TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: The Great Queens Blackout Continues; No Relief in Sight

The Great Queens Blackout Continues; No Relief in Sight

Verena Dobnik (
Sat, 22 Jul 2006 23:58:47 -0500

By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press Writer

The damage to a utility's underground network in the borough of Queens
is greater than imagined; a twist in the six-day power outage caused
Con Ed officials to say electricity won't be back until 'sometime' in
the next week, the mayor said Saturday.

"It'll be done when it's done," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters
gathered in Queens' Astoria Park, where the city's emergency command
center for the blackout is set up.

Consolidated Edison CEO Kevin Burke apologized to customers for the
inconvenience and attributed the outages to an unprecedented failure
of multiple power lines.

"It was really a very extraordinary event, something that I've never
seen before," Burke said. "I don't know right now what has happened."

The problem began with failures on a series of feeder cables, circuits
that carry 27,000 volts and power entire neighborhoods, he said.

The cables are designed to compensate for failures; if one goes down,
others pick up the load. On Monday, 10 feeder cables were out of
service. Lower-voltage cables also were damaged, apparently by
carrying larger than normal amounts of current, Burke said.

To hasten the restoration of power to as many 18,000 customers, or
about 72,000 people, electrical crews from as far away as Pittsburgh
and Columbus, Ohio, were on their way to New York to assist Con Ed in
the restoration of the network, Bloomberg said.

Severe thunderstorms Friday hindered repair efforts and knocked out
some fixed circuits, Bloomberg said.

Con Ed crews "are going manhole to manhole, pulling up every line,"
the mayor said. As workers inspected underground cables and
transformers, they "found more damage than they thought they would
find. They were surprised. Everything they check, it needs to be
fixed or replaced. "

Power has been out for many residents and businesses since Monday.

Some residents found their own solutions. One barber set up a
generator on the street and cut hair on the sidewalk.

"It's very dark and you can't really see inside," said Hair Fantasy
owner Rocco Aliberti. "It's very bad. We try to do as much as we can
do. I've got to pay bills."

On Friday, Con Edison revealed the failure was 10 times larger than it
had previously reported. The utility had initially said only 2,000
customers were affected. On Friday, this '2000' estimate changed to
18,000 which continued to rise as Con Ed workers went door by door
surveying residences and businesses.

The utility's acknowledgment that more customers were affected drew a
furious response from some residents and city leaders.

"Con Edison's behavior has crossed the line from reprehensible to
criminal," said Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, who called for an

Meanwhile, emergency service employees reached out to the most
vulnerable city residents; the elderly and the ill, including diabetics
whose insulin must be kept under refrigeration. Insulin was among
medication carried by mobile health centers driven to about a dozen
Queens locations.

The Red Cross had distributed 20,000 bottles of water and 15,000 meals.
Sixteen senior centers normally closed on weekends were open Saturday
and Sunday.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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