The Long Island Power Authority had no advance plan for restoring power to homes severely damaged by flooding from Sandy, despite warnings from experts who peppered their storm surge predictions with phrases like “life-threatening,” “destruction potential” and “worst-case scenario.”
Instead, it took eight full days before LIPA announced that as many as 100,000 South Shore homes, in a swath stretching 60 miles from the Rockaways to Mastic, would need to be inspected for water damage before they could regain power.
That surprise requirement — a first for the authority — turned a chaotic situation into something worse.
Frustrated residents, who already had gone more than a week without heat, electricity or hot water, demanded inspections, power and answers. But for thousands of people, there would be none of those things for days.
Elected officials working with LIPA in the recovery effort said they expressed anger that the inspection process appeared to be driven primarily by liability concerns, hampering the swift return of electric service to their constituents.
In Suffolk County, officials pulled out of LIPA’s effort altogether, two days after scores of customers poured into Babylon Town Hall to secure an inspection. Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said a shoving match broke out, some town employees left in tears, and police had to restore order.
“It was like being sucked into [LIPA’s] vortex of hell,” Schaffer said.
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