Why LIPA Failed

The Long Island Power Authority’s agonizingly slow response to Sandy came after warnings as far back as 2006 that the utility was unprepared to handle a major storm, failed to upgrade antiquated technology, neglected vital maintenance and regularly underbudgeted for storm response.

A state report and a review of records show that the regional utility lagged behind industry standards by not using smartphones and digital tablets — and at times even printers or fax machines — in favor of pen-and-paper memos and dial-up Internet access.

The utility’s critically important power outage management system, which helps direct the recovery response, operates on a 25-year-old mainframe computer that was cited as one of the biggest shortcomings in the utility’s response to Tropical Storm Irene in August of last year.

LIPA chief operating officer Michael Hervey said the new outage management system, which LIPA had contracted last year to replace, had not yet been implemented.

However, he added, “All of the significant items we had already implemented or started to implement,” even before the Public Service Commission report was released.

LIPA neglected basic maintenance to prevent outages, such as replacing rotting poles and trimming trees around power lines, according to a state report released by the Public Service Commission’s Public Service Department in June. The $3.7 billion-a-year government-owned corporation spent $37.5 million less than committed over five years on hardening the grid to protect against major storm damage, according to the report.

Thursday, a Newsday reporter at the Hicksville headquarters of National Grid — the company contracted by LIPA to oversee operations — saw engineers who were using highlighters and paper maps to track thousands of outages, as ratepayers banged in frustration on the building’s locked front doors.

Click here to read the rest of the Newsday story.