County Executive George Latimer declared a state of emergency Sunday afternoon as communities throughout Westchester were left reeling with blocked roads blocked and thousands without power following last Friday’s powerful Nor’easter.
As of late Sunday afternoon, 54,000 Con Edison customers in the county remained without electricity, down from a high of 61,000 on Saturday. Another 23,382 households in New York State Electric & Gas territory, mostly in northern Westchester, were still in the dark.
During a Sunday briefing, Latimer said Con Edison projects that it will be able to complete 90 percent of its restoration by 11 p.m. Tuesday, while NYSEG is looking at that level of service by 11:45 p.m. Monday. With the possibility of another storm bearing down on the region for Wednesday, there is tremendous urgency for the beleaguered utilities to make the repairs, he said.
“We are maybe a couple of days away from a significant snowstorm. If power is not restored to people for whom the snow hits and it hits with a ferocity, the problems that we have today will be multiplied tremendously,” Latimer said.
Over the weekend, Latimer was highly critical of both utilities, particularly NYSEG, which didn’t communicate with county officials from Friday into Saturday. He charged that both were inexplicably unprepared for a severe storm that was predicted for several days.
“I actually believe that the two utilities were not prepared for this, that they heard the warnings of the coming snowstorm and they assumed it would be at a certain magnitude and it turned out to be much higher than that, much more profound than that,” Latimer said.
John Rhodes, chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) which regulates the state’s public utilities, said since a large swath of the eastern United States was impacted by last Friday’s storm, the out-of-town crews from neighboring states that New York typically relies on for mutual aid were either busy in their own communities or helping other municipalities closer to home.
On Monday, it is expected that crews from Texas and Tennessee as well as personnel from Hydro-Quebec, a Montreal utility, will arrive in the area to sharply accelerate the pace of restoration, he said.
“In situations like this, it’s pretty simple, we are never satisfied until the last customer is restored and we are never satisfied with the pace of that restoration, even in a situation like this with over two million outages in our part of the country,” said Rhodes, who appeared late Sunday afternoon with Latimer and other county officials at the Emergency Operations Center in Hawthorne. “It’s a massive event, which means it’s hard to look for help from elsewhere.”
In addition to the county, officials in seven hard hit municipalities throughout Westchester also declared states of emergency. The towns of Yorktown, Somers, North Salem and Lewisboro and the villages of Scarsdale, Bronxville and Pelham declared emergencies by Sunday.
Latimer said Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed an additional 100 National Guardsmen on Sunday, doubling the number from Saturday.
Meanwhile, local highway and DPW crews did their best to clear roads of trees and debris, so when the utility crews arrive they, Latimer said. However, they could not work near the many live wires that had fallen, he said.
On Sunday, New Castle and North Castle were two towns in the area that had among the most customers without power. About 43 percent of New Castle – roughly 3,000 customers – were waiting for their power to be restored, according to a town advisory.
Roads that had been blocked roads were being steadily cleared and reopened throughout the day. New Castle police reported that blockages on Routes 117, 120 and 133 were cleared. However, Croton Dam Road and Croton Lake Road were still closed late Sunday evening and that there were multiple trees and power lines down throughout the town.
The Chappaqua School District announced that it would be operating on a three-hour delay on Monday. On Sunday evening Westorchard Elementary School was the only school in the district without power. Superintendent Dr. Christine Ackerman was expected to issue an update by 8 a.m.
The town had also opened the community center on Senter Street on Saturday not only as a warming center but for people to stay overnight, if needed, said Supervisor Robert Greenstein. A limited number of cots were also available. There were also extended hours at the Chappaqua Public Library over the weekend.
North Castle Supervisor Michael Schiliro sent out an advisory Sunday afternoon that there were 2,825 reported outages, more than half the households in town. He said Con Edison has advised the town that its restoration will be a multi-day effort.
“Restoration will begin when all downed wires are cleared,” Schiliro said. “Con Ed is extremely short on restoration crews, thus the governor’s office advised that they are working with Con Ed to mobilize in-state and out-of-state mutual aid crews, which should begin to arrive in Westchester on Sunday.”
Nearly a dozen roads remained closed. The Byram Hills School District is closed on Monday.
On Saturday, Mount Pleasant had 5,700 customers without electricity, said Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi. However, there were relatively few roads that were blocked, he said. Schools in Mount Pleasant and Pleasantville planned to have a full day of school Monday.
On Saturday, more than 1,200 out of 5,000 customers remained without power in Mount Kisco. After reaching out to community groups, Mayor Gina Picinich said there did not appear to be a need to open an overnight shelter.
Picinich said the village’s DPW worked to clear streets and parking lots of snow and debris and did as much clean up as possible, although it must wait until Con Ed crews arrive to address the areas where wires are entangled with trees.
“The village was left really to our own devices,” she said.
The Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester opened on Sunday to residents to take showers and the Mount Kisco Public Library was open for charging mobile devices and to give the public a place to go.
The Fox Lane School District is on a two-hour delay on Monday.