Commissioner Tom Cuff, Jr. (far right) with one of the stand-by crews. Potos by Don Wansor
The Long Island Power Authority's 1.1 million electric customers became part of the largest blackout in history when 50 million people lost electric service in the Northeast, portions of Canada and the mid-west on Thursday, Aug. 14, at 4:14 p.m.
The day after the power outage, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray announced that fees were waived at town beaches while power outages continued to affect area residents. Additionally, town pools were temporarily closed due to a lack of power needed to operate pool filtration systems. Some town pools remained open and those residents who are members of pools that were temporarily closed were invited to swim at alternate town facilities that were operational. Hours at these pools were extended.
Levittown firefighters remained on high alert during the blackout. According to Fire Chief John Rottkamp, the department didn't have many emergencies to respond to during the power outage, which was a lucky thing, since roadways in the community were very congested.
"As soon as the power went out, we got about three or four calls at the same time so we started responding," he said. "It was a problem getting through because all the traffic lights were out [and] everybody was on [Hempstead] Turnpike," Rottkamp added that there were quite a few car accidents on the turnpike, most of them minor.
"There were a lot of different things happening at the same time. Once we got that settled, we started getting calls for people on oxygen," the chief explained, noting that the department responded immediately as these residents did not have backup generators available to run their machines. Rottkamp said that the department set up small generators for those residents so that their apparatus would be able to function during the outage.
Rottkamp said that firefighters stayed on call until about 1 a.m. and luckily the department did not have to respond to many emergencies in the community. He did note that Levittown helped assist the East Meadow Fire Department on a couple of calls, including a fairly major car accident and a garage fire. Rottkamp said that he was impressed by how the community pulled together during the blackout.
"I personally saw a lot of people directing traffic, just getting out of their cars and helping out," he said. "I think everybody really realized the situation and handled it very well."
Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) Chairman Richard Kessel announced that LIPA's transmission and distribution system (T&D) is now operating normally and that LIPA will have a sufficient supply of electricity to meet Long Island's requirements for the work week. However, LIPA's residential and commercial customers are urged to follow Governor George Pataki's appeal to do everything possible to conserve energy throughout the week.
"For Long Island, the immediate crisis of the Blackout of 2003 is over, but Long Islanders must continue to use electricity prudently and conservatively," said Kessel on Monday, Aug. 18. "Long Island must start the work week focused on the need to eliminate non-essential electric consumption and avoid the use of all unnecessary electrical equipment and appliances."
Long Island's business community can play a major role in this effort by:
• shutting down underutilized copiers, computers and other office machines;
• raising thermostats to 78 degrees;
• turning off all lights and electrical appliances in unoccupied areas; and
• closing the blinds and shades to limit heat build-up and to preserve cooled air.
Energy efficient residential air-conditioning can save electricity, and help LIPA meet Long Island's energy needs. To get the most from your air-conditioning unit LIPA suggests the following:
• set the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher for the most energy efficient operation,
• use fans to move the air inside your home. This gives the sensation that it is five degrees cooler than the actual temperature. Shade windows on the sunny side of your home. Keep drapes closed or add room-darkening shades to block out the heat from the sun,
• use a programmable thermostat to routinely raise the inside temperature while you are at work or routinely away from home for four hours or longer. Pre-set the thermostat to adjust back to your normal comfort range 1/2 hour before getting home. This automatic adjustment reduces the cumulative operation of the air conditioner while you are away, and eliminates any discomfort when you arrive home. You can contact LIPA to enroll in the LIPA Edge Program, a first-in-the-nation Internet-based air conditioner control program,
• do not set the thermostat at a colder setting than normal when turning on the air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and, therefore, wasted electricity and unnecessary expense.
LIPA has a wide range of energy conservation and efficiency programs and helpful tips that can help consumers reduce electric use and lower monthly bills. To find out more about these programs, customers can log on to www.lipower.org, or they can call LIPA's Energy Wise Infoline, at 1-800-692-2626.
The Long Island Power Authority owns the electric retail business on Long Island. LIPA provides electric service to nearly 1.1 million customers in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.