POWER BACK ON IN MOST OF REGION

With luck, preparation, National Grid quickly gets lights turned on

LARRY RULISON
Section: Business,  Page: D1

Date: Wednesday, October 31, 2012

ALBANY -- Because the area escaped the worst of Hurricane Sandy, National Grid was able to quickly get the lights on for most of its Capital Region and upstate customers who lost power from the giant storm.


As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, National Grid had restored power to 20,000 homes from Albany to Buffalo, with another 17,000 expected to get their service back by Wednesday morning.


Fewer than 320 National Grid customers in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties remained without power as of Tuesday night.


Because of that, National Grid will soon likely shift its resources downstate to New York City and Long Island, which were hardest hit by Sandy.


In preparation for Sandy, National Grid had 800 power line and tree crews ready across upstate New York. In addition to its own crews, the utility also hired contractors from as far away as the Midwest and the Rocky Mountains. Other utilities were ready to help out as part of mutual aid agreements that are standard in the industry.


National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said Tuesday that the out-of-state crews contracted to help with storm restoration efforts in the Capital Region will remain here until power is restored to all of National Grid's customers. He said after that, they are free to sign on to jobs with other utilities. That would include Con Edison in New York City, which had nearly 800,000 outages in the boroughs and in Westchester County as of Tuesday.


According to invoices and documents filed by utilities with the state Public Service Commission, out-of-state contractors can make hundreds of thousands of dollars on storm restoration work, which is why they drive cross-country for what are high-risk jobs.


Con Edison had already hired 700 contractors in preparation of Sandy's arrival, but it is likely that more will be needed because of the amount of damage to the metropolitan area.


Once its upstate customers are taken care of, National Grid's upstate crews will also turn their attention downstate, Stella said. National Grid operates the electrical system on Long Island for Long Island Power Authority.


"As our upstate system is restored, National Grid will move field resources and damage assessors from upstate New York to Long Island with the assistance of the State Police," Stella said. "In addition to supporting the Long Island Power Authority, we stand ready to assist the other downstate utilities as well."


lrulison@timesunion.com - 518-454-5504 - @larryrulison