect the trees on their property for dead branches and signs of disease, rot and bug infestations that can make them vulnerable to being knocked down by hurricane or tropical storm-force winds. And if they have not done so already they need to do it now, because the storm next time could be a lot worse than Ernesto," Kessel said.

"Since Ernesto hit Rockaway and Long Island, we've also checked some of our substations along the southern tier of Nassau County and in Rockaway as well as transmission and distribution lines throughout our service area to look for any undetected storm-related damage that needs attention now so we're ready for the next storm," said Kessel. "Homeowners and businesses on Long Island and in Rockaway should do the same thing."

Kessel added that LIPA is doing everything within its power to ensure that power for homes and businesses continues uninterrupted during future storms, but added that Ernesto was only a tropical storm when it hit the area and yet it caused lots of disruption throughout the service area.

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