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What Progress Has NYSEG Made Since Irene and Sandy?

Somers Supervisor’s Take in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

By Rich MonettiPublished 6 years ago 3 min read
Somers, NY

I wrote this in 2012. I thought it would be interesting to look back and see if we’ve made any progress in terms of NYSEG, the town's response to storms and power outages

Last year, Hurricane Irene left 85 percent of Somers in dark, cold and exhausting anxiety for up to eight days. Not to be outdone, Sandy scorned 95 percent of the town of its utility, heat and power. A hellish 11 days were endured for the least fortunate. So with Mother Nature getting angrier, the numbers imply the government leaders we entrust have not kept pace with a wrath that doesn't seem to be going away.

In the center of both the storm and the efforts to get her town back online, Somers Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy made herself available for a recounting. She discussed the the town's role between and during the storms, and its ongoing relationship with NYSEG to improve response and preparation.

NYSEG rolls the dice with our safety.

No matter, as these storms descend, the winds whipping around makes the trees seem as though they are laughing at us like the roll of a stacked set of dice. On the other hand, the house (or the town) is supposed to be on your side. So why are the odds not cut or trimmed in our favor beforehand.

“They are NYSEG’s lines,” says Murphy. Unfortunately, outside ownership means the town workers do not have the authority or expertise to operate around the trees without supervision.

Nonetheless, through continued agitation from the town, Somers has gotten some action out of NYSEG since Irene. “They are using a five year plan so basically 20 percent of the town was cut this year,” said Murphy.

NYSEG doesn’t consider climate change.

The 10 percent increase in outage does, though, seem to go against the arithmetic. Murphy attributed the statistic to the unusually easterly direction of Sandy. “Trees and root systems here are stronger to withstand a westerly storm,” Murphy asserted.

The supervisor cited various news sources to make her point, and the result was seen in a vast abundance of completely uprooted trees. As a result, whole sections of town roadways were cut off. “This is a severe safety issue when fire trucks and emergency vehicles cannot get from one part of town to the other,” Murphy lamented.

In this she expressed significant dissatisfaction with NYSEG’s approach. “I don’t think that they gear up enough in advance of the storm. They need to be here before the storm, so as soon as it’s over, work can begin,” she said.

That, of course, would include Somers crews, but they weren’t the only ones left on standby waiting for NYSEG. Receiving thousands of calls at the town hall, she says, “You feel like a NYSEG calling center.”

Somers stays as ready as it can.

For its part, Somers had the highway, police and fire department on full alert and ready to go with full tanks of gas. The town also implemented a code red system after Irene so residents could stay up to date on cell phones. “We encourage anybody who’s not signed up for it to go to and do so,” Murphy said.

The emergency shelter—set up and planned after Irene—operated indifferent to all the chaos above and compliant to this community’s spirit. Feeding and housing residents in need, she said, “We ran the shelter 24/7, with all volunteers.”

A New System Needed

But short of encapsulating each of Somers’ nine substations in fortresses and encasing transformers in cement, weather patterns suggest outages will continue to be frequent affairs. “Climate change is with us,” she said. “Anybody who wasn’t convinced before is certainly convinced now.”

We should be so lucky. But given that, is it any wonder that Thomas Edison himself would be familiar enough with today’s technology to ascend the poles with NYSEG workers. “I think it’s time to take his system to the next level,” Murphy implored.

Saying it is only a start. Hopefully those with the proper tools are listening or we’ll be spending a lot more time in the dark.


About the Creator

Rich Monetti

I am, I write.

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