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Tropical Storm Isaias wallops Baldwin

Residents unhappy with PSEG response


Updated: Tropical Storm Isaias rolled through Nassau County on the afternoon of Aug. 4 with relatively little rain but with sustained winds in the 30- to 50-mph range, with some gusts in excess of 70 mph, downing trees throughout the region, including in Baldwin, with some falling on homes and taking down power lines.

“Tropical Storm Isaias was one of the strongest to reach the service area in years, causing widespread, severe damage,” PSEG reported that day. “Some outages could last for an extended period.”

PSEG-Long Island’s outage map showed more than 2,500 people without power in Baldwin at around 4:50 p.m. on Aug. 4.

As of press time Monday, PSEG-LI representatives said that about 17,000 of the roughly 420,000 storm-affected customers remained without power. About 403,000 had been restored. PSEG serves about 1.1 million customers across Long Island and the Rockaways.

Baldwin resident Rachel Silberstein Guarneri, who lives in the Loft Estates, said on Aug. 6 that she had lost power for at least 48 hours and had no communication with PSEG.

“I have asthmatic children, and I’m asthmatic,” she said. “The humidity is very bad for us, and we can’t breathe. We can’t use our nebulizer in the event of an emergency. Our food is spoiled, and we’re isolated due to Covid-19. I feel helpless.”

Her power was restored last Friday at around noon, she said.

“It was a rough few days,” Silberstein Guarneri said. “Two and a half days wouldn’t have been so bad if there was any communication at all regarding a reasonable estimate about when they’d get to us. Instead, you couldn’t get through on the phone, text alerts didn’t work, and the outage map was completely inaccurate.”

On Alexander Place in Baldwin, a large tree took down power lines and a transformer, leaving residents on the block without power and low-hanging wires on their lawns and houses.

A neighbor who declined to be identified, who lives on Talmadge Drive and did not lose power, said on Aug. 6 that the tree and power lines came down in a slow descent. He called PSEG and the police to notify officials on the day of the storm, and while the tree branches were not removed, he said PSEG and police representatives taped off the area and turned off electricity on the block to prevent live wires from sparking.

On the day of the storm, the power lines were tilted at a 30-degree angle, he said. The next day, they were at about a 70-degree angle. Then, on Aug. 6, they touched the ground. The neighbor added that he was unhappy with the response from PSEG, saying that utility representatives were hanging up on people’s calls and failing to communicate.

When asked why no one had done anything to remove tree branches or pick up wires, the neighbor laughed, and said he asked PSEG the same question. He said a PSEG representative told him that the utility was prioritizing restoring power in areas where outages affected the most people. Talmadge Drive only affected a few customers.

Another neighbor, on Talmadge Drive, said on Aug. 6 that the block did not have electricity or hot water since the day of the storm.

Many streets in Baldwin were blocked by downed trees and power lines, even days after the storm, including a large tree that fell across the road on Hastings Street. The tree roots broke and lifted the concrete sidewalk to about five feet in the air.

On the next road over, on Jefferson Street, a team of people worked to cut and move a tree that had fallen in the road. On Verity Lane, landscapers converted a fallen tree into wood chips using a machine. People were out across Baldwin — in the northern and southern parts — carrying portable gas canisters to fuel their generators.

Baldwinite Daryl Gordon said a tree fell on her house on Prospect Street, although it did not appear that the house or windows were damaged.

Many Baldwin residents said they were unhappy with the way PSEG handled the response to the storm. They said PSEG representatives did not communicate well.

The Baldwin Fire Department, under Chief Lee Streithorst, responded to more than 40 alarms during the height of the tropical storm, according to BFD officials. Calls for trees that had fallen on houses, burning wires, house fires, natural gas leaks and various injuries kept the four engine companies, two ladder companies and emergency medical services ambulance crews busy.

“Fire Department operations were extremely hazardous, as firefighters were forced to walk through downed trees and wires to come to the aid of residences where the fire apparatus was unable to move down streets,” a statement by the Fire Department read. “Uprooted trees rupturing gas lines made the operations during the storm even more precarious for the over 55 firefighters operating during the afternoon hours and in the height of the storm.”

Fire Department personnel reported no injuries, according to Streithorst. The effects of the storm kept the department busy throughout the rest of the week.

It was a tough week for Sanitary District 2, as well. Sanitation workers, supervisors, mechanics and administrators were on the job throughout the tropical storm. Curbside pickup was provided, and all calls for assistance were responded to, sanitation officials told the Herald. Sanitation workers cleaned up debris where possible and contacted proper authorities.

Sanitation Commissioner Jerry Brown, chairman of the board, said workers continued clean-up efforts throughout the week in Baldwin, Roosevelt and South Hempstead. Downed trees and wires made the task potentially hazardous.