A New Perspective on Irene

Samantha Scibelli

                 As the winds blew and the rain fell heavily over New York and much of the East coast many people lost power. Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc and over 523,000 people just on Long Island lost power. That is half of LIPA’s customers. Many of us were prepared for this event. Some were evacuated and storm shelters were opened, such as Wantagh High School which was used and filled to capacity. Still Hurricane Irene caused a lot of damage. By Labor Day at 1pm LIPA had fixed all but 91 outages.

                Jones beach had prepared for this storm.  All supplies were brought to higher ground. Lifeguard chairs and trash bins were removed from the beach. Sandbags were put down to prevent erosion.  Anyone south of Sunrise Highway was asked to evacuate. Although it was down-graded to a tropical storm when it reached us damage was definitely done. Houses had over five feet of water in their basements and backyards. Severe flooding made roads impossible to drive on. Live wires were near the ground and trees were down everywhere.

                The victims of the storm had to take cold showers, and barbeque or takeout food. LIPA cleaned up pretty quickly for all the damage done. Most will disagree and are quite ungrateful, saying things like LIPA workers failed; they were not prepared at all. The customers were very impatient waiting to see the trucks near their homes. LIPA made nursing homes and hospitals first priority, that’s why you may not have seen trucks near your house at first.

Workers also had to wait two days after the storm to get permission from LIPA to go out and survey. LIPA had to make sure the downed wires were no longer live. The people are blaming the workers when it wasn’t their fault at all. Put yourself in the LIPA workers’ shoes. For most of them this storm meant working from 6 a.m to 10 p.m.

LIPA assembled a crew of 7,500 workers, the largest crew ever. LIPA made sure they had bigger crews because of the criticism from Hurricane Earl last year. The clean up was very quick considering how massive this storm was. This was the biggest clean-up job since Hurricane Gloria hit in 1985. The LIPA workers were treated very unfairly. People were yelling at them from cars or walking into substations telling them what a horrible job there are doing. Many customers thought that they were trying to take extra long to fix the power because overtime pay was so good. The truth is the overtime pay is very little compared to the hours they work.

This storm was massive. Think about it, Irene hit the whole east coast. The diameter of the storm was one-third of the length of the Atlantic coastline. This means that the out of state crews weren’t just coming right to Long Island they had to get from Florida to New England and fix all the damage there too. The few crews that came to us had to travel all the way from states like Missouri and Montana.