SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Scarsdale officials have sent a lengthy, strongly worded letter to Con Edison Chairman and CEO Kevin Burke after what they say was an inadequate response to power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Scarsdale was among the Westchester areas hit the hardest during the Oct. 29 storm. Approximately 75 percent of residents lost power, and no restoration crews came to the village for four days.
While acknowledging the difficulty of the situation for everyone, village officials lambasted Con Ed for its lack of foresight.
The letter, signed by the Board of Trustees and Mayor Miriam Levitt-Flisser, said even when more crews arrived in the second week after the storm, they were understaffed and ill trained.
“If Con Ed had a plan in place to deal with the storm, its existence was not apparent,” the letter said. “Poor communications plagued the restoration effort, impeding the work itself and fueling residents’ stress and frustration.”
When crews began arriving in Scarsdale, many were from out of state, and because they had no familiarity with the village, they were unaware of which neighborhoods and streets should be prioritized, the letter said. They also were unaware of the power grid, so they didn’t know which areas would benefit most from particular restorations.
“We suggest that this logistics issue might be mitigated if Con Ed made the Scarsdale grid map available to village staff,” the letter said. “This would allow them to direct out of state crews during time when Con Ed personnel was unavailable to do so.”
The letter asserted that there was a bottleneck in getting streets cleared and repairs under way due to the lack of sufficiently trained Con Ed personnel. When crews finally arrived, they were unable to work on several streets because there was only one Con Ed worker present to power down lines.
In the letter, the board suggested ways to mitigate the problem by utilizing local manpower.
“Con Ed could train and authorize local licensed electricians to de-energize and cut lines during an emergency when they are short-handed,” it said. “This would allow debris to be cleared more quickly and power restoration work to move forward.”
During the storm, village officials struggled to get basic information from Con Ed, such as when crews were coming, how soon power would be restored or which areas would be restored first. The letter says Con Ed officials rarely had facts, and when they did they were they were often inaccurate.
“The village staff and residents reasonably expect Con Ed to have a coordinated plan that works when such storms hit the region,” it said. “The breakdown in Con Ed’s execution of its response to the storm was unacceptable and it must be re-examined and remediated in anticipation of future events.”