Hurricane Earl preps may lead to LIPA rate hikes

September 8, 2010 2:49:44 PM PDT
Preparing for Hurricane Earl apparently cost the Long Island Power Authorities millions of dollars.

Hundreds of power line workers rolled in from far and wide, ready for massive outages.

In the end, while Hurricane Earl may have huffed and puffed, it blew not one line down.

"You can't make these last minute decisions. If you make the decision Thursday night and we were impacted as it was forecasted on Friday evening, well then we would have to wait another two days for those extra crews to arrive," a spokesperson said.

Instead, those extra crews were cooling their heels on the clock. And now the Long Island Power Authority is tallying up the eye-popping cost.

Sixteen hundred workers drove here from as far away as Michigan, Indiana and Missouri.

LIPA had to pay for their time, house them and feed them.

The final tally? More than 30 million dollars and they didn't actually have any work to do.

"It has to be prepared to do a job whether or not a job is necessary to get done or not depends on the weather," one resident said.

"So blame the weathermen," said another.

So we did come to the weatherman, or more specifically the National Weather Service office in Upton, which managed to track this storm dead on days in advance. It turns out most tropical systems are a lot more difficult to predict.

"Better safe than sorry," Gary Conte said.

Conte has tracked severe weather for thirty years. He says if earl had been more like an average storm, it would have deviated from the forecast by as much as 150 miles. That would have put it right on long island with devastating winds that could have left hundreds of thousands in the dark.

"They have to factor in these forecast uncertainties within their plans. Typically, emergency managers plan for the worst and hope for the best, using the best information we can provide to them at the time," Conte said.

Now, between earl and the severe springtime nor'easters, LIPA's storm budget is over a hundred million bucks in the red.

Next year, they'll increase their budget for storm response, and won't rule out a rate hike to pay for it.