Superstorm Sandy was the worst natural disaster to strike Con Edison’s customers in the company’s history. Sandy caused five times as many outages as the next-largest storm, Hurricane Irene, which hit in August 2011. In Sandy’s immediate aftermath, more than a million customers were without power. From the Mid-Atlantic states to New England, extensive flooding devastated shore communities, and caused heavy damage to energy-delivery systems. Thousands of trees were downed by strong winds throughout the New York tri-state area, disabling overhead electrical lines throughout the service territory. Downed trees and flooding also caused road closures and made it difficult for our service vehicles to get around. Overall, the scale of the destruction was unprecedented.
In view of the expected severity of the approaching storm, Con Edison of New York activated the Corporate Emergency Response Center the weekend before Sandy struck. The company had extra crews ready to respond to any problems with the electric, gas, and steam systems caused by the storm. Thousands of company employees and field crews were assigned in advance to work around-the-clock to restore power. Orange and Rockland’s Storm Function coordinators were ordered to prepare their organizations for activation. Orange and Rockland’s first-response organizations prepared weekend work schedules and ramped up staffing. The company’s planners consulted with neighboring utilities about the impact along the storm’s path and discussed preparations with the various mutual aid organizations to which the company belongs.
At the same time, Con Edison was in constant communication with the New York City Office of Emergency Management, the Westchester County Department of Emergency Services, and other local, state, and federal agencies. Throughout our service territory, company personnel worked closely with city, county, and municipal emergency officials, and with first responders in advance of the storm.
Customers were encouraged to pay close attention to reports from local officials, and the company continued to provide updates through the media before, during, and after the storm.
Sandy struck the New York metropolitan area on October 29. During daylight hours, the storm’s effects were moderate. By late afternoon on that day, approximately 68,000 Con Edison of New York customers had lost service, along with approximately 15,000 Orange and Rockland customers. At the same time, field crews from both companies were working to restore service for the affected customers until weather conditions became too severe for crews to work safely.
The worst storm damage and flooding occurred overnight, and Con Edison shut down steam and electrical service to Lower Manhattan due to rising water. Transmission-line damage from the storm and flooding in some coastal sections also prompted additional shut-downs in Brooklyn and Staten Island. At the same time, the company was mobilizing all its field employees to assess damage and begin service restoration. Many field crews worked during the immediate aftermath, and continued to work long hours for the balance of the restoration. Because thousands of overhead lines were brought down by the storm, the company provided special training for employees and assigned them to serve as line guards to safeguard the public against the risk of live conductors. Con Edison also trained members of the New York National Guard for this duty, and hired contractors to provide line guards as well.
The company arranged for nearly 5,700 members of mutual-aid crews from other utilities, some from as far away as California and Canada, to join in the restoration effort. The company also secured nearly 500 outside utility contractors to assist with storm restoration, and worked to secure additional mutual-aid from utilities in other states. To feed and house these visiting crews, and fuel their equipment, the company erected base camps at the Queens Hall of Science, Citi Field in Queens, Miller Field on Staten Island, FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights, and Rye Playland in Rye.
Con Edison continued communicating with customers and officials throughout the storm and during the subsequent restoration. Frequent media updates were released and broadcast, and company websites also provided service updates, situation reports, and outage maps. Customer outreach representatives established outposts throughout the service territory to answer questions, offer assistance, and dispense dry ice.
Within 12 days, the company had restored service to 98 percent of the customers affected by the storm. Company representatives established command centers to help customers in neighborhoods where power was available, but service could not be restored because of damage done to equipment within customer premises. By the conclusion of restoration efforts, Con Edison and mutual aid crews replaced 140 miles of electric cable and responded to 30,000 damage locations. The company went through a six month supply of utility poles and transformers in a single week, and provided 278 tons of wet and dry ice to customers.
The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) has named Con Edison of New York and Orange and Rockland Utilities among the winners of its 2012 Emergency Recovery Award. Con Edison of New York and Orange and Rockland received the award in recognition of their exemplary restoration response to one of the worst storms the utility industry has faced.
“Following Superstorm Sandy, Con Edison of New York and Orange and Rockland employees worked under challenging conditions,” said Consolidated Edison, Inc. Chairman and CEO Kevin Burke. “EEI’s recognition honors their outstanding efforts to restore service to our customers quickly and safely.”
The annual Emergency Recovery Award recognizes a member company that puts forth an outstanding effort following a sustained outage within its service territory. A panel of judges chose the winners following a national and international nomination process.