Updated Aug. 11 at 4:15 p.m.
Five Towns residents and businesses went without power, some for nearly a week, after Tropical Storm Isaias whipped across the South Shore on Aug. 4. Trees were felled, power lines came down, debris was tossed to and fro, the Long Island Rail Road shutdown systemwide for nearly 48 hours and Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for several counties, including Nassau and Suffolk.
PSEG-Long Island, the primary power utility appeared either ill-prepared or ill-equipped as more than 300,000 Long Islanders were initially without power. In the Five Towns, the main complaints were about the lack response from PSEG. Less than 60 Five Towns customers are without power with expected restoration between on Wednesday. Far Rockaway has 55 out with estimated restoration also on Wednesday.
Hewlett resident Andrew Liebowitz sent a photo through Facebook Messenger at 2:43 p.m. on Aug. 7 that showed the power to his home was restored. “Finally,” he posted.
“I’m very upset that PSEG did not learn from Hurricane Sandy,” Hewlett resident Andrew Liebowitz wrote in a previous Facebook message to the Herald. “Why weren’t branches cut down on a regular basis or rotted, potentially troublesome trees for that matter?
“PSEG-Long Island’s entire communications system broke down,” said David Friedman, another Hewlett resident, in response to a Herald Facebook post. “You could not get through on the phone, their app, the web page or texting. My power went out at 2:30 p.m. and came back on at 9:30 p.m., after I called Senator Todd Kaminsky’s aide who called in a repair order to a contact he has at PSEG-LI.”
Barbara Thompson said her experience with PSEG was identical. “Was very disappointed about the lack of communication and as of today at this very moment my neighbors and I on Roger Avenue inn, Inwood still are without power,” she posted on Facebook. “I did not reach out to the Senator’s contact because I know that many are without power and wanted to wait and give PSEG at least 24 hours to see if power on Roger Avenue would be restored. I pray that this will happen before nightfall. There are many in need of electricity for medical equipment, life vest, nebulizer, oxygen, etc.”
Another Inwood resident, Miguel Martinez, wrote on Facebook: “Waiting for the electricity to come back on. Everyone has power, but me. When PSEG put a new electric poll, up earlier this year they switched the location of my power line, instead of in front of tree, they put it through the branches of the tree, I don't know why? That led to the failure. But what bothers me the most, is that PSEG, doesn’t even care to know what’s going on. They do not respond to anything (phone, internet, text, instant messaging, etc). Had to call 911 to let them know that I have a downed power line, which is still active. I’m waiting for the tree to catch on fire.” Martinez text that he was still without power on Sunday.
On Wahl Avenue in Inwood, Frank Manzo was relatively unscathed by the storm. “We were fortunate,” he said, “we only lost power for about 15 minutes, but that’s it. Just some small trees and limbs down by me.”
Rosenbloom who lives on Columbia Avenue in Cedarhurst recounted his close call. “A tree came down near my apartment building,” he said. “My car was parked about three spots from the tree as it fell on a dumpster.”
Hewlett resident Mark Philip posted this response to storm issues on Facebook: "Many of the downed trees and branches that caused fires and damage should have been trimmed back by PSEG months ago," he said.
A delegation of six Long Island State Senators: John Brook, James Gaughran, Todd Kaminsky, Anna Kaplan, Monica Martinez and Kevin Thomas sent a letter to the New York State Attorney General asking for an investigation.
“While a powerful storm is beyond anyone's control, the breakdown of these entities' communications systems prohibiting Long Islanders from contacting customer service and reporting power outages is a deeply troubling failure that must be probed,” Kaminsky said in a statement. "This communications collapse is unacceptable to hardworking PSEG-LI ratepayers, many of whom were seeking to report dangerous situations created by downed power lines and live wires. Long Islanders are understandably frustrated, not only from having lost power, but also as a result of PSEG-LI's inability to effectively receive and disseminate information during the storm and to respond appropriately to outages across the island.”
Two silver linings in the darkness.
On Aug. 5, "Rock and Wrap It Up! received a call from Trader Joe’s that the store’s power went out,” Syd Mandelbaum posted on Facebook. “We jumped into action and by 7 p.m. 7 ,000 pounds of food was given out at the Five Towns Community Center by Gammy’s Pantry to over 250 families. Diane Mandelbaum, Cheryl Mirkin and I moved all the food ourselves. Sasha Young arranged for a team to come in and organized the donation.”
Young said it was like manna for heaven. “I have to say the storm was nothing short of a miracle for the hundreds of families in Gammy’s Pantry that were able to benefit at the FTCC,” she wrote on Facebook. “Hundreds lined the property around the building til well after dark. So many grateful faces!”
After being closed for nearly three months and then reopening when permitted, Ali Artz, owner of Ambiance Salon in Hewlett, said a power outage did not stop her from serving her customers.
When the lights were off, Artz kept her doors open and offered hair coloring, haircuts and nail appointments all being done with the requisite while social distancing. Ambiance was without power since Aug. 4 because of Tropical Storm Iasias. Her staff, which Artz calls “her team" is used natural light in the salon. The staff was also making house calls. “My team has been amazing,” she said. “Everyone pitched in and did what they could to accommodate the clients.”