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A nor'easter is hitting areas of New York and New Jersey that are still reeling from Hurricane Sandy. Snow, sleet, and wind gusts up to 60 mile an hour are battering eastern Long Island. At least 200,000 Long Island residents are still without electricity more than nine days after Sandy hit.
As NPR's Steve Henn reports, today's nor'easter is creating new outages and intensifying criticism of the embattled Long Island Power Authority.
STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Sandy wreaked havoc on Long Island's power grid. Immediately after the storm, it was obvious the island was facing a big problem.
GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: Restoring power is going to be one of the major challenges for us. You have about 2 million families without power.
HENN: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that close to half of those families were out on Long Island.
CUOMO: That is roughly 90 percent of the people on Long Island, believe it or not.
HENN: Power was out everywhere. Well, almost.
PATTY MANFREDONIA: I am the lucky one who never lost power, so people can hate me all they want.
HENN: Patty Manfredonia is president of a volunteer ambulance company in Sayville, N.Y.
MANFREDONIA: I had friends showering and bathing here, which was great. They were able to come here, charge up their phones, their computers. So that was one good thing.
HENN: In the beginning, people pulled together.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Hi, Patty.
MANFREDONIA: Hi, honey.
HENN: The Long Island Power Authority, or LIPA, posted an outage map online. Little blue dots illustrated each place power was down, little hard hats showed where the crews were working. Blue dots pretty much covered up the map. Patty and her ambulance crew saw an uptick in calls.
MANFREDONIA: We had lot of respiratory during the hurricane, because people lost power and we had to take them to the hospitals to let them plug in or, you know, give them oxygen.
HENN: And calls kind of like those haven't really stopped. Sunday night, one woman turned off her generator and shut down her respirator to try to save gasoline.
CHRIS GONZALES: Later that night when she was trying to go to bed and she was unable to lay in bed because she has so much trouble breathing.
HENN: Chris Gonzales, who goes by Gonzo, got the call and ran her to the hospital. Monday, a week after Sandy hit, more than 300,000 people here still had no electricity. Matt Shatzer is a doctor who lives in Dix Hills.
MATT SHATZER: Yeah. It's getting frustrating.
HENN: His town isn't in an area that was particularly hard-hit by the last storm, but when I talked to him earlier this week, he and his family were camping out at his sister's place.
SHATZER: I appreciate that my family and I are OK and my house is intact. But it's definitely getting very frustrating.
HENN: Long Island's power grid is almost all above ground. Sheldon Sackstein co-chairs the Suffolk County oversight committee that monitors the power authority.
SHELDON SACKSTEIN: We have to start to undergrounding this system.
HENN: Even though Long Island's densely populated, it's also heavily wooded, so when the wind blows hard here, like it is today, power fails somewhere. But burying all the wires would cost up to $30 billion according to LIPA officials. And earlier this week, Moody's warned the power authority was already in danger of running out of cash.
Governor Cuomo is threatening to replace its management. And Sheldon Sackstein says he's been asking LIPA to see its emergency response manuals and plans for at least 18 months.
SACKSTEIN: So where do you point the finger? I'm not sure yet. But I'd certainly like to read those emergency preparedness manuals.
HENN: But he says it's obvious to him LIPA wasn't prepared. And yesterday, Matt Shatzer, that doctor from Dix Hills, called me back. His family still didn't have power but something else was annoying him.
SHATZER: That LIPA had took down their maps and it's kind of upsetting also.
HENN: That map with the little blue dots and the little hard hats that showed where the power was out, it was gone. Turns out residents had noticed some big outages weren't showing up, so LIPA pulled it offline and replaced it with a new map that had a lot less detail. Officials at LIPA say they are doing the best they can but they're trying to recover from the biggest storm in their history and they're facing another one which has already arrived. Steve Henn, NPR News, New York.
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