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Con Edison Searches For Storm Winning Formula

When Elmsford Mayor Robert Williams' lights went dark in August, caused by the damage of Hurricane Irene, he hesitantly left his wife and young daughter in their Elmsford home and assisted in rescuing 30 residents from their water-logged houses on White Plains Avenue with the Fire Department's Water Rescue Team.

Along with October's nor'easter snow, Westchester County residents have lost power twice this year due to natural disasters. The recent nor'easter knocked out power in 71,000 homes while the hurricane knocked out 93,000.

"We don't want anyone to be out of service, [at least not] for more than two days," said Con Edison's Joy Faber. "It's very challenging. Our crews are working around the clock to restore power."

While Con Edison aimed for electricity restoration four days after Saturday's nor'easter, there were still customers in Westchester County without power due to storm-related causes as of Friday night. These restorations are called "individual connections," said Faber, where the service lines may be hard to reach or not connected to a main line.

Contrary to popular thinking, this year's power outages have not lasted longer than in year's past as "there isn't a specific nature of how long or how often a customer is going to be out due to storm damage," said Faber.

"It's always case-by-case," said Con Edison's Bob McGee. "It's different with each storm, but the patterns and consequences are basically the same. The goal is to restore the greatest number of people as quickly as possible."

On the first day after a storm, McGee said, assessors are sent out to calculate the number of downed trees and malfunctioning transformers. From there, Con Edison determines where their crews need to be sent out and how many out-of-state workers they need.

When Hurricane Irene hit, Rosalee Heard was thankful that she had a battery-operated radio. She sat at her living room table with the shades pulled open, and watched cars attempt to drive through a deep pool of water that had collected at the base of her street.

Heard's power was one of the last to be restored in the Town of Greenburgh due to a downed tree in the middle of the street. The Con Edison protocol for dealing with trees was instituted after the blackout in 2003, said Faber. Workers must trim the brush around a wire with an expectation to last three years on local roads and side streets, McGee said. Con Edison did not have available information about their tree-trimming protocol for prior to 2003.

Con Edison has an agreement with several utility services across the nation that will augment its existing man power. As the hurricane damaged several states around New York, crews were flown in from Canada and the mid-West to assist. The nor'easter brought teams from Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Nearly 1,500 workers showed up each time. Con Edison's manpower was similar in years past and is dependent upon the severity of each storm.

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