Five Reasons to Hate LIPA

Still no power. Back at Panera for my morning charge-up, as usual. I'm going to need to buy Panera a nice gift when everything is back to normal.

For now, though, the new normal is hating on LIPA in the cold and dark. But not just everyone at LIPA. In fact, I absolutely salute the linemen and tree trimming crews on the front lines who are making it possible for anyone to have power at all right now. But there's this, from Governor Cuomo's office:

Power Outages as of 10:00 am, Thursday, November 8, 2012:
Con Edison     87,300
LIPA     248,755
NYSEG     1,565
Orange & Rockland     7,052


TOTAL     344,672


Why, yes, Long Island DOES have more than twice as many outages as the rest of the state put together. Thanks for asking! In the interests of celebrating this, uh, achievement, here are my top five reasons that Cuomo needs to clean house at LIPA, and the sooner the better, for the public good:

1. By their own admission, they didn't hit milestones established on day one. LIPA said they'd have 90% of customers returned to service by end of day yesterday. From the sound of it, even before our snowstorm, the number of people with power never dropped below 164,000, out of a million people affected. That's 16%, not 10%. And that number of unpowered homes doesn't include the worst-hit areas such as Long Beach, Fire Island and the Rockaways -- those numbers have quietly been removed from the rolls, and could well be another 100,000 customers. I'd forgive them because of course the snowstorm set work back -- if that were their only sin against us. But it's not.

2. They're lying liars anyway. Every time I've been in a position to independently verify a statement LIPA has made, it's been factually incorrect. An example: their outage maps say there are less than a hundred homes without power in Baldwin Harbor; but there is no power in the entire area.

Here's another: They said they'd prioritize repairing infrastructure like hospitals, schools, and traffic lights. There are still lights out in major intersections everywhere we've traveled. In my town, Oceanside, seven polling places were relocated on election day because they never got power. Our schools are reopening on Tuesday -- only because the district has located generators. I don't know about you, but that doesn't feel like priority on infrastructure to me.

3. Surprise hoops to jump through. As per yesterday's post, they're requiring inspections before restoring power, a thing that has never occurred on Long Island before, even in storm surge-flooded homes. Yesterday on Facebook, someone made the point that these inspections might well be an important safety concern to prevent electrical fires. Hey, I'm not disputing that. The problem is in the communication and execution of the policy.

LIPA didn't start talking about inspections until a full week after the hurricane -- and homes like my own, that never flooded at all, are being held hostage to this policy, too. This is a symptom of criminally terrible management at LIPA, and makes me suspect they simply never had a hurricane plan in the first place.

To add insult to injury, this new policy isn't even being applied consistently. They've already restored a number of homes in their "affected region" without requiring these inspections. South of Merrick Road, all sorts of homes and businesses have power. Heck, the people who live behind us have been restored, too! Again, we didn't flood, either. Why is it that we need an inspection, exactly...?

4. Ten full days out from Sandy, there is still no plan to carry out these inspections. As of today's Newsday, LIPA has no plan for when and how they'll be doing these inspections. From the sound of it, they're still working on it. Oh, and they say they'll be bringing in up to a thousand inspectors. Now? After a week and a half? Seriously, you guys? You couldn't have done that a week ago? 

So all we can do is wait and wait and wait for LIPA to figure out how to fulfill a policy they only just came up with a week ago, that just happens to give them a good excuse for a very slow continued pace of restoration. I don't know about you, but that seems awfully convenient to me.

5. Zero communication with customers about what to expect. Throughout this ordeal, LIPA has never delivered information to its customers. This is paralyzing. I don't know if I'm going to have power today or in three weeks. Should I be packing up my family to Michigan? Will I have the lights on when I go home from Panera half an hour from now? If only I knew what to expect, I could plan accordingly. My whole life is in limbo right now waiting for LIPA. If it's going to be three more weeks... just tell us so we can deal with it.

Worse, because there's no information on where and when these inspections will be carried out, it's a dead certainty LIPA will cut meters even on functional homes because nobody was there to answer the door. It's ridiculous, in this weather, to make power contingent on someone's ability to sit around for days and weeks until an inspector finally shows up. Maybe they're staying with friends or family who have power, or went out to the grocery store or a gas line or a warming center. Maybe they're at work!

And speaking of work: I'm not talking about this much, but I am freaked right the hell out about my business right now. I'm a freelancer, you guys. When I'm not working, I'm not earning. And there is no significant amount of business I can conduct in an hour to an hour and a half in Panera while also managing my children. Zero income for dayr or weeks and a new roof: I'm going to come out of this kind of poor, you guys. Stay tuned for some serious hustle once our lights finally come back on.

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