Long Island Power Authority is calling in all of its employees and hundreds of outside contractors to prepare for potential electrical outages and damages from Hurricane Irene.
"We have been closely monitoring Hurricane Irene on a 24-hour basis. We started monitoring the weather maps last week," said Vanessa Baird-Streeter.
LIPA is calling more than 750 employees and contractors on Long Island to assist with any necessary restoration efforts. All LIPA and National Grid workers have been notified their vacations are canceled and to expect extended working hours, the spokeswoman said.
In addition, the utility company has committed to hiring 970 off-island crews to aid with potential electrical restorations and fix damages, Baird-Streeter said. Crews are expected to begin arriving on Saturday, although staging areas have not been determined yet.
LIPA's preparations for Hurricane Irene, preparing a crew of more than 1,600 workers is considerable given the public criticism the utility faced after spending $34 million on Hurricane Earl nearly a year ago, which was forecast for Long Island but ended up causing minimal damage. News reports eventually surfaced that pointed to excessive spending in hiring the contractors, and public outcry has since gone so far at the legislative level to result in a .
Nonetheless, the utility remains steadfast in preparing for the worst once again.
"We err on the side of the customer. We err on the side of restoring service as quickly and expeditiously for our customers as possible," Baird-Streeter said. "At the end of the day, we have to prepare for the forecast."
LIPA is encouraging residents to visit their Storm Center, where they can find tips on preparing for their own safety, report an outage or view a map of outages across Long Island.
LIPA's spokeswoman instructed customers to call the company's Outage Hotline at 1-800-490-0075 if electricity is lost. Leave your phone number and ask for a call back if you want to receive notification of when you can expect power to be restored.
A National Grid spokeswoman said it is still managing emergency preparations for national gas service, but would not release any details at this time.