Two Weeks After Sandy, Some People Still Powerless

A lineman prepares to work on a power line in Plainview, New York, last Friday.

Celia Nicolosi says she was anxious to get back to school.

And her parents were anxious for her to go back, too.

“We were getting to the point of annoying them,” said Celia, an eighth-grader at Memorial Middle School in Little Ferry, New Jersey, in an interview with the Record newspaper.

On Monday, Celia returned to class for the first time since Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey.

She and her classmates missed two weeks of school.

And according to the Record, she won’t be able to return to her usual school building until sometime next month, because of flood damage.

So for the time being, the kids and teachers from Memorial are using classrooms at Angel Academy in nearby Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

“Everyone has the same story,” Celia told Record reporter Denisa Superville.  “Flooded basements.  Some people’s roofs leaked.  A lot of cars (are) gone.”

As of Monday, nearly 6,200 customers in New Jersey still didn’t have their electrical power back, according to the Associated Press (AP) — two weeks after Sandy stormed across the state.

And in neighboring New York, the number was as high as 80,000 customers, according to published reports.

(A customer could be a house, a business or an entire apartment building.  So that means well over 80,000 people were still in the dark.)

Most of the trouble was reportedly on New York’s Long Island.

As of Tuesday morning, approximately 65,000 customers of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) were still waiting for the lights to come back on, according to various reports.

That includes 46,000 customers whose homes or electrical equipment are so badly damaged that the power can’t be restored right now – or maybe ever.

Granted, Hurricane Sandy was a major natural disaster.

And at the height of the storm, LIPA said nearly one million of its customers were without power.

But a number of LIPA customers are still angry and frustrated – especially the ones who still don’t have their power back.

They say the company has left them in the dark – both literally and figuratively.

“Every time I called, they hung up on me,” said Seaford, New York, resident Priscilla Niemiera, in an interview with the AP.

“Nobody ever answered the phone,” said Levittown, New York, resident Richard Vitagliano, in an interview with Newsday, the local newspaper on Long Island.  “We get a recording.”

“I was up ‘til midnight,” said Carrie Baram of Baldwin Harbor, New York, in an interview with WNBC.  “Nobody bothered to answer the telephone.”

On Monday, LIPA reportedly announced plans to open an “information center” in hard-hit Oceanside, New York.

But according to Newsday, LIPA’s chief operating officer, Michael Hervey, never really explained why the company waited two weeks to do that.

“They’re going to be held accountable,” an angry New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Monday.

In New York City, Consolidated Edison reported on Monday that it had restored power to all of its customers who lost it because of Sandy – except for approximately 16,000 whose electrical equipment needed to be repaired first.

Those customers included the apartment building in the Brighton Beach neighborhood where Sofia Dashevsky and her 92-year-old husband Arkady live.

“No lights,” she told WNBC reporter Tracie Strahan.  “Battery don’t work.  Cold.  Two weeks – nothing.”

On Monday, the Dashevsky’s building superintendent told WNBC the electrical equipment there had already been certified as safe

“We need Con Edison to come and make the connection,” he told Strahan.

It has already snowed once in New York and New Jersey since Sandy hit.

Temperatures were expected to be back down in the 30s Tuesday night.

And another storm might be on the way in a few days.

That’s all the more reason why people who still don’t have electricity want it back now.

That includes James Castellano of Valley Stream, New York.

He and his wife returned to a cold, dark house, according to WNBC – with their newborn son.

“I’ve been calling LIPA every day for the last two weeks,” Castellano told WNBC reporter Pei-Sze Cheng.  “Nobody answers.”