What to Know
- Even after it was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, Isaias still packed quite a punch for the tri-state Tuesday, as powerful winds felled scores of trees and power lines; some spots got more than 5 inches of rain
- Nearly three million customers were without power in the tri-state at the height of the storm; most of them were still in the dark Wednesday. Hit the worst, New Jersey says it could take days to restore full power
- Widespread transit disruptions were reported, with city subways facing heavy delays and LIRR, NJ Transit and Metro-North suspending service
A man in New York City was among at least nine people killed as Tropical Storm Isaias made its way up the northeast coast Tuesday. The storm thrashed the tri-state area with tree-toppling winds and torrential rain, triggering tornado warnings and leaving millions without power.
Most of the sweeping power outages were in New Jersey -- and most who lost power remained in the dark Wednesday. As of 2:30 a.m. Thursday, more than 1.7 million utility customers in the tri-state region were still out of power.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted utilities for their "failed storm response" and "reckless disregard," saying they had not met their legal obligations to customers and ordered an investigation by the Department of Public Service. Officials in both Rockland and Westchester counties warned that based on the information they were getting from utilities, the power could be out for a week.
“The worst of this situation was avoidable, and it cannot happen again," Cuomo said.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also requested the state's regulatory authority to investigate the public utility companies, including Eversource and United Illuminating, after what he called a "wholly inadequate response to another storm," referencing the promises made by utilities to improve resources after other severe storms.
Lamont and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy both declared states of emergency for their state, and Cuomo declared a state of emergency for NYC, Long Island, Westchester County and the rest of the Hudson Valley. Cuomo activated 50 National Guard troops to assist with the cleanup in Putnam County as well. Lamont also requested a federal emergency declared, which would enable federal assistance.
Murphy said 1.4 million households lost power due to the storm; 598,000 were still in the dark as of Thursday morning. (By comparison, 1.7 million New Jersey households lost power in Superstorm Sandy in 2012.) There were still more than 536,000 in New York without power as of Wednesday evening, with Suffolk County the hardest impacted, and more than 639,000 outages in Connecticut.
The president of the NJ Board of Public Utilities said the state's energy distribution system was damaged "considerably" and that the board's goal was for 80 percent of customers to have power back by Friday night. As of Wednesday afternoon, PSE&G said it expected to have 85 percent of those without power to be restored around that same time, but had advised some Essex County customers not to expect power until Sunday afternoon.
Con Edison, which had more than 250,000 customers without power at one point, said Isaias caused the second-largest amount of outages in company history, surpassing Hurricane Irene in 2011 and trailing only the aftermath of Sandy in 2012 (Isaias also ripped down more trees and telephone poles than Sandy did). The utility company said that recent rainfall made the tree limbs vulnerable to toppling and breaking, and that hundreds of additional personnel were brought in to help restore power as quickly as possible — though it still could be days before power is returned to all customers, saying that their plan was to restore service to the vast majority of customers by Sunday night.
In the meanwhile, Con Edison said it would set up ice distribution spots in Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn and at two locations in suburban Westchester.
One mayor of a Westchester County town, where nearly half of the residents are without power, ripped into the utility company, saying that they had assigned just one crew to each municipality. Mamaroneck Mayor Tom Murphy wrote a scathing letter calling it "unacceptable" and "absurd" that Con Ed did nothing to prepare for the storm or bring in more emergency crews, saying instead that they "treat their customers with apparent disdain."
"They cared more about their bottom line then they did about serving their customers needs in an emergency," Murphy wrote, saying it was his opinion after dealing with the company for years. "This is exactly what Con Ed management did during the last service loss in 2018. They learn nothing from their failures because they don’t have to learn. They are a monopoly."
Mayor Bill de Blasio toured some of the destruction in Astoria late Tuesday. On Wednesday, he said the storm was proving to be one of the most powerful, albeit brief, storms in the city since Sandy in 2012. More than 20,000 downed trees were reported citywide, including one that killed a 60-year-old man in Queens.
The man was sitting in his parked van in Briarwood as the storms rolled through and was crushed to death by a tree. The man, later identified as 60-year-old Manhattan contractor Mario Siles, was crushed while sitting in the vehicle when the massive tree uprooted, toppled over and fell on him. At least eight others along the East Coast were killed.
Siles' wife on Wednesday called her husband an "honorable, hard-working, responsible" person who emigrated from Costa Rica 26 years ago. The two planned on retiring soon, she said.
Injuries were also reported in the tri-state area: a woman was badly hurt by a falling tree in Brooklyn just after 2 p.m., while another pedestrian was hurt when a tree collapsed in Bergen County. Police were looking for a woman who was swimming off Monmouth Beach, and didn't return to shore. The Coast Guard was also searching for a possible missing boater in Nassau County, Long Island, who went into the water of Manhasset Bay with an inflatable dinghy and didn't return.
Two tornadoes were confirmed along the Jersey Shore. One of them was in Ocean County, where a waterspout came ashore with a 109 mph wind gust (the strongest gust recorded locally). The other came in Cape May County where fallen trees were seen blocking the Garden State Parkway in the area after wild winds near 60 mph tore through.
As a result of the intense winds seen along the coastline, some homes in New Jersey had their roofs torn off. A house under construction in Long Branch collapsed onto another home, forcing the family who lived there into a quick escape.
Isaias Blasts Tri-State Area; See Photos of the Damage
While the storm has moved on into Canada, high surf and dangerous rip currents that arrived with the storm will stick around along shoreline areas through Wednesday, Storm Team 4 says. Weather was much kinder on Wednesday, with sunny skies and light wind making for ideal post-storm cleanup conditions. The bad news: Commuters will still have to deal with the aftermath of Isaias.
The storm crippled mass transit across the tri-state area even before winds started knocking down trees on Metro-North, NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road tracks — 2,000 trees in all were blown down throughout the transportation system. The transit services were all suspended for hours in the afternoon and into the evening. Most outdoor MTA service was also suspended — resulting in heavy delays along multiple NYC subway lines.
NJ Transit said it was dealing with at least 300 downed trees. The agency also said its tickets and passes would be cross-honored by PATH. Northeast Corridor service resumes on a weekend schedule starting at 10 a.m.; the same goes for the Raritan Valley, Main/Bergen County, Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines. All other lines remain suspended indefinitely until necessary repairs are made and tracks are cleared.
LIRR said that it had restored service on all of its lines except for the Montauk branch from Huntington to Port Jefferson. Metro-North similarly had restored most of its service, with some branches (New Canaan and Danbury branches on the New Haven line, and all stops from Pleasantville to Southeast/Wassaic on the Harlem line) still out. Service on all NYC subway lines had been restored by Wednesday, and city buses were experiencing some detours due to downed trees.
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