The recovery from Tropical Storm Isaias accelerated this past week, returning power to virtually all households in the area.
Thousands of residents remained in the dark for days after the storm ravaged the area on Aug. 4. Even after crews cleared countless downed trees and utility lines, problems remained. Gaps in telephone, internet and cell service persisted.
For local businesses, especially restaurants and food markets, the power and utility disruptions created even more headaches and revenue losses on top of those already resulting from the months-long pandemic.
Remnants of the storm’s destructive winds, seen on the sides of roadways and driveways, will likely take several more weeks to clear away.
The Record-Review’s staff reporters filed the following updates on the storm damage and recovery efforts in the towns of Bedford, Pound Ridge and Lewisboro.
The impact of Tropical Storm Isaias continued to be felt in Bedford, as power was not restored to all customers until more than a week after the strong storm.
By Monday, Aug. 10, power restoration in New York State Electric & Gas service areas was nearly complete, with 15 customers remaining without power early in the afternoon, and only four without power by late afternoon. However, problems persisted in Con Edison service areas, with 214 customers reportedly without power. That was a big reduction from the 1,053 Con Edison customers who had been out, but Town Supervisor Chris Burdick was clearly not pleased with Con Edison’s performance.
At its peak, the power outage affected 91% of the town’s utility customers — 6,572 out of 6,685. That number, said Mr. Burdick, was worse than Superstorm Sandy, which caused widespread devastation in 2012. Earlier reports had stated the amount of damage was in excess of that caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Both storms had resulted in extended power outages, which led to extreme dissatisfaction with utility companies’ responses.
There are 6,000-plus NYSEG customers, and about 1,000 Con Edison customers, in Bedford. About 60% of Con Edison customers were without power at one point, Mr. Burdick said.
Problems persisted because of the wide extent of damage and, at least in the immediate aftermath of the storm, the utilities and the Highway Department were limited to “make safe” operations to unblock roads from downed trees and wires. An estimated 42 roads in the town were completely blocked.
Staring late Thursday, Aug. 6, the utilities were able to divert more of their resources from making roads safe to repairing lines, fixing utility poles and restoring power. Mr. Burdick emphasized that he still expected the outage to be prolonged, requiring at least several days for power to return to most customers, and longer in some cases. That expectation proved accurate.
As of Monday afternoon, Aug. 10, Mr. Burdick reported that all safety issues pertaining to live wires and streets that were completely blocked, had finally been addressed.
The outage affected local businesses, already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic and just beginning to emerge from lockdown. Sgaglio’s Marketplace in Katonah, like many others, lost power around 1 p.m. the day of the storm, and did not get it back until the following Friday night at approximately 8:15 p.m.
Workers put perishables in a refrigerated storage area powered by a generator in the back of the store. Sgaglios lost some merchandise, said a store employee, but not all of it. They were closed the entire time of the outage. “We could see how much devastation there was, so we were not surprised by how long it took to get power back,” said the employee.
Farmhouse Tavern restaurant on Bedford Road was out of power until Saturday night and also stayed closed through the period. According to a staff member, the restaurant lost all of its perishable inventory. The restaurant is open now but is still having problems with internet service.
Katonah Pasta on Katonah Avenue didn’t lose any merchandise, said the owner, Maria Abbate, because she able to make use of a large walk-in freezer at her son’s restaurant in Pleasantville. She was also able to store items at the family’s other local restaurants, Blue Dolphin in Katonah and Bacio Trattoria in Cross River, which have generators. “After this, I’m going to get a generator,” she said.
The Katonah Museum of Art was one venue that was able to stay open during the power outage, thanks to KMA Advisory Board member, Yvonne Pollack. A former member of the Board of Trustees, she was the biggest champion of the museum’s purchase of a generator, and the lead donor. The equipment was actually named the “Nancy Hitchcock Generator” in honor of KMA registrar Nancy Hitchcock, a longtime staff member.
“With the Katonah Museum of Art housing important and fragile art,” said Ms. Pollack, “we require a climate that is controlled and consistent.” She continued, “Imagine if there was no generator during this storm and the humidity and high temperatures could possibly imperil the art?”
As businesses get back on their feet, the biggest remaining source of complaints, according to Mr. Burdick, is a lack of cable, internet and cell service. A “substantial number” of Optimum and Verizon customers were without service, he reported earlier this week, but for most of the time, exactly how many was not known, as those companies did not provide numbers of customers without service.
Mr. Burdick reported there was a conference call that took place Monday morning with senior Optimum officials, initiated by state Sen. Shelley Mayer, but that “we did not get the answers anticipated.” He said Ms. Mayer was trying to set up a similar meeting with Verizon, as many customers were reporting that both FIOS and cell service were not working. He noted, however, that for cable and internet connectivity, “we have been advised that the Verizon/Optimum lines are below the power lines and they cannot work on them until NYSEG/Con Edison has completed its work.” Mr. Burdick continued to express frustration with both Optimum and Verizon throughout the week.
The town opened the courtroom at the Town House as a workplace, internet and charging facility with Wi-Fi. Early on, Bedford Hills Memorial House was also opened as a charging station; that use was subsequently switched to the Bedford Hills train station, which also had Wi-Fi and workspace available.
The town also opened the pool house at Bedford Hills Memorial Park for showers. The pool itself was closed because of a lack of power, but the showers were powered by a generator. As of Wednesday, with power nearly fully restored and no one having used the showers that day or Tuesday, use of the showers was discontinued.
— Jeff Morris
Last week’s storm dealt Pound Ridge’s electrical grid a serious blow, leaving over 2,300 residents without power in the heat of summer.
“A pandemic; a damaging thunderstorm with microbursts last week; a tropical storm and no electricity for 48-72 hours for most Pound Ridge residents; and widespread cable, internet and Wi-Fi interruptions. This has been trying and will continue to be for the foreseeable future,” Town Supervisor Kevin Hansan said in a newsletter addressing the town after the storm passed. “Thank you all for your patience and understanding as we work through these issues,” he added.
Even residents who armed themselves with portable generators were not immune to post-storm complications. The Pound Ridge Volunteer Fire Department said it had “responded to numerous residences with levels of carbon monoxide from generators,” in a Facebook post Aug. 6. The department highlighted the need for caution when using these devices, especially in the summertime. When using a portable generator, it should be located far away from the house and any open window.
While residents awaited the return of power, local volunteers and institutions stepped in to provide resources and relief. The Pound Ridge Library opened its doors for those who wanted air conditioning and needed to recharge cellphones. At the Town House, volunteers with the Office of Emergency Management distributed gallons of water, as well as wet and dry ice.
On Friday afternoon, Aug. 7, the supervisor said New York State Electric & Gas had restored power to over 75% of the homes in town. Power restoration continued over the weekend, with nearly 95% of the homes in town receiving electricity by Saturday.
The speed of repairs made a big difference in the business district, Tami McCarthy, president of the Pound Ridge Business Association and owner of Kahlo, told The Record-Review.
“We are grateful to our town government and (Police) Chief Ryan for not only keeping everyone informed but going above and beyond to do everything possible to make the community safe first and foremost,” Ms. McCarthy said.
On Sunday in Scotts Corners, she said, “the sun was shining” as visitors perused the Farmers Market at Kahlo and stopped in open stores like Booksy Galore, The Kitchen Table, The Cottage, and Pound Ridge Wine and Spirits.
By Monday morning, Aug. 10, NYSEG was reporting only two outages left in Pound Ridge and by late afternoon, there were no reported outages.
Although the power has turned back on in town, cleanup remains another issue. This could “take weeks” according to the supervisor.
Vinnie Duffield, superintendent of the Highway Department, confirmed the town has hundreds of trees down along its town roads that need to be chipped up and hauled away.
“It’s going to take time to clean it all up,” Mr. Duffield said in a phone interview.
Typically, the Highway Department crew will chip up the debris first and then return days or weeks later to haul away the large tree trunks. Mr. Duffield said residents shouldn’t be concerned if they don’t see crews on their particular streets for some time, given the workload.
In his final storm-related correspondence earlier this week, Mr. Hansan said efforts to restore residential internet, cable TV and phone service were progressing. Crews from Altice USA (Optimum/Cablevision) and Verizon were on-site restringing lines. In the meantime, he said, the Town House will remain open for residents who require Wi-Fi until their home internet service is restored.
— Jackie Roman
In the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias, Lewisboro is finally back up and running after several days of widespread outages.
During the height of the storm, of the New York State Electric & Gas 5,530 customers in Lewisboro, 5,332 were left without electricity.
NYSEG exceeded their own expectations for restoration times, at first anticipating 50% restoration by Thursday night, Aug. 6, approximately 48 hours after the storm. In fact, the utility restored power for 57% of local customers.
NYSEG continued to hit their restorations targets, and managed to restore 95% by Sunday night, Aug. 9. On Monday, Aug. 10, only a single household on Route 35 was still without power.
“I thought the highway department did a first-class job clearing trees whenever they could and working with NYSEG,” Town Supervisor Peter Parsons said.
Mr. Parsons went on to commend the work done by Lewisboro Police and members of the town’s fire departments, which worked hand-in-hand with NYSEG and the New York State Department of Transportation to close roads when restoration work was being done.
Mr. Parsons noted that NYSEG has received strong criticisms of its storm response during pervious storms. He added that the utility would usually fail to coordinate with the Highway Department for help clearing roads. However, Mr. Parsons said, this time NYSEG did work closely with the Highway Department, greatly improving restoration times.
“NYSEG did a magnificent job versus prior storms,” Mr. Parsons said.
Mr. Parsons reserved criticism for Optimum’s storm response. He noted that in the time of COVID-19, access to the internet has become extremely vital. Mr. Parsons said that the company failed to keep customers and town officials informed. He called Optimum’s poor communication with him during the past week “a joke.”
Throughout last weekend, while thousands of residents were still in the dark, the town continued to distribute dry ice and water at the Town House. The town also offered a charging station with Wi-Fi access on the lawn between the Town House and the Lewisboro Library.
Just as many residents felt the effects of the storm, so did many local businesses. Bill Estevez of Green Way Markets said the supermarket lost power for two days and had to discard perishable inventory. Mr. Estevez said they were able to reopen with the help of a generator; in fact, as of Wednesday, Aug. 12, the market was still running on the generator power because they were waiting for an electrician to switch over the store’s power to the commercial utility.
Mr. Estevez said the story experienced some delays of orders from food distributors due to spike in volume after the power outage. However, he said they were able to get a delivery of perishable items two days after the storm and are “almost at our regular inventory levels.”
The Horse & Hound Inn in South Salem, closed Tuesday, Aug. 4, the day of the storm, but had their generator up and running the next night to supply food to residents who didn’t have power. Through Facebook, the restaurant updated customers, encouraged people to use their facilities to charge devices, and even supplied residents with free water and ice over last weekend.
— Jessica Leibman