Public Utility Causes Additional Damage Post Hurricane Sandy


Public UtilityThis case involves a house that sustained significant damage during Hurricane Sandy, allegedly due to the actions of the power company and its procedures. An appraisal valued the house at $800,000. The plaintiff’s house was partially submerged during a flood caused by the hurricane, and the area lost power for several weeks. In attempting to restore power to the home after the FEMA cleanup teams had done their best to mitigate the damage, the utility company failed to assess the viability of the homeowner’s primary lines, resulting in a massive explosion. The plaintiff alleged that this activity was negligent and directly resulted in extra damage to the home.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. After a major storm or flood, what steps should a utility company take to restore power and is it necessary to assess the viability of lines prior to restoring power?

Expert Witness Response E-005895

It is proper for a utility company to restore outages to groups of customers (main lines, feeders, reclosers, sectionalizers, fuses, etc.) before working on outages that only affect individual customers. We can discuss this in more detail depending on the circumstances of your case because there are a plethora of reasons behind this. In general, utilities will gather data from SCADA systems, their outage management system, 911 calls, customer calls, etc. and will dispatch restoration personnel to the highest priority issues, which is typically in this order: 1. 911 calls where a threat to the public is deemed to exist; 2. for major events such as hurricanes; facilities required to protect the health and welfare of the public (hospitals, water treatment, sewer, etc) 3. large customer-count outages (feeders, reclosers, etc.); 4. smaller customer-count outages (sectionalizers, fuses, transformers); individual customer outages (transformers serving only one house, services, inside trouble, etc.). I have worked for over thirty years in the electric utility industry and I have restored electric service as a lineman, an engineer, and as a manager/ director of multiple service dispatch centers. In addition to hands-on involvement and management of routine storm restoration, I have written storm restoration procedures for major storm events, and have developed storm support services for a utility contractor. I also possess a degree in electrical engineering. All of the above considered, Hurricane Sandy was an exceptional storm and additional measures needed to be taken for all restoration activities.

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