Utilities push to restore power after brush with Hurricane Irene

A downed power pole sits at Wiggins Street and Jefferson Road in Princeton, N.J. on Aug. 28, 2011.
Posted 8/30/11

NEW YORK - Utility workers restored power to U.S. homes and businesses after Hurricane Irene moved north to Canada, leaving a trail of damage from North Carolina to Maine.

New York, Connecticut and New Jersey have the most customers without power, the U.S. Energy Department said on Monday. The storm made landfall Aug. 27 as a Category 1 hurricane in North Carolina and another landfall as a tropical storm in New York.

In Rhode Island, as of 8:56 a.m. Tuesday, there were 138,812 outages of National Grid's 480,281 customers, according to the utility's website. As of noon Monday, 44 state traffic signals were reported inoperable.

Connecticut had record power losses, with 702,000, or 44 percent, of customers without electricity, more than the previous record set by Hurricane Gloria in 1985. Long Island Power Authority said in a 6 a.m. statement that it had restored power to 198,000 customers in New York and 325,000 remained without as of 9 p.m. on Monday.

“We’re working with the state and towns to help clear over 1,000 roads with 300 already re-opened and have made substantial progress in assessing the damage to our system,” Jeff Butler, president of Connecticut Light & Power, said yesterday in the statement. CL&P is a unit of Springfield, Mass.-based Northeast Utilities.

Total damage from Irene, which killed at least 31 people and affected states from South Carolina to Maine, may reach “tens of billions of dollars,” Gabe Grosberg, a New York-based analyst for Standard & Poor’s, said yesterday in a note to clients.

No ratings changes are anticipated for utilities hit by the storm because all are expected to “recover the related costs from customers,” he wrote.

Utilities Index Rises

“It doesn’t necessarily mean shareholders will be unscathed,” Paul Patterson, a New York-based analyst for Glenrock Associates LLC, said in an interview. “Generally speaking, it’s perceived as temporary.”

Dominion Resources Inc. restored power to more than half of the 1.2 million customers in North Carolina and Virginia who had their electricity cut and is planning to have as much as 95 percent restored by Sept. 2.

Irene drew comparisons to hurricanes Gloria in 1985 and Isabel in 2003, which also struck the mid-Atlantic coast and New England. About 4.2 million customers lost electricity from Isabel and 3.2 million from Gloria.

Property Damage

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said people who suffered property damage should file claims as quickly as possible. Winds from the back side of Irene pummeled Long Island hours after the landfall, causing additional damage and delaying the start of repairs.

There was less damage in New York City, where Consolidated Edison Inc. had restored more than half its customers by noon yesterday, according to Cuomo’s office. Customers in suburban Westchester County, where power lines are more subject to damage from trees, should have power back by late on Sept. 1, the utility reported on its website.

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