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Letter: LIPA’s Storm Preparation

Hurricane Earl has raised some concerns about how LIPA prepares for major, forecasted weather events that impact our area. Like any responsible utility, LIPA and its service provider, National Grid, prepare for hurricanes and other major storms based on various sources of information, including forecasts provided by national weather services, local and regional government entities, media outlets, and prior operating experience.

When a major weather event is forecasted, such as Hurricane Earl, LIPA will activate its storm procedures to secure the appropriate level of resources and manpower it needs so that if outages occur, LIPA can respond swiftly and safely to mitigate the number and length of those outages. In order to achieve that objective, it is imperative that LIPA secure linemen and tree trimming crews while they are available and before they are contracted to other utilities, and then deploy those resources to the potentially impacted areas in a timely manner.

LIPA closely monitored the path of Hurricane Earl (which was very similar to Hurricane Bob in 1991, which caused over 470,000 outages to LILCO customers), and coordinated daily with the State Emergency Management Office, Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management, and Suffolk County’s Fire Rescue and Emergency Services. With Long Island in the cone of the hurricane until as late as Thursday, September 2nd, and Tropical Storm Warnings in effect through Friday night, LIPA determined that the available on-Island resources may not be sufficient to timely address the anticipated outages that could occur from this type of event. As with any major storm event, and consistent with the practices of other utilities, LIPA sought mutual aid from neighboring utilities; however, since the forecasts predicted an impact along the entire East Coast, neighboring utilities were not releasing their crews. Thus, LIPA determined it was necessary to secure resources off of Long Island. While it has been suggested that LIPA can put such crews on “standby,” such a scenario only exists for in-house crews and contractors. Without a full commitment up front, those off-Island crews can be lost to neighboring utilities that are also looking to secure additional manpower in preparation of a major storm event. Contrary to recent media reports, LIPA has never suggested that the storm preparation for Hurricane Earl may result in a rate increase. LIPA is currently in the midst of its 2011 budget planning process. This year’s unprecedented storm activity is being carefully considered like all other components of the budget, in order to minimize the impact to our customers. LIPA conducts numerous drills on an annual basis in order to be prepared for any major storm event. While Long Island was fortunate enough to have avoided Hurricane Earl, LIPA recognizes that other major storm events will occur, and its response must be commensurate with the level of service our customers expect and deserve.

Michael Hervey
Chief Operating Officer