Mineola village officials joined in the chorus of voices criticizing the response by the Long Island Power Authority to Hurricane Sandy.
“Unfortunately the flow, the real flow of information is lacking,” superintendent of public works Tom Rini said during a meeting of the village board on November 7 at the village hall. “I’ve never really been given any great information.”
Utility poles were reportedly down on Horton Highway just north of First Street, as well as on Wellington Road south of Jericho, Congress Avenue north of Jericho Turnpike and on Horton Highway and Berkhard Avenue. Rini reported that he did see pole and line crews working that day in the village.
“One of the things that we had the greatest problems with during this hurricane and continue to is communications,” Mineola Village Clerk Joseph Scalero said. “We found that as soon as the power went out and the village went dark, people were scrambling for information.”
The fire department does have a backup generator and let the village set up operations there when the storm hit, moving the emergency center and phones across the street. Surprisingly, the phone lines at the village hall did not go down, so officials were able to transfer them across the street to the fire department that did not interfere with the emergency numbers.
“For many residents, that was the only source that they had,” Scalero said.
“We’ve certainly had a rough week,” Mayor Scott Strauss said, noting that the village was still without internet and cable access, “so e-mails are non existent right now.”
Following Hurricane Irene in 2011, LIPA created a twice-a-day call-in number for municipalities to garner information from the utility.
“That’s the only information we really get from LIPA,” Scalero said. “They have been very good in taking information in, it’s a little bit longer in regards to pushing it out through one of the twice daily status reports.”
The village clerk added that he had called the “municipal hotline” number that day “which is somewhat of a misnomer because they really don’t give you any other services than you get from the normal number” and could not give him the exact number of crews working in Mineola. “It’s really not comforting to tell 10 days into it some of us are still without power and heat, to tell them there’s up to 50 guys working but we don’t know where.”
LIPA has also taken heavy criticism for its storm outage map which reportedly displayed incorrect outage numbers – in some cases more outages than customers served – and incorrect locations of crews in the area.
Scalero said that a persistent rumor is that LIPA does not have supplies, noting that municipal officials were invited to view supplies in Hicksville.
“It’s a question of manpower and time,” he said. “That rumor of not having supplies... was not true.”
The village was eventually able to access the village website to update residents when officials had access to the internet. Officials even went so far as to print up fliers with information that was distributed door-to-door by the fire department.
“A lot of the residents who got it said ‘I never thought I’d be happy to see a flier’ but that was the only information they had; nobody was telling them anything,” Sclaero said.
Even with their power restored, many residents have also not been able to view the local public access channel since the cable channels that come out of the Roslyn station are not powered and the village has no access since it was also without cable and internet at the time of the meeting.
“We’re limited by our connection to other forces,” Scalero said.
The village also took in about threedozen out-of-state workmen that LIPA had called in to help assist with restoration efforts, housing them at the firehouse when it was discovered that the public utility had not procured space for them, instead letting them sleep in their trucks. Mineola firefighters retrieved cots from the Red Cross for the crews to sleep on and use the facilities at the firehouse.
“It was a great outpouring of support from volunteers for those out of state people who came up here to help get this region back online,” Strauss said.