THE PATCH: REACTING TO FALLEN POWER LINES, DARK HOMES

 

     

    Elected officials, utility executives and first-responders picked through the remains of two recent storms Thursday, seeking better ways to address downed power lines, fallen trees and darkened homes.

    Sixteen men and one woman—snugly seated at, or at least near, a table in Yorktown’s town hall—looked back at damaging winds and days without power and asked, in retrospect, what they could have done better and, more importantly, what they should do next time.

    A handful of private citizens, most of them Yorktown residents, looked on as roundtable participants considered ways to improve preparedness, accelerate emergency responses and foster closer cooperation.

    The panel was organized and chaired by State Sen. Greg Ball and included representatives from New York State Electric & Gas Corp. (NYSEG), the Consolidated Edison Co. (Con Ed), Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.., fire and police chiefs and elected officials, including Ball and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen O’Dell, the only woman in the group.

    Ball called the meeting in the wake of two crippling natural eruptions—Tropical Storm Irene at the end of August and a surprise Nor’easter at the end of October—that left tens of thousands in the lower Hudson Valley without power, some for exceptional stretches of time.

    After almost two hours of discussion—generally harmonious given the potential for post-mortem recrimination—no simple solutions had emerged, the perennial suggestion to bury power lines had itself been buried instead and the call for closer cooperation took at least one concrete step forward.

    Yorktown Highway Superintendent Eric Dibartolo proposed having a utility representative stationed with each affected municipality, someone who could at a minimum tell first-responders which wires were “hot” and which safe. Cooperation would be markedly improved, he said, just by having this person act as a liaison between the community and the power supplier. “All we really need for the Town of Yorktown,” he told the utility representatives, “is for one of your people to come to the police station.” (READ MORE)