Dee O’Shea and her neighbors on Fendale Street lost power at 1 p.m. on Oct. 29, hours before Hurricane Sandy’s full force hit Franklin Square and Long Island. O’Shea and her neighbors called the Long Island Power Authority constantly over the next 11 days, begging for power to be restored to an area that was home to small children, a woman in her 90s and two autistic children.
Power outages peaked near 20,000 in the Franklin Square and Elmont areas, and nearly a week after the storm hit, the two communities still had among the highest percentages of power outages in the Town of Hempstead. Hourly calls to LIPA did little to draw crews to the neighborhood, O’Shea said. She and her neighbors were told the same story over and over she said: Help would come as quickly as possible. But it didn’t.
“I felt like they were reading from a script,” O’Shea said. “Like they just wanted to get you off their back.” She was even told that getting her neighborhood’s power restored was not a high priority. “There’s only 35 houses on your street,” a LIPA representative told her, O’Shea said, “so it’s not going to make enough of an impact.”
Surviving the cold
As temperatures plummeted toward freezing, O’Shea recalled, she was concerned about keeping her 9- and 7-year-old sons warm and safe. Next-door neighbors Joe and Cathy Palma had a generator, which they let the O’Shea family use simply to keep a light on inside their home and to power a few outlets to charge cell phones and for other necessities.
The family of four slept huddled together on couches in the family room, with sheets strung from the ceiling to keep in as much of the heat as possible. O’Shea boiled water on the gas stove top to keep them warm, but still dressed her sons in layers and layers of clothing. When schools in Franklin Square reopened on Nov. 5, she was happy to send her boys to the warmth of John Street School.
A light at the end of the street
When the nor’easter came on Nov. 7, O’Shea said she feared her neighborhood would drop back to the bottom of the list for power restoration, as power outage numbers rose again across the area. Facing another freezing night, she and her neighbors were prepared to take matters into their own hands.