The sounds of chainsaws and sump pumps filled the air on the first sunny Monday after Hurricane Irene flooded roads, basements and uprooted thousands of trees on Long Island, knocking out power for moren than half a million homes and businesses.
The Long Island Power Authority has so far restored electricity to about 150,000 customers but many of the more than 350,000 outages pushed into the second day. Many customers may not have lights until Friday or into the weekend while extra crews continue working to make repairs. It’s the biggest cleanup job for the utility since Hurricane Gloria hit 26 years ago.
“The numbers [of those without power] will dwindle over the next few days, the people can take that to heart,” Michael Hervey, LIPA’s Chief Operation Officer, said at a news conference Monday. “We’re working as fast as we can.”
Until the damage can be repaired, the public is warned not to go near downed power lines.
Meanwhile, Long Island Rail Road crews are working to fully restore train service and suspensions remained on four of 11 lines following a difficult Monday morning rush-hour commute.
Many Long Islanders stayed home from work either to clean up or because the power was out at the places of employment, although Fire Island remained off-limits Monday.
“I was supposed to be at work but power went out,” said Kyle Bossio of Cold Spring Habor, who was helping to prepare for the grand opening of Hurricane Grill in Syosset this weekend.
Others commuting home from shelters after county officials called off the evacuation of low-lying coastal areas were haunted by Irene.
“I had police cars driving through the streets on the loud speaker telling us to leave and we had to grab everything,” said a teary-eyed Beverly Simon of East Rockaway at the King Kullen in Huntington. “It was very frightening I had some friends in Huntington so we stayed with them.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking to the air to show federal officials the damage caused by the storm.
New York City was largely spared the heavy damage expected by the storm but upstate New York was pounded by heavy rains. Swollen rivers escaped their banks, knocking down buildings, shredding roads and wreaking havoc throughout eastern New York.
Emergency responders were watching dams for signs of danger and power companies were still working to restore electricity to more than 945,000 customers statewide.
Cuomo and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will do a flyover starting at noon Monday. The state will seek federal funds to assist in the recovery.
-With Associated Press.