Power Key Worry in Sandy Relief, CA Utilities to Send More Help

As storm relief efforts focus on restoring power, California utilities dispatch more people and equipment.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Debris floats around a house pushed off it's foundation in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy in East Haven, Conn., Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    As Wednesday brought a third day without electricity for millions of people on the East Coast, relief efforts began to focus on helping to the battered region's utility companies restore power.

    Since the storm blew out power, about 50,000 skilled utility linemen and other workers have descented on stricken East Coast cities, sent by power companies in areas that were not affected, said Don Boland, Executive Director of the California Utilities Emergency Association.

    Already, as the first crews begin to tire from 17-hour days on the job, fresh volunteers are flying and driving out to take their places, Boland said.

    In California, emergency services officials turned their attention to coordinating volunteers and equipment sent by power companies in the Golden State.

    "We are continuing to work with the California Utilities Emergency Association to send additional utility help," said Kelly Huston, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Emergency Services. "That is the main focus right now."

    The increased need for help has led to logistical challenges, as the state's utility companies organized ever-large contingents of volunteers and equipment.

    At Southern California Edison, officials were considering using military bases to transport people and trucks intended for New York and other hard-hit areas.

    Initially, the utility was going to send 170 people to New York, including about 12 crews and the trucks and equipment they would need.

    By Wednesday morning, coordinators were trying to figure out how to send about 210 people and up to 80 utility and support vehicles that had been requested.

    Its initial plan, to send the equipment by convoy on a series of flatbed trucks, might be re-worked to involve sending the trucks and machinery by air.

    Most of the volunteers, originally set to leave Wednesday, would go East on Thursday, the company said.

    Other utilities in the state, including Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, have also been asked to step up their assistance, Boland said.

    Emergency response coordinators at PG&E were working on Wednesday to figure out how to send four large generators requested by Consolidated Edison, the New York utility, said spokesman Joe Molica.

    The generators, which sit on trailers are strong enough to power an entire city block or more, Molica said. They will mark the second wave of assistance sent East by the Bay Area utility, he said. 

    "We were loading from the middle of the night Monday night to early Tuesday morning, all the way through to yesterday evening," Molica said.

    On Tuesday, PG&E chartered a plane to send 150 volunteers from Mather Airfield near Sacramento, and sent a convoy of trucks with equipment to New York City and Westchester County. They included people experienced in working with overhead utility lines, undergound equipment and other specialties, he said.

    "This is such a fluid situation," Molica said. "It looks like our crews will be in it for the long haul."

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