Utility: Blackout’s 10 Times Worse Than Originally Reported

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The New York Sun

NEW YORK (AP) – A blackout affecting an estimated 100,000 people in Queens — which entered its fifth day Friday — is 10 times worse than the power company had previously reported, Con Edison said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking on his weekly radio show, said he was “annoyed” by the new estimate _ 25,000 customers without power _ because “we might have thrown more resources into the area.” Bloomberg later made the “100,000 people” estimate at a news conference. The term “customer” can refer to more than one household, or even an entire apartment building.

“The sad thing is, this shouldn’t have happened,” Bloomberg said. “We don’t know why, but the most important thing _ make sure nobody dies or gets hurt and then help Con Ed to get it back up.”

“And then we’ll go and try to figure out why and point fingers and beat people over the head and all that sort of thing,” added the mayor.

Con Edison said its revised number followed a block-by-block cable inspection in northwest Queens on Thursday night. It said previous estimates came from the number of customers who called to complain.

Similarly, Con Edison said Friday that 35,000 customers in Westchester County _ not the 25,000 reported earlier _ lost power after Tuesday’s storm. About 6,000 were still out on Friday morning.

“They have no way of measuring whether or not there’s power to your house” until workers make it to that location, Bloomberg said. “They cannot tell from their computers.”

“Their estimates at the beginning were based on how many people called up and said, ‘My power’s not working.’ … You can question whether that’s an intelligent way to do it,” the mayor said.

The rhetoric was ratcheted up as other politicians jumped into the fray.

Assemblyman Michael Gianaris of Astoria called for a “criminal investigation of Con Edison on the grounds of reckless endangerment.”

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown then issued a statement, saying his Economic Crimes Bureau was conducting a review “to determine if there is any basis for the filing of criminal charges.”

“They’re either pathetic incompetents or pathetic liars,” Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. said of the utility.

Bloomberg said he was told the utility now hopes to fix most of the problems by the end of the weekend.

The blackouts started Monday evening. Two LaGuardia Airport terminals were without power Tuesday; the Rikers Island jail complex used backup generators. A number of subway problems around the city this week were believed to be heat or power related, including severe interruptions in Queens on Wednesday, when the temperature hit 100 degrees in some neighborhoods. By Friday, hundreds of Queens businesses remained idle and homeowners had no use of appliances and, sometimes, elevators.

Bloomberg said the city expected to restore traffic lights by the Friday afternoon rush-hour, with traffic agents posted at remaining intersections.

Uniformed officers were showing a “significant presence” and two burglary arrests were made on Thursday night at blacked-out homes, said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Ambulances and fire vehicles were cruising the streets to speed response times, and a firehouse was handing out water and dry ice to residents, said the mayor and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. The mayor said calls to 911 were down 40 percent because police were on the scene, where residents “can grab them.”

The Human Resources Administration, the Red Cross, the Small Business Bureau and other agencies will provide assistance to the neighborhood through the weekend or for as long as the blackout continues, Bloomberg said.

People who lost food or had other damage were instructed to call 311 to find out how to get reimbursed.

Bloomberg, who visited the area on Thursday, demanded that the utility investigate and deliver a report on the cause within two weeks.

The New York Sun

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