Powering up over the flood waters

$72 million allocated to elevate substations and mitigate damage


Power outages in the Five Towns after Hurricane Sandy kept schools closed up to two weeks due to the unsafe conditions caused by traffic signals that weren’t working, forced businesses to remain shuttered and left residents to sit in the dark unless they had generators.

There were 12 low-lying Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) power transmission and distribution substations that flooded in the storm accounted for the long-term outages, including three that affected the Five Towns. Those dozen substations will be elevated as an estimated $72 million in federal money is being allocated for the project that is now underway. To protect the sites during construction, temporary flood walls have been erected. Another 20 Long Island substations, which are located in the flood plain and could be affected by a future storm, will also be elevated.

“Absolutely what we need,” said Martin Oliner, mayor of the Village of Lawrence, who battled with LIPA officials to get power restored to the village in the aftermath of Sandy. “It is what we should have done years ago, but I’m glad something is being done now.”

The substations being elevated that affect the Five Towns are in Woodmere on the west side of Branch Boulevard and north of 11th Street and Far Rockaway at the end of Bay 24 Street and north of Mott Avenue. Parts of Inwood and Lawrence, and a portion of West Atlantic Beach are powered by the Far Rockaway substation. A substation on Park Place in Atlantic Beach feeds that community. Another substation in Cedarhurst on Grove Street by Central Avenue was out of commission after Sandy, but not flooded, said Village of Cedarhurst Mayor Andrew Parise. There is also a substation in Hewlett.

“They should have waterproofed them years ago,” Parise said, about all the substations. “We are delighted by the news and glad that someone is thinking about this.”

Additionally, several measures have been taken since Sandy at New York State’s direction to bolster long Island’s power transmission system, including investing $16.5 million to prune 2,000 miles of trees along the electric system, removing about 1,000 damaged and diseased trees outside of the typical trim zone that potentially could cause damage during a major storm and improving the size and strength of poles that contain vital equipment to better withstand hurricane-strength winds.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo who took a tour of a Sandy-ravaged Long Beach substation last month and said that Sandy revealed “serious weaknesses” in LIPA’s management and operation and that was the compelling reason for bringing in PSEG (Public Service Electric and Gas Company). “[Now] we are building on these efforts with the strengthening of these key vulnerable substations which will help protect Long Island residents from outages during major storms,” he state in a prepared release.

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