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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Update Report From Power Station on Long Island

Aired August 15, 2003 - 05:53   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Are you wondering how long it will take to get the power back on? Well, we may have the man who knows.
Let's go live to Long Island and reporter Marybeth McDade from News 12.

And you have someone with you who could answer that question.

MARYBETH MCDADE, NEWS 12 LONG ISLAND: I sure do, Carol, thank you.

We're here at the Long Island Power Authority headquarters in Hicksville, Long Island. And joining me this morning is the Chairman of the Long Island Power Authority who can kind of update us on how many people here on Long Island have had their power restored.

Good morning -- Richard.

RICHARD KESSEL, CHAIRMAN, LONG ISLAND POWER AUTHORITY: Good morning.

We're making tremendous progress. We're now about 75 percent of our customers have been restored and we're moving pretty quickly.

MCDADE: When do you hope to have it fully restored here on Long Island?

KESSEL: Well, sometime during the day. I think we're going to have most of our customers back probably later in the morning, but there will be pockets of people that will probably be out there during the day.

The challenge today is obviously it's going to be a hot day and we've got to have enough megawatts and we're going to need people on Long Island, and I'm sure throughout the country and certainly the northeast, to conserve electricity. That's going to be a major challenge to all the utilities, especially on Long Island here with LIPA.

MCDADE: Absolutely. So keep those lights out today as the power comes back on.

KESSEL: Yes, really. You know go to the beach, go to the parks, go swimming, take sandwiches, don't do the laundry, don't run your air conditioners. We're going to need 300, 400, 500 megawatts in conservation from our customers so we can keep the lights on during the day as we finish fixing the system. MCDADE: What do we think caused this problem?

KESSEL: Well we're not really sure yet, and I think right now we're working very closely with Governor Pataki. And the governor said let's get the lights on first. He's got a lot of questions. Obviously do -- we do as well. Right now let's get the lights back on. The problem certainly didn't come from Long Island, but we've got about 2,000 people out there right now working very hard to get the system back and we're approaching that.

MCDADE: OK, and Governor Pataki is supposed to be here today, correct?

KESSEL: Well I've talked to the governor several times last night and that's possible. We're still working out some of the details. He's just been extraordinary. He has shown leadership. I think I spoke to him three or four hours ago, and he's told us whatever we need done, whatever resources the state can provide they will and we'll be talking to the governor very shortly.

MCDADE: All right, Richard, thank you so much for talking with us this morning.

And, Carol, Long Islanders, they are really pulling together up here. And I don't know if you've been watching the weather reports, but we've had really bad weather this summer. Finally the sun is out so people will be able to go to the beach and keep those lights out and cook outside.

COSTELLO: Yes. Marybeth, I was wondering if you could ask Richard one more question, is there any way they could have...

MCDADE: Sure.

COSTELLO: Is there any warning sign they could have seen that might have prevented this problem?

MCDADE: OK. Richard, just speaking with Carol down in Atlanta, and she was wondering were there any sort of warning signs to let us know that this whole major blackout was going to occur?

KESSEL: No, there really weren't. And the fact is I actually found out, I was talking to one of my trustees and the lights went out in Uniondale and that's on Long Island and his lights went out in Manhattan at the same time. The minute I connected the two, I said uh-oh, we're in trouble. So there was no warning and you know the system completely went down obviously up and down the East Coast and out into the Midwest at the same time.

And you know there's been some damage, too. I think probably there are a number of generating plants, not just in New York and on Long Island, but around the country, that have been damaged. And so I think people have to remember on a day like today all over that we are not going to have all of the generation that we would have normally had because there has been some damage to some of the power plants. That's why people must conserve electricity today. MCDADE: And I assume you guys are looking into ways to prevent this from ever happening again?

KESSEL: Yes, you know obviously that's kind of a national approach that we have to look at. Again, we were not the cause of the problem out here, but we have got to find out answers. And I know Governor Pataki is going to be asking some very tough and hard questions as to why this happened and we're certainly going to be working with him closely on that.

MCDADE: And you guys believe it started in Ontario?

KESSEL: We're not really sure. And again, I think we're really focused on getting the power back. It seems that it might have started in Canada. I did talk to the head of the New York Independent System operator yesterday, Bill Musler (ph), and he indicated that there was a problem in Ontario. But I think we've got to do a lot of fact finding, very closely, but right now we've got to stabilize the system. This is a very difficult effort. People don't realize how difficult it is, but we're getting there and just want to get everyone back as quickly as possible.

MCDADE: Absolutely, get those air conditioners back on, it's really hot up here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, Marybeth McDade from News 12 Long Island, many thanks to you. Interesting information you gave us.

MCDADE: Sure.

COSTELLO: Twenty-one stations, by the way, went down in three minutes. And Richard mentioned the generating plants that were damaged and you have to wonder if that cost of repairing them will be passed on to consumers. We'll have to wait and see.

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