WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- While tempers flared and emotions ran high during the tumultuous period following Hurricane Sandy, one year later, there’s one topic residents continue to discuss: Con Edison’s response and how they intend to prevent another disaster.
With “100-Year Storms” becoming an almost annual occurrence, the pressure has been on Con Edison to fix many of last year’s problems, which included communications issues, an uninformed staff of freelance help and some residents without power for nearly two weeks.
The company has been hard at work as part of a $1 billion plan to protect the critical infrastructure that helped cause so many headaches last year.
“Con Edison’s workers have played a role in developing a fortified energy system,” Con Edison President Craig Ivey said. “Damaging weather is becoming more frequent. When a storm hits the region, we want to restore customers safely and quickly.”
Locally, municipalities throughout Westchester have also taken steps to protect their towns and villages from hurricanes. In Chappaqua, the New Castle Town Board added a three-prong communications system; in Scarsdale – after a lengthy debate – the Board of Trustees relaxed village regulations on permanent emergency generators and Tuckahoe officials installed an emergency generator to power the DPW facilities, among others.
“The storm was a monster. There were people who lost life, limb and property,” Joan Maybury, the supervisor for the Town of Mount Pleasant, said after the storm hit.
Hurricane Sandy caused more than 300,000 Westchester residents to lose power beginning on Oct. 29 last year. As part of the infrastructure improvements, Con Edison installed a series of “smart switches” which will allow them to isolate damaged equipment, reducing the number of homes that lose power when a power line is felled. Con Edison plans to install more than 200 switches, while fortifying power cables and utility poles to withstand wind gusts of up to 110 mph.
To improve safety during storms, Con Edison is implementing a pilot program that allows service wires to detach more easily, which prevents damage to poles or homes. They are also developing software that would allow rapid damage assessment on handheld devices.
Con Edison will also increase communication between itself and local officials by having a liaison for each municipality that is familiar with the infrastructure. Local officials will be able to get details about outages, road closures, crew locations and dry ice distribution.
New Rochelle resident Donna Cooper, 49, said that despite the projects and improvements, she is still anxious about another Hurricane Sandy coming our way.
“We were without power for almost eight days when it hit. At the time, we directed most of our anger towards Con Ed, wondering what was going on,” she said. “They keep saying that they’re improving things, but I’m worried that if another storm comes, it will be the same thing all over again.”
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