Oyster Bay town employees essentially took control of several LIPA power substations in order to restore power to local residents, Supervisor John Venditto said Tuesday.
The LIPA employees were operating without specific instructions from their headquarters and unable to repair the downed equipment themselves. Venditto said. Town officials and workers with fire and emergency experience instructed the LIPA officials how to restore power safely.
Venditto's comments came at Tuesday's regular Town Board meeting in Oyster Bay, and were greeted by sustained applause.
"This is the most human misery and suffering I have seen in all my years as supervisor," Venditto said of Hurricane Sandy's aftermath. "And that misery and suffering is still going on."
"In some places it's still looks like a war zone out there," said Councilman Anthony D. Macagnone of Farmingdale. Macagnone is assisting a team of federal, state and local officials and construction trade workers to get those hardest hit back into their homes.
Venditto praised the town's workforce for their efforts in clearing streets of fallen trees and widespread debris immediately after the storm tore across Long Island. In some cases, town workers were involved in search and rescue efforts during the height of the storm itself:
"Our personnel was on the streets; in some cases there were town personnel taking people who were standing on their beds as the water rose, thinking they were going to drown," Venditto said. "(Town workers) did a magnificent job."
Venditto's voice rose in anger when speaking of LIPA's response.
"Everything about this story was unprecedented, including LIPA's (lack of) response: misinformation, changing information, lack of intelligence and insulting answers (from the utility.)"
"It was insane what was done on top of all that human suffering." Venditto said.
The supervisor relayed a comment from U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano who was touring some of the devastation along Oyster Bay's South Shore.
"She said 'What's with all these yellow trucks?' " Venditto said, of his town's distinctive yellow DPW vehicles.