Millions Affected By Sandy-Related Power Outages

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From Virginia to Michigan, utility crews are scrambling to restore power after Superstorm Sandy caused record outages. More than 8 million customers lost power. Renee Montagne speaks with NPR's Elizabeth Shogren for an update on the outages.


From Virginia to Michigan, utility crews are scrambling to restore power after Superstorm Sandy caused record outages. About six million customers lost power.

Elizabeth Shogren, who's a correspondent on NPR's Science Desk, has been following the outages. And she joined us to give us the latest. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: Well, let's just talk about that, the extent of the damage.

SHOGREN: Well, we got much of lower Manhattan; Newark, New Jersey; Long Island still without power. And then there are major outages as far away as Michigan, with tens of thousands of people still in the dark.

MONTAGNE: So what are the electric company saying this morning, basically, about when their customers will have power again?

SHOGREN: Well, it's a mixed bag. And some of the areas that weren't as hard hit, there already tens and hundreds of thousands of customers going back online. In areas that were hard hit, like New Jersey and New York, it could be days or even more than a week before people have power.

And the reason is that there are lots of complications. One is just that this is an enormous storm. And another is that many of the power lines that were affected were actually flooded with water. And that the companies, they have to go in and pump out the water and then dry out the equipment, fix it and then test it before they can go ahead.

MONTAGNE: Well, and then also use the places like Hoboken, which is still underwater. How fast can they do this?

SHOGREN: They're saying it could be a week to 10 days. And, in fact, it's not just places that are underwater, but also there are thousands and thousands of power lines that are down. Many of the roads that could get to those power lines are still closed. So it will just take a long time to fix all these problems.

MONTAGNE: And who exactly is getting power back right now?

SHOGREN: Well, the power is being restored in places in the lower Mid-Atlantic; Baltimore and Washington, D.C. and Virginia. It's taking longer to bring power back into the places where the storm hit harder, like New Jersey and New York.

MONTAGNE: Elizabeth, there seems there have been more big power outages in recent years. Is that really the case? And if so, I mean, can we expect more of this?

SHOGREN: Yes. In fact, I spoke to several experts and they say that there are more large power outages than there used to be, even 10 years ago. And that they don't know exactly why this is happening. But they said there are a couple of factors. One is that the grid is aging. And another could be attributed to climate change. And scientists say that as climate change develops, there will be more and more catastrophic storms.

And so, in the future we can imagine that there could be more storms like this. And that's suggested there should be updates done to the grid to modernize it and get it ready for these kinds of storms.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Elizabeth Shogren, thanks very much.

SHOGREN: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: And you're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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