I don’t want to complain too loudly. There are families out here on Long Island who took far more serious damage than mine did from Sandy. I spent part of the weekend cutting up fallen limbs and working around the fact that we have no internet access, land line, or television broadcast service. This weekend I also managed to gas up one of our cars after only a 40 minute wait. That’s down from a typical 3 hours with fingers crossed that the car in front of you didn’t empty the final contents of the service station’s tanks.

These are inconveniences – not tragedies.

What is a tragedy – which led to others – is the lack of foresight and planning on the part of our regional power company. LIPA currently uses the decades old basic computer language of COBOL on a 25-year-old mainframe while monitoring an electric grid infrastructure that’s more than 50 years old. They had only rudimentary models to predict damage outcomes and, as one local news reporter saw, the company contracted to oversee operations at the utility was so out-of-date that the engineers were using paper maps and highlighters to track the outages.

Admittedly, the storm was massive which complicated the efforts to  bring in additional out-of-state tree clearing crews and utility workers that usually come from nearby areas. What we found out over the weekend that just following the storm, LIPA sent out a request for additional workers – but included a rider for each to sign that they would have to first join the union and pay dues and benefit costs before they were hired. There was obvious resistance and the workers went elsewhere. It was only when grid officials and union administrators realized the depth and extent of the damage, that they removed the union rider from the contracts. This delayed restoration efforts by at least a week – while temperatures continued to drop in the area and both power and heat were lost to over 900,000 area homes.

Last year after Irene, a storm that caused tens of thousands of outages and about 13 billion dollars in costs, a team of investigators was sent in to find out why it took weeks for power to be restored by the utility (our power and heat was out for 5 days). To the investigators absolute bewilderment, they were told by every manager they interviewed that Irene was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Not planning is obviously a plan as well.

This morning I had read that the sewage treatment plant in Long Beach, where my daughter lived until she was evacuated out with other homeowners, is spewing 65 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the surrounding waterways. And they don’t know when the plant will be operating at full efficiency. It takes the waterway about 200 hours to clear this daily effluent – considering that no additional is piled on top of it. The alternative is to allow the sewage to back up into people’s homes.

My postings will continue to be light until I can get my cable restored. I can’t get thru to my cable company via telephone – I’ve tried their online email service. They responded that they will fix the problem in 48 hours – unless they can’t. This is from a major communications supplier out here on Long Island.

When will we reach normal? One man was frustrated that his block was without power while the surrounding blocks of houses had theirs. There was no response from LIPA. Finally, seeing a crew a block away, he approached them and told them of the problem. They consulted their maps and said that it must be an oversight – because their maps said that his block had power. They promised to help and within 4 hours, he had his power back.

The next morning a LIPA manager called and told him that they had no estimate when they would be able to restore power to his house.

And so it goes…

A damaged chair sits on the beach in low-lying Coney Island in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
©Mario Tama / GETTY IMAGES