Superstorm Sandy Recovery Continues

Nov. 16, 2012
As East Coast communities struggle to recover from this massive storm, electrical distributors, contractors, utilities and reps are right in the middle of the restoration efforts.

As East Coast communities struggle to recover from this massive storm, distributors, contractors, utilities and reps are right in the middle of the restoration efforts.

Distributors EM contacted after the storm all now have power at their New York, New Jersey and Connecticut branches, but some spent up to a week powering some locations with generators. For instance, G&G Electric on East 24th St. in the Big Apple used a 5,700W generator that company owner Larry Heimrath nicknamed “Electra” to power temporary lighting, several computers and a wire-cutting machine until power was restored on Nov. 2. He said the products selling fastest after the storm included service entrance cable, twist-lock connectors to link cabling to generators and circuit protection equipment.

About 90 miles away from G&G Electric’s Manhattan location near the tip of Long Island, Revco Lighting & Electric Supply, Southampton, N.Y., was without power for nearly a week. But according to Allison Bourquin, the company’s marketing and public relations coordinator, the company managed to stay open with a skeleton crew by using a small generator to power a computer to process transactions. Revco customers were buying generators, flashlights, extension cords and other storm-related supplies.

According to a post by Electrical Construction & Maintenance (EC&M), EM’s sister publication in the Penton Electrical Group, one of the New York metropolitan area’s largest electrical contractors, E-J Electric Installation Co., Long Island City, N.Y., said its headquarter location wasn’t damaged outside of minor flooding in a warehouse, but that some of its employees lost everything in the storm. The company also had to make a fuel run to northern Connecticut to get hundreds of gallons of gas for E-J Electric vehicles and employees’ cars.

The sheer scope of devastation is hard to imagine if you aren’t from the East Coast. Initially, eight million homes and businesses were without power from Atlantic City, N.J., north for more than 250 miles along the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound, as far north as New London, Conn., and Montauk, N.Y., and at least 75 miles inland throughout the densely populated suburbs in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. More than two weeks after the storm, several thousand homes and businesses in the communities that got hit hardest were still without power.

Frustrations over the pace of the restoration efforts continue. New York Governor Anthony Cuomo has launched an investigation into the post-storm performance of some of the region’s electric utilities, including Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and Con Edison, and there was a squabble over a report that a nonunion electric utility crew from Alabama couldn’t secure the proper paperwork from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to work in Seaside Heights, N.J.

The IBEW said once it realized the scope of the necessary restoration efforts, it cleared the way for nonunion workers to help out. An IBEW statement said in part, “Some correspondence was sent, prior to the time Sandy hit landfall, by one of the IBEW locals in New York to small utilities that were contacted by the Long Island Power Authority at the urging of the New York Power Authority for assistance. When the full impact of the storm was clear, even these few letters were rescinded by the local, in consultation with the headquarters of the IBEW and the companies, so that they would not present an obstacle to the recovery. That recovery is proceeding as union and nonunion crews work together to restore power to the communities of New York and New Jersey and elsewhere — just as they have done emergency situations for nearly a century all across North America.”

Many electrical manufacturers quickly shifted into disaster recovery mode days before the storm hit to get equipment in place, and the pre-storm preparation efforts by generator manufacturers like Generac and Caterpillar were widely reported in the general press. Generac saw Superstorm Sandy have immediate impact on its stock price, as its shares increased more than 30% the week after the storm.

Eaton Corp. quickly deployed its Crisis Response Mobile units in the affected area, and several divisions of its Cooper Industries business units, including those selling Bussmann, B-Line and Cooper Power utility products, have been working with customers to restore power. According to a press release. Cooper Power Systems first started contacting utilities five days prior to when the storm hit to better anticipate their needs.