Are Power Companies Better Prepared for Nemo Than Sandy?
With some 2,000 people in New Jersey and and New York still without power from Hurricane Sandy, the question for many is whether energy companies along the Northeast are better prepared for the potential damage from snowstorm Nemo. (Read More: 'Dangerous' Snowstorm Nemo Finds the Northeast)
Some of the first power outages blamed on Nemo came from the town of Brookfield, Connecticut early Friday, leaving some 130 residents without power — about one percent of the town. Some 532 power outages have reported for Connecticut.
Nemo is expected to dump up to 30 inches of snow in some areas of New England in blizzard-like conditions over the next two days. High winds could down trees and power lines and put millions of residents in the dark, just four months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Eastern Seaboard.
At its peak, Sandy knocked out power to 8.5 million customers in 10 states, with New York and New Jersey bearing the brunt from flooding and downed power lines from high winds. Residents were left without heat, electricity and water for weeks or longer as colder weather swept through.
"Are we better prepared? We think we are, Every storm is different but we learn from each one how to handle the next one," said Kristine Snodgrass, spokeswoman for PSE&G, a utility in northern New Jersey.
"We've got extra crews out with extra equipment to handle whatever happens from Nemo," Snodgrass added.
Several power companies came under heavy fire for their responses to Sandy. Perhaps no company took more criticism than the Long Island Power Authority in New York.
Residents and local officials chastised the company for not getting power restored quickly and for failing to communicate with customers. And most of the residents in New York still without power from Sandy are with LIPA.
On Thursday, LIPA said it would give private contractor National Grid control over managing its response to Nemo. It's the first time since its 1998 creation that LIPA will cede control of operations and its public face during a potential emergency. (Calls and emails to LIPA headquarters were not returned.)
On its web site, LIPA states that its "crews and equipment are being prepared so that we can respond to any power outages as quickly and safely as possible. Weather forecasts are predicting this will be one of the strongest winter storms to hit our area in years and LIPA and National Grid will continue to monitor conditions around the clock."
JCP&L of New Jersey, another utility that came under severe criticism for leaving customers without power for weeks after Sandy, said it's bringing in extra crews to handle any potential problems and "they will be working around the clock" to keep power flowing. (Read More: Thousands of Flights Canceled Amid Major Blizzard)
Power companies in Massachusetts, Connecticut and other New England states that were expected to bear the brunt of Nemo say they are adding crews and staff to handle the storm. Something they also said before Sandy hit.
Phone companies liked Verizon topped off fuel at cell-tower generators in Northeastern states on Friday, preparing for Nemo. AT&T and Sprint Nextel were making similar preparations, and lining up portable generators to truck out to cell towers with no permanent generators.
Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $74 billion in damages and killed 132 people in the U.S, and cut power for nearly 9 million. Power companies say they don't expect the same devastation this time and are doing their best to keep customers out of the dark.
"We don't really expect too much damage from Nemo, but it is hard to tell," said Snodgrass. "If power goes out, it will only be for two to three days,"
As Nemo brings near hurricane-like gusts and record level snowfall, the memories of Sandy emit mixed emotions for many residents.
"i understand the companies have a hard job when it comes to getting the power back on with all the trees down " said Ilene Eddy, an elementary school teacher in Morristown, N.J., who was out or power for 11 days from Sandy.
"But I was frustrated by the seventh day," said Eddy, a JCP&L customer, "not knowing when the power would come back and not knowing what to do. I think they can do a better job of communicating with their customers. You hope they have a plan like they say they do."