NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ordering an investigation of the state's utilities over their response to Tropical Storm Isaias.
"We know that severe weather is our new reality and 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. Their performance was unacceptable," Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. "The large volume of outages and the utilities' failure to communicate with customers in real time proves they did not live up to their legal obligations. The fact that many customers still do not know when their power will be restored makes it even more unacceptable. The worst of this situation was avoidable, and it cannot happen again."
The Department of Public Service has been directed to launch an investigation into Verizon, PSEG Long Island, Con Edison, Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Orange and Rockland Utilities, and New York State Electric & Gas "to understand how such a failure could have taken place," the governor said.
"New Yorkers deserve answers and they deserve better," Cuomo added.
The governor has also declared a state of emergency in Bronx, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties to provide local governments with additional clean-up and operational support in the wake of the devastating stor.
The state of emergency applies to all counties bordering the 11 specified.
The governor has also directed the New York National Guard to mobilize 50 soldiers with vehicles to assist Putnam County officials with storm response, cleanup missions and ice and water distribution.
"We're taking an all-hands-on-deck approach and activating every resource at our disposal to expedite communities' recovery from the impacts of Tropical Storm Isaias," Cuomo said. "The State is working closely with local governments to help ensure they have the help they need to get back on their feet. We're far too familiar with severe weather, but New Yorkers show their true spirit in times of crisis and we'll prove it once more."
Over 1 million people were without power and mass transit was still recovering in the Tri-State area on Wednesday morning after Isaias brought damaging wind and rain.
As of 6 a.m., the outages included at least 320,769 PSEG-LI customers on Long Island; 308,996 PSE&G-NJ customers and 570,961 JCP&L customers in New Jersey; 192,784 Con Edison customers in New York City and Westchester; 81,992 Orange & Rockland customers; and 583,781 Eversource customers in Connecticut.
In all, there were at least 772,910 outages in New York state, 990,116 outages in New Jersey and 702,449 outages in Connecticut.
Some customers could be without power for days after the storm downed branches and power lines. Con Edison said it had more outages from Isaias than any storm except Sandy in 2012.
"We are working throughout the day, throughout the night to make sure that we can get the power back on and what we're doing is we're focusing on pieces of equipment that serve a lot of customers first," Con Ed spokesperson Alfonso Quiroz told WCBS 880.
Cleanup was expected to take days, with thousands of trees and power lines down across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. There were at least 13,000 trees down in New York City alone.
LIRR, Metro-North and NJ Transit all had to suspend operations at the height of the storm, with signal damage, downed wires and hundreds of downed trees affecting operations.
Crews were working to get mass transit up and running again Wednesday, including some 11,000 MTA personnel who were out overnight clearing debris and repairing damage.
Subway service had been restored by Wednesday, while service was still changed or suspended on many LIRR and Metro-North lines. Buses are running on regular service. Most NJ Transit lines were still temporarily suspended as crews worked to restore service for later in the day.
"This was a wind event, in some ways a worse storm than Superstorm Sandy, that appears to be the case on Long Island," MTA Chairman Pat Foye told WCBS 880. "There was extraordinary damage done to the LIRR system, about 100 trees down in over about 30 to 40 locations across tracks, taking wires down."
"We experienced from a wind point of view and a tree point of view more damage for instance on the LIRR than we did during Sandy. This was a very extreme storm," Foye added.
The fast-moving storm claimed at least one life in New York. Mario Siles, a 60-year-old construction contractor, was sitting in a van parked in the Briarwood section of Queens when a massive Pin Oak came down on top of it, police said. A woman was also critically injured by a tree in Brooklyn.
A 66-year-old Connecticut man was killed when a tree fell and hit him after he got out of his car to clear branches from the road in Naugatuck at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
At least two tornadoes were confirmed in New Jersey, including in Ocean and Cape May counties.