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Long Island Outage

Aired August 15, 2003 - 06:45   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go live to Long Island now, check back in with Marybeth McDade from News 12 Long Island.
And you had good news for us last time we talked to you.

MARYBETH MCDADE, NEWS 12 LONG ISLAND: That we sure do, Carol, and we even have some more good news, I think. We're here in Hicksville, Long Island. We're at the Long Island Power Authority. And the officials here, they are just working fast and furiously to try to fully restore power here on Long Island.

And the man who is in charge of that very tough task is the Chairman of LIPA, Richard Kessel.

Richard, thank you for joining us here this morning. So what is the status, how many people now have had power restored here on Long Island?

RICHARD KESSEL, LIPA CHAIRMAN: We've had about 770,000 customers back, which is about 77 percent of our customers are back, and we're adding people pretty regularly right now. And again, we're working to not only add customers but also to stabilize the frequency on the system, which is critical. And also to make sure that we have enough power during the day, because this is a hot day and the conservation is going to be essential.

MCDADE: Yes, now each time I talk to you it seems that we get a lot more people back on-line. Why is it such a slow moving process? Why can't you simply just get -- put everyone back on-line at the same time?

KESSEL: Well it's a frequency issue and we have to make sure that the system is stable. If the system is not stable, if all of a sudden we just brought everyone back at the same time, we'd probably black everyone out again. We've got to be able to match the generation as the power plants come back up with the load that's out there and that helps stabilize the frequency of the system.

So I know that there is still a couple of hundred thousand people who are out on Long Island and I -- you know you get up in the morning and you want your air conditioning and everything. It's frustrating, but we need you to understand and be patient. We're working on it, but we have got to go slowly and carefully, because if we didn't, the entire system could be impacted negatively and we don't -- we don't want to see that.

MCDADE: We sure don't want that. So the key word today is conservation here or things could get worse.

KESSEL: Yes, and Governor Pataki is really on top of this, too. In fact, the governor had us do a number of programs that we implemented this summer that we're triggering today. As an example, we have thermostats in about 26,000 homes that we can control, and that was one of the governor's ideas as part of the notion of not just adding generation but promoting energy efficiency and conservation. So we're going to tap into that resource. As an example, just from turning off people's air conditioners for about four hours, we're going to save about half of a small power plant on Long Island.

We're going to take all of those measures today. And again, conservation is a key word. The governor is talking about it all over the state. We're talking about it on Long Island. People need to conserve electricity. Every light bulb, every air conditioner, every appliance matters, turn it off. Don't do your laundry today. Don't cook. Go out, enjoy life, bring a sandwich or have a barbecue.

MCDADE: Sure, and head to the beach, because it is going to be a hot one up here today.

Now did you see this coming, Richard? How did something like this happen of this magnitude?

KESSEL: Well you know I don't think anyone saw this coming whatsoever. I think what is unique is that we were prepared and ready. We had drilled earlier in the summer for the possibility of either a heat wave or a hurricane, and we got this and we were ready. We were actually able to man our emergency process and our response team in under an hour here on Long Island. We were ready, we were up and running. We had thousands of people out within a couple of hours. We were right on top of this.

And this is, you know, very different than a hurricane. Because when you have a hurricane, you kind of know it's coming up the coast, you've got a couple of days here. You know it just happened, but I think the important thing is that we responded quickly, our people responded. I think the employees -- by the way, utility employees up and down the coast, what an extraordinary job working in the dark of night under difficult circumstances. People should love their utility workers. We do, because without them we'd be nowhere right now.

MCDADE: Yes, we'd still be in the dark. And, boy, they are working hard and they do look tired these workers. I've been talking with them earlier and they are still being nice about it. So we really thank them up here on Long Island for getting our lights back on -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Definitely so. And we do like the utility workers. We're not sure about the utility companies just yet.

Marybeth from News 12 Long Island.

MCDADE: That's another matter.


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