NEW YORK - A state of emergency was declared for all five boroughs Wednesday afternoon as widespread power outages continue across the city a day after Tropical Storm Isaias swept through.
The state of emergency declaration includes all of the city's five counties - New York, Kings, Queens, Richmond and Bronx - as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, and several counties upstate.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he will launch an investigation into the state's largest utilities.
The Department of Public Service has been ordered to investigate Verizon, Consolidated Edison, New York State Electric & Gas, PSEG Long Island, Central Hudson Gas & Electric and Orange and Rockland Utilities, the governor said.
"The reckless disregard by utility companies to adequately plan for Tropical Storm Isaias left tens of thousands of customers in the dark, literally and figuratively," Cuomo said. "Their performance was unacceptable."
"The fact that many customers still do not know when their power will be restored makes it even more unacceptable," he added. "The worst of this situation was avoidable, and it cannot happen again."
As of 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, a little more than 76,200 Con Edison customers remained without power. That number was down from about 97,500 at about noon Wednesday, and from more than 130,000 at the height of the storm Tuesday evneing.
(A "customer" outage does not necessarily reflect one resident or household. For example, in some instances, a "customer" outage could reflect an entire residential building.)
Queens continues to have the most outages. A little more than half of the customers in the city without power - about 39,700 - were in Queens as of about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.
More than 14,100 customers remained without power on Staten Island as of about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, which is down from the more than 36,000 customer outages the borough experienced at one point Tuesday evening.
Many West Brighton residents are trying to get by without it for a second day after power lines fell and trees toppled all around the neighborhood.
Michele Giammella says she purchased a generator Wednesday to help her get by.
"Last night, we didn’t have generators," she said. "Oh! The heat, the humidity, trying to sleep! You can’t keep your windows open. It’s not 1950."
Giammella says to make matters worse, the corner of Bard Avenue and Irma Place is blocked off because of a downed tree. She tells us people often take the route to the nearest hospital.
"They don’t know the road is blocked! So they’re all coming up, making u-turns and they hit this pole right here. They grazed it," she said.
"There’s gonna be an accident over here," said resident Gary Grecco. "And the cop cars come flying up, and they don’t know the road is out. They have to make a U-turn."
Great Kills, Eltingville, Woodrow, Todt Hill and Tompkinsville also had significant outages.
City Councilman Steven Matteo, whose district is on Staten Island, says Con Edison is not restoring power fast enough and isn’t communicating well enough with its customers.
"To add insult to injury, they’re not giving ETRs, estimated time of restoration, and that's providing my constituents in Staten Island with even more frustration," Matteo said.
Con Edison has said it could take several days to restore all the power knocked out by the storm. The utility said Wednesday afternoon that it hopes to have the "vast majority" of outages restored by Sunday.
The utility says it's too dangerous to put crews out during the storm, and that when they finally were able to assess the damage, the number of trees down was worse than expected. The utility blames rain the night before, which they say moistened the soil allowing trees to topple easier.
As for communications, Con Ed says it has texted and robo-called more than 1.5 million customers, and that roughly 150,000 people have directly texted power outages, which allows for direct responses.
"As we are building the information that’s when we’ll be able to accurately communicate to our customers," said Matthew Sniffin, vice president of emergency preparedness for Con Edison. "So today, we’re announcing when we feel we’ll have the vast majority of our customers back. Every day now, we’ll give job-specific estimated time of restoration to those customers who we believe will be restored."
For the latest updates, visit the utility's outage map.
Customers can also report an outage or check the update status here.
Con Edison says the storm Tuesday caused the second largest weather-related outage in its history.
NYCHA Residents Still Without Power
According to NYCHA's outage tracker, four NYCHA buildings were still without electric service as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, and 16 others only had partial service, impacting a total of 3,379 residents. There’s no word on when that power might be restored.
Residents of 108-32 159th Street in the South Jamaica Houses said that their power came back on for them between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday, but it is unclear if the power was restored by Con Edison or came back up because of generators. The New York City Emergency Management department had said they would send generators to help residents, and NY1's Ron Lee spotted a generator nearby on 159th Street.
NYCHA's outage tracker did not have 108-32 159th Street listed on its outages tracker as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, but it did list two other buildings in the South Jamaica Houses complex that remained without electric service, impacting a total of 143 residents.
Many NYCHA residents told NY1 that their food was spoiling. Some residents on the higher floors were upset that they had to walk up and down the stairs in pitch dark conditions, and that their apartments have been hot due to the loss of power.
Some residents told NY1 the housing authority should have had backup generators ready to go so that they would not have to suffer for more than 24 hours.
NYCHA says its Emergency Services Department and property staff have been on site at affected NYCHA developments throughout the night to provide backup generators and check on vulnerable residents to ensure that they have access to the resources they need. They say they have also coordinated with NYCEM, NYPD, and other city agencies to secure light towers and other supplies to provide auxiliary service.
City crews continued to have their hands full responding to calls for downed trees.
City officials said that emergencies and impassible streets were to receive the highest priority.
Officials with the city’s Parks Department said they couldn’t give a timeline on repairs because they were dealing with so many cases of downed trees.
According to NYC Parks, there were more than 12,000 reports of downed trees or limbs, or hanging limbs, citywide as of 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Borough by borough, Queens led by far, with Brooklyn following behind in the number of downed trees reported to NYC Parks.
Reports of downed trees by borough, as of 3 p.m. Wednesday:
Staten Island: 1,339
A huge tree that fell in front of Tom Fahey’s home in Woodside, Queens had only moved on Wednesday a few feet from where it landed. As a retired cop...he called authorities immediately...worried that the tree was blocking one of only 2 lanes of traffic...forcing cars to drive in the wrong direction to get around.
“I called 911, basically saying that this is a dangerous situation with the cars and the buses coming down the street, and everybody said they were going to come and look.”
But Fahey says no one came. He credited construction workers on a job across the street with helping cut the tree down into branches that could be moved onto the sidewalk. This caused another issue: pedestrians were forced to walk in the street to get by.
The fact that residents seemed to be doing all the cleanup, and not the city, bothered most residents NY1 spoke to.
“The cable companies came before the actual city came to fix the problem," said Carlos Franco, a Woodside resident. "I mean, it’s horrible. It's a huge issue. There’s elderly people, a lot of children. Nobody came here to close the block off. I didn't see any authorities come here and seal the block off.”
Bay Ridge homeowners Jeff and Debra Brady had a tree crash into their home. Nobody was hurt, but the tree caused extensive damage to their home and the home next door.
"I got tree limbs in the attic. I got tree limbs in the second floor, front bedroom, coming through the ceiling. And we got water damage in the living room," Jeff Brady said.
"I looked out here in the front and I couldn't believe what I saw. And then I went upstairs and I actually saw the tree through my roof. That was very scary. I was very nervous," Debra Brady said.
The local City Councilman, Justin Brannan, spent the day assessing the problems. He says help is slow because of city bureacracy.
"It's an alphabet soup of agencies," Brannan said. "We got the Parks Department. We got the Office of Emergency Management. You have Con Ed. You have FDNY, ESU. But sometimes, you have ESU show up with a chainsaw and say they can't do this, they need someone who knows how to deal with these giant trees. So it's creating a lot of unique challenges."
In Briarwood, Queens on Tuesday, a 60-year-old man was killed when a tree fell on his car where he was waiting out the storm.
A building in Williamsburg partially collapsed during the storm, although it's unclear if Isaias is to blame.
No one was inside at the time, and no injuries were reported.